U.S. Nears 600,000 Virus Deaths Despite Progress From Vaccines

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Daily deaths have dropped considerably since their January peak, with about 44 percent of the population now fully vaccinated.

As of 5 p.m.

Tuesday

599,749

600,000

500,000

400,000

The pace of deaths nationwide

300,000

At least

200,000

to reach

100,000

U.S. deaths

100,000

Feb. 29:

First report of

a U.S. death

As of 5 p.m.

Tuesday

599,749

The pace of deaths

nationwide

600,000

500,000

At least

300,000

200,000

100,000

89 days

to reach

100,000

U.S. deaths

Feb. 29:

First report of

a U.S. death

As of 5 p.m.

Tuesday

599,749

600,000

500,000

The pace of deaths nationwide

400,000

300,000

At least

200,000

to reach

100,000

U.S. deaths

100,000

Feb. 29:

First report of

a U.S. death

Source: Reports from state and local health agencies.

June 15, 2021

It is a number that once seemed unimaginable.

In the next few days, the United States will surpass 600,000 deaths from Covid-19, the highest known death toll in the world. The milestone approaches even though virus cases and deaths in this country have sharply fallen, vaccinations have been distributed widely, and many people have shed their masks and resumed prepandemic lives, including in New York and California, which both fully reopened on Tuesday.

Yet the coronavirus remains agonizingly present for those who knew the hundreds across the country still dying of it each day.

Wash.

Cook County

10,982 deaths

Maine

Mont.

N.D.

Minn.

Vt.

Ore.

Wayne County

5,114 deaths

N.H.

N.Y.

Idaho

Mass.

Wis.

S.D.

R.I.

Conn.

Mich.

Wyo.

Pa.

Iowa

N.J.

Neb.

Nev.

Md.

Ohio

Del.

Ill.

Ind.

Utah

New York City

Five-borough total

33,348 deaths

W.Va.

Colo.

Va.

Calif.

Kan.

Mo.

Ky.

N.C.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ariz.

Los Angeles County

24,433 deaths

N.M.

Ark.

S.C.

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

Number of deaths by county

La.

Maricopa County

10,157 deaths

1,000

10,000

Texas

Alaska

Fla.

Harris County

6,513 deaths

Miami-Dade County

6,472 deaths

Hawaii

Wash.

Maine

Cook County

10,982 deaths

Mont.

N.D.

Minn.

Vt.

Ore.

N.H.

Wayne County

5,114 deaths

Idaho

N.Y.

Mass.

Wis.

S.D.

R.I.

Conn.

Mich.

Wyo.

Pa.

Iowa

N.J.

Neb.

Nev.

Md.

Ohio

Del.

Ill.

Ind.

Utah

New York City

Five-borough total

33,348 deaths

W.Va.

Colo.

Va.

Calif.

Kan.

Mo.

Ky.

N.C.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ariz.

N.M.

Ark.

S.C.

Los Angeles County

24,433 deaths

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

Number of deaths by county

1,000

10,000

La.

Maricopa County

10,157 deaths

Texas

Alaska

Fla.

Harris County

6,513 deaths

Miami-Dade County

6,472 deaths

Hawaii

Wash.

Cook County

10,982 deaths

Maine

Mont.

N.D.

Minn.

Vt.

Ore.

Wayne County

5,114 deaths

N.H.

N.Y.

Idaho

Mass.

Wis.

S.D.

R.I.

Conn.

Mich.

Wyo.

Pa.

Iowa

N.J.

Neb.

Nev.

Md.

Ohio

Del.

Ill.

Ind.

Utah

W.Va.

New York City

Five-borough total

33,348 deaths

Colo.

Va.

Calif.

Kan.

Mo.

Ky.

N.C.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ariz.

N.M.

Ark.

S.C.

Los Angeles County

24,433 deaths

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

Number of deaths by county

1,000

10,000

La.

Maricopa County

10,157 deaths

Texas

Alaska

Fla.

Harris County

6,513 deaths

Miami-Dade County

6,472 deaths

Hawaii

Number of deaths by county

1,000

10,000

Wash.

Cook County

10,982 deaths

Maine

Mont.

N.D.

Vt.

Wayne County

5,114 deaths

Minn.

Ore.

N.H.

N.Y.

Mass.

Wis.

Idaho

S.D.

R.I.

Conn.

Mich.

Wyo.

Pa.

Iowa

N.J.

Neb.

Nev.

Md.

Ohio

Del.

Ill.

Ind.

Utah

W.Va.

Colo.

Va.

Calif.

Kan.

Mo.

Ky.

N.C.

Tenn.

New York City

Five-borough total

33,348 deaths

Okla.

Ariz.

N.M.

Ark.

S.C.

Los Angeles County

24,433 deaths

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

La.

Texas

Alaska

Fla.

Miami-Dade County

6,472 deaths

Hawaii

Number of deaths by county

King County

1,000

10,000

Wash.

Cook County

Maine

Mont.

N.D.

Vt.

Minn.

Ore.

N.H.

N.Y.

Mass.

Wis.

Idaho

S.D.

R.I.

Conn.

Mich.

