By Terrance Turner
June 15, 2021
BREAKING NEWS: The death toll from COVID-19 has topped 600,000 Americans, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. That is roughly equal to the number of Americans who died from cancer in 2019, according to the Associated Press. According to Axios, “It’s a higher death toll than the number of American soldiers killed in combat during the Civil War, World War I and World War II combined.”
The United States leads the world in COVID-19 cases; Business Insider reports that the U.S. has over 34 million. But America has also racked up by far the largest death toll of the pandemic, ahead of Brazil and India.
This grim milestone comes on the same day that California, one of the country’s largest and most populous states, is reopening. In what’s being billed as a “Grand Reopening”, California has jettisoned state rules on social distancing and limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, and stadiums. Disneyland is opening its gates to all tourists after allowing just California residents. (It and Disney World are also lifting mask requirements for the vaccinated, according to ABC 13.) Fans will be able to sit elbow-to-elbow and cheer without masks at Dodgers and Giants games.
One encouraging sign is that daily death tolls are dropping. CDC data shows that as of May 1, 2021, the average daily death count in the U.S. from COVID-19 (calculated from a 7-day total) was 633 deaths per day. That’s an 82% drop from the record-high death count last winter, which peaked on Jan. 13 with 3,427 deaths. Now, there are around 340 deaths per day.
And a growing number of Americans are being vaccinated. ABC News reported yesterday that 61% of Americans have received at least one shot. With the advent of the vaccine in mid-December, COVID-19 deaths per day in the U.S. have plummeted to an average of around 340, from a high of over 3,400 in mid-January. Cases are running at about 14,000 a day on average, down from a quarter-million per day over the winter.
But demand for shots in the U.S. has dropped off dramatically, leaving many places with a surplus of doses and casting doubt on whether the country will meet President Biden’s target of having 70% of American adults at least partially vaccinated by July 4. The figure stands at under 65%.
Yesterday, President Biden noted the death toll in his remarks in Belgium. “There’s still too many lives being lost,” Biden said, noting that the daily number of dead has dropped sharply, but that the continuing loss of life was still “a real tragedy.”
“My heart goes out to all those who have lost a loved one,” Biden said, speaking on Monday in Brussels. “We have more work to do to beat this virus. And now’s not the time to let our guard down. Please get vaccinated as soon as possible.”