The United States Marks Half a Million COVID-19 Deaths

An inconceivable loss.

Artist Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg walks among thousands of white flags planted in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19 in October 2020.Patrick Semansky/AP

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The United States’ COVID-19 death toll has surpassed 500,000, a staggering milestone.

“People decades from now are gonna be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country, to have these many people to have died from a respiratory-borne infection,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said in a CNN interview Monday morning. “It really is a terrible situation that we’ve been through, and that we’re still going through.”

It’s nearly impossible to conceive of the loss of half a million Americans. The virus has killed one in 670 people across the country. In places like New York City, the number is closer to one in 295. President Biden will hold a memorial ceremony this evening and will order flags on federal property to fly at half staff for five days.

COVID-19 infection rates in the US have fallen dramatically since their January peak, and more than 13 percent of the country’s population has received at least one vaccine dose. Still, public health officials are urging the public not to let their guard down. At a White House COVID-19 response team press briefing this afternoon, Fauci reiterated that people should continue wearing masks because of the possibility that people who have been vaccinated could still be infected and spread the disease asymptomatically.

“There will be things that you will not be able to do because the burden of virus in society will be very high,” he said. “We are still at an unacceptably high baseline level with the seven-day average being quite high.”

It was a little less than a year ago that then-President Trump declared that the coronavirus was “going to disappear.” Lockdowns in New York City, one of the initial epicenters, began in mid-March 2020. Since then, the world as we knew it has disappeared.

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