US marks grim milestone of 500,000 Covid deaths
President Joe Biden led the nation to observe a moment of silence on Monday in the memory of Americans who died of Covid-19, as the toll crossed 500,000, a grim testament to how miserably one of the world’s most advanced countries failed in the face of the worst public health crisis in a century.
The US toll reached 500,201 on Monday, and stood at 500,443 with 1,347 more fatalities overnight, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 tracker. And the number of new infections went up by 56,079 over the same period to 28.1 million, which is nearly 9% of the population.
The first Covid-19 case was reported in the US on January 21, 2020 and the first death a fortnight later on February 6.
“Today, we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 (official figures can be different depending on the cut-off time and tracker agency),” President Biden said. “That’s more Americans who have died in one year in this pandemic than in World War One, World War Two, and the Vietnam War combined. That’s more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth.” Brazil, India and the United Kingdom are next.
“As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate. While we have been fighting this pandemic for so long, we have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” he added.
Biden has ordered the US flag to be flown at half-mast for the entire week in memory of those who died of Covid-19.
President Biden’s response to the pandemic and the attendant fallout has been in marked contrast to that of his predecessor Donald Trump, who had tried to downplay the crisis and frequently questioned mitigation measures such as social distancing and masking.
Even in the best of circumstances, the pandemic would have been a serious problem. “However, that does not explain how a rich and sophisticated country can have the most percentage of deaths and be the hardest-hit country in the world,” Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and a top adviser to Biden, told Reuters. “That I believe should not have happened.”
With just 4% of the world population, the United States accounts for a fifth of the 2.5 million global deaths and a fourth of all infections.
But the situation has improved despite the threat of new strains of the virus from South Africa and Brazil. Vaccinations are up and new infections and deaths are declining. Both Biden and Fauci are hopeful of the country returning to normalcy around Christmas.
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