COVID-19 has officially killed over 900,000 people in the United States as of February 4, a grim milestone reached a mere 51 days after surpassing 800,000 deaths on December 15 of last year. This is the highest recorded death toll of any country in the world, a global total that now stands at over 5,750,000 deaths—certainly an undercount on both the US and global death tolls, according to experts that track these numbers.
As of the writing of this article, the official death toll in the US is a little over 905,000, a loss equivalent to the entirety of the population of Columbus, Ohio; comparing war deaths to COVID fatalities no longer holds much weight, as the US’s bloodiest conflict, the American Civil War, a four-year conflict with a death toll that has been eclipsed by the pandemic’s 23-month rampage by nearly 40 percent.
“It is an astronomically high number,” remarks Dr. Ashish K. Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health. “If you had told most Americans two years ago as this pandemic was getting going that 900,000 Americans would die over the next few years, I think most people would not have believed it,” Jha also points out that the majority of these deaths occurred after the vaccines were approved for use.
Indeed, it is no coincidence that the US also has the lowest vaccination rate amongst the world’s developed nations, with only 64 percent—well less than two thirds—of the population having received at least two doses of one of the FDA approved vaccines, despite the country being at the forefront in developing the vaccines, proven to be safe and effective in the fight against the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus.
“We got the medical science right. We failed on the social science. We failed on how to help people get vaccinated, to combat disinformation, to not politicize this,” according to Jha. “Those are the places where we have failed as America.”
The official count of 900,000 dead is also certainly an undercount, according to researchers that track excess mortality rate statistics: not all deaths due to COVID-19 are recorded, with many undiagnosed individuals dying at home, either unable or unwilling to attend a clinic or hospital before succumbing to the disease. Additionally, deaths indirectly caused by the pandemic, such as drug overdoses, cardiovascular issues or cancer, might have been caused by reduced access to health care facilities due to those facilities being overwhelmed by COVID-19 cases.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1 million more people are estimated to have died since February 1, 2020 than what would have been expected over the last two years, implying that the number of pandemic fatalities, both directly and indirectly related to COVID-19, might be higher than what the official count says by 100,000 deaths.
“I think it’s fair to say that over 1 million Americans would still be alive today if not for the pandemic,” according to David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
- Timeline bar chart showing the worldwide daily number of Covid-19 deaths reported to the World Health Organization (WHO).From Wikimedia Commons, the free media repository
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