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Two years into the pandemic, the United States recorded its 900,000th COVID-related fatality on Friday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
The number of deaths has continued to rise since the rollout of the vaccine program in December 2020, when the death count was around 300,000. The nation recorded 600,000 deaths in mid-June 2021, 700,000 on Oct. 1, and 800,000 less than two months ago, on Dec. 14.
Though COVID case counts are dropping in 49 states, the sheer number of Omicron cases has resulted in an average of 2,400 deaths a day, the most since last winter.
“Today, our nation marks another tragic milestone — 900,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19,” President Biden said in a statement released Friday night. “They were beloved mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends. Each soul is irreplaceable.
“After nearly two years, I know that the emotional, physical, and psychological weight of this pandemic has been incredibly difficult to bear. I know what it’s like to stare at an empty chair around the kitchen table.”
Ashish K. Jha, MD, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, noted that most of the deaths occurred after the FDA authorized COVID vaccines.
“We got the medical science right. We failed on the social science,” Jha told The Associated Press. “We failed on how to help people get vaccinated, to combat disinformation, to not politicize this. Those are the places where we have failed as America.”
Jha said the U.S. could hit the 1 million mark in COVID deaths by March.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 75.5% of the U.S. population has gotten at least one dose of vaccine, 64% is fully vaccinated, and 42% has gotten a booster dose.
Unvaccinated people are pushing the death count. In November, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, MD, said Thursday that the number of average weekly deaths for those who were unvaccinated was 9.7 per 100,000 people, as compared with .7 of those who were vaccinated and .1 of those who had received a booster.
The United States had recorded 901,392 COVID-related deaths as of Saturday morning, according to Johns Hopkins, the most in the world. The U.S. is followed by Brazil with 631,264 deaths and India with 501,114.
Health experts say the death count is probably much higher, since some COVID deaths aren’t diagnosed.
Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 Dashboard
The Associated Press. “US death toll from COVID-19 hits 900,000, sped by omicron”
The White House. “Statement by President Joe Biden on 900,000 American Deaths from COVID-19”
CDC. “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States”