The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 300,000 on Monday as the country began firing shots in a monumental campaign to combat the COVID-19 outbreak.
The number of dead rivals to the population of St. Louis or Pittsburgh. It’s tantamount to repeating a tragedy the size of Hurricane Katrina every day for 5 1/2 months.
It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It’s equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for more than 100 days.
“The numbers are staggering – the worst respiratory pandemic we’ve seen in over 102 years since the iconic 1918 Spanish flu,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s foremost infectious disease expert, days before the milestone.
The US crossed the threshold the same day health care workers rolled up their sleeves for Pfizer’s COVID-19 shot. This marked the beginning of the largest vaccination campaign in American history.
If a second vaccine is approved soon as expected, 20 million people could be vaccinated by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, after an election that was largely a referendum on the Trump administration’s handling of the virus, a fundamental change is nearing in Washington.
President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that his first priority will be a full and disciplined effort to defeat the outbreak.
The death toll was reported by Johns Hopkins University using data provided by US health officials
The real death toll is believed to be much higher, in part due to deaths not accurately recorded as coronavirus-related in the early stages of the crisis.
The virus is blamed for more than 1.6 million deaths worldwide.
Experts say it could be well into spring before the gunfire and other measures bring cases and deaths under control in the U.S.
With cold weather driving people indoors where the virus is more likely to spread, and with many Americans despising masks and other precautions, some health officials could die before the end of January 100,000 more.
“We’re probably in the worst phase we’ve had because of all of the things we had this spring. This is fatigue, political opposition and maybe the loss of all the goodwill we have had when people do their part “said Jennifer Nuzzo, a health researcher at Johns Hopkins.
Nuzzo contrasted the government’s scattershot response with the massive mobilization carried out after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“If we think now that we can only absorb 3,000 deaths a day in our country like it’s just normal business, it’s just a moral failure,” she said.