Wyo.

Pa.

Iowa

N.J.

Neb.

Nev.

Md.

Ohio

Del.

Ill.

Ind.

Utah

W.Va.

Colo.

Va.

Calif.

Kan.

Mo.

Ky.

N.C.

Tenn.

Okla.

Ariz.

N.M.

Ark.

S.C.

New York City

Five-borough

total

Los Angeles County

Ala.

Ga.

Miss.

La.

Texas

Alaska

Fla.

Miami-Dade County

Hawaii

In April, one of the victims was Toni Gallo, 67, of Valparaiso, Ind., who had been sick with the virus for five months. “The world has lost a loving shining star,” her obituary read. On May 26, the coronavirus claimed the life of Frank Sanchez Jr., a 61-year-old Army veteran from Nekimi, Wis.; he was a union leader and lover of music who had built a successful D.J. business with his wife. Last week, Officer Ryan Barham, 43, of the Susanville, Calif., police died from the virus, the department announced.

Though the sheer number of deaths in the United States is higher than anywhere else, the country’s toll is lower, on a per capita basis, than in many European and Latin American countries, including Peru, Brazil, Belgium and Italy. It is 10 times the toll that former President Donald J. Trump once predicted.

“It’s a tragedy,” said Stephen Morse, a professor of epidemiology at the Columbia University Medical Center. “A lot of that tragedy was avoidable and it’s still happening.”

Image

Hollie Rivers, 28, with her children at their home in Lincoln Park, Mich. Her husband, Antwone, died of Covid-19 last month.
Credit...Brittany Greeson for The New York Times

In the early days of the pandemic, federal officials had shocked the country by announcing at a White House briefing that even with strict stay-at-home orders, the virus might kill as many as 240,000 Americans.

“As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said at the time.

The first known death from the coronavirus in the United States occurred in February 2020. By the end of that May, 100,000 people had been confirmed dead, an average of more than 1,100 deaths each day.

Over the next four months, the nation recorded another 100,000 deaths. Then the pace of casualties accelerated: The next 100,000 deaths came in about three months; the next, just five weeks. By late February 2021, just more than a month later, half a million Americans had died of the virus.

The last 100,000 deaths took far longer, about four months. Public health experts say that the widely available vaccines have played the central role in slowing the death rate.

Hospitalizations and deaths from the virus have been plummeting across the United States. Many schools, restaurants, houses of worship and public parks are reopened. And about 44 percent of the U.S. population — 145 million people — is fully vaccinated.

Yet since mid-April, the pace of inoculations has dropped sharply, even as President Biden set a July 4 deadline to have 70 percent of adults at least partially vaccinated.

Image

Credit...Elijah Baylis for The New York Times

This week, Mr. Biden urged Americans to be vaccinated as soon as possible, citing the continuing death toll from the virus.

“We’re approaching a sad milestone — almost 600,000 lost lives because of Covid-19 in America,” Mr. Biden said. “My heart goes out to all those who’ve lost a loved one. I know that black hole that seems to consume you, that fills up your chest, when you lose someone that’s close to you that you adored.”

“Now is not the time to let our guard down,” he added.

It is the remaining unvaccinated population — some people who are refusing vaccines, others who have not gotten around to vaccination yet — that is driving the lingering deaths, experts say. And the virus is still raging in other countries, including India and in parts of South America.

“Until we have this under control across the world, it could come back and thwart all the progress we’ve made so far,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, the chief medical officer for the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents state health agencies. “I’m worried about the people who are not taking advantage of these vaccines. They’re the ones who are going to bear the brunt of the consequences.”

Daily deaths from Covid-19 have dropped about 90 percent in the United States since their peak in January, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. About half of coronavirus deaths at the end of May were made up of people ages 50 to 74, compared with a third in December, according to a recent New York Times analysis.

Older white people are driving the shifts in death patterns, and across most age groups, Black people saw the smallest decrease in deaths compared with other large racial groups. Cumulative vaccination rates among Black and Hispanic people continue to lag behind those of Asian and white people.

Image

Credit...Isadora Kosofsky for The New York Times

In Wayne County, Mich., vaccine hesitancy is a lingering problem, said Dr. Teena Chopra, the director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at the Detroit Medical Center. In May, none of her coronavirus patients were fully vaccinated. Several have died, she said, and patients with the virus are still being admitted.

“It makes me feel very frustrated and angry because getting people vaccinated is the only way to end the pandemic,” Dr. Chopra said.

According to data compiled by The Times, about 362 people across the United States are dying from the coronavirus each day. Fewer than 15,000 new cases of the virus are being reported daily, the lowest point since testing became widely available last year.

Many families who have recently lost relatives to the virus are struggling with the dissonance of mourning loved ones at a time when the pandemic appears to be fading for the rest of the country.

“It’s important to recognize that 600,000 people lost their lives in the last 16 months, and all of their families and communities are grappling with that grief,” said Dr. Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security. “I don’t want it to be the case that we move on from this terrible period and kind of put it all behind us without reflecting on what’s been lost.”

Denise Lu, Mitch Smith and Daniel E. Slotnik contributed reporting.

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