According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 500,000 people in the United States with coronavirus have died, the largest death toll in any country in the world by far.
On Monday, just over a year after the first recorded death was registered in the state of California, the nation surpassed the terrifying tally.
“Today, we mark a truly heartbreaking milestone – 500,071 dead,” US President Joe Biden said after a moment of silence was observed on Monday evening at the White House, which was lighted by hundreds of candles representing those who have died.
“That is more Americans who have died in one year of this pandemic than in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. That is more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on earth,” Biden said.
“But as we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, we remember each person and the life they lived. They were people we knew, or people we feel like we knew.”
COVID-19 infection rates have begun to drop in recent weeks as the Biden administration ramped up vaccinations and put in place further controls on public health to try to stem the spread of the virus.
But on Sunday, the country’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said while case levels are steadily declining from a recent high, Americans need to remain vigilant as the US has not yet vaccinated enough people to achieve herd immunity.
“We haven’t seen anything even close to this for well over 100 years, since the 1918 pandemic of influenza. It’s something that is stunning when you look at the numbers – almost unbelievable, but it’s true,” Fauci said in an interview with NBC’s Meet the Press programme.
“The slope that’s coming down is really terrific – it’s very steep and it’s coming down very, very quickly. But we are still at a level that’s very high,” he said.
“The baseline of daily infections is still very, very high … We want to get that baseline really, really, really low before we start thinking that we’re out of the woods.”