US death toll from COVID-19 hits 900,000, accelerated by omicron


Driven in part by the extremely contagious omicron variant, the US COVID-19 death toll hit 900,000 on Friday, less than two months after eclipsing 800,000.

The two-year total, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is larger than the population of Indianapolis, San Francisco or Charlotte, North Carolina.

The milestone comes more than 13 months after a vaccination campaign beset by misinformation and political and legal conflicts, even though the shots have been shown to be safe and highly effective at preventing prevent serious illness and death.

“That is an astronomically high number. If you had told most Americans two years ago that this pandemic was raging that 900,000 Americans would die in the next few years, I think most people wouldn’t have believed it,” said Dr. Ashish K. Jha, said the president of Brown University. School of Public Health.

He lamented that most of the deaths occurred after the vaccine was licensed.

“We got the medical science right. We failed in the social sciences. We failed to see how to help people get vaccinated, against misinformation, not to politicize this,” said Jha. “Those are the places where we failed as America.”

President Joe Biden lamented the milestone in a statement Friday night, saying: “After nearly two years, I know that the emotional, physical, and psychological weight of this pandemic is immeasurable. equally hard to endure”.

He again urged Americans to vaccinate and get booster shots. “Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up their defenses by shooting themselves, their families, and their communities by shooting at least once — and as a result, we have saved more than a million Americans,” Biden said.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only 64% of the population is fully immunized, or about 212 million Americans.

Nor is the US over COVID-19: Jha says US could hit 1 million deaths by April.

Among the dead was Susan Glister-Berg, 53, of Sterling Heights, Michigan, whose children had to take her off a ventilator just before Thanksgiving after COVID-19 ravaged her lungs and kidneys.

“She was always more concerned with people than herself. She always cares about people,” said one daughter, Hali Fortuna. “That’s how we all describe her: She cares about everyone. Extremely selfless”.

Glister-Berg, a smoker, was in poor health and appeared to be unvaccinated, according to her daughter. Fortuna just got her own booster.

“We all want it gone. Personally, I don’t see it going away anytime soon,” she said. “I guess it’s about learning to live with it and hopefully we all learn to take better care of each other.”

The latest bleak milestone comes as omicron is loosening its grip on the country.

New cases per day have fallen by almost half a million since mid-January, when they hit a record high of more than 800,000. Cases have fallen in 49 states over the past two weeks, according to Johns Hopkins figures, and the 50th state, Maine, reported that confirmed infections are also falling there, falling sharply over the past week.

Additionally, the number of Americans hospitalized with COVID-19 has dropped 15% since mid-January to about 124,000.

The death toll is still rising, averaging more than 2,400 people a day, the most since last winter. And they are on the rise in at least 35 states, reflecting the disparity between when victims become infected and when they succumb.

However, public health officials have expressed hope that the worst of omicrons is coming to an end. While they warned that things could still get worse again and dangerous new variations could emerge, some places spoke of easing precautions.

Director of Public Health Dr. Barbara Ferrer said on Thursday, Los Angeles County could end its outdoor mask requirements in a matter of weeks.

“After the water rises, it doesn’t mean the pandemic is over or transmission is low, or that there will be no unpredictable surges in the future,” she warned.

Despite its wealth and world-class medical facilities, the US has the highest reported numbers of any country, and even then, the number of people killed directly or indirectly by the coronavirus. is considered to be significantly higher.


Experts believe that some of the COVID-19 deaths have been misattributed to other conditions. And some Americans are thought to have died from chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes because they were unable or unwilling to receive treatment in times of crisis.

Father Gina Anderson-Cloud, senior pastor of the Fredericksburg United Methodist Church in Virginia, lost her father to dementia after he was hospitalized for cancer surgery and then isolated in a ward. COVID-19. He went into cardiac arrest, was revived, but died about a week later.

She had intended to go to his bedside, but the law forbade her from going to the hospital.

“I think it is important that we are not paralyzed. Every number is someone,” she said of the death toll. “Those are our mothers, our fathers, our children, our elders.”

When the vaccine was released in mid-December 2020, the death toll was around 300,000. It hit 600,000 between June 2021 and 700,000 on October 1. On December 14, it hit 800,000.

It took just 51 days to reach 900,000, the fastest 100,000 increase since last winter.


“We underestimated our enemy here, and we are well prepared to defend ourselves,” said Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, professor of public health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. . “We’ve learned a lot of humility in the face of a respiratory virus that can be contagious and deadly.”

The latest 100,000 deaths include those caused by both delta and omicron variants, which began spreading rapidly in December and became the dominant version in the US before the end of the month.

While omicrons have been shown to be less likely to cause severe illness than delta, the sheer number of people infected with it has contributed to the high number of deaths.

Ja said he and other health professionals are frustrated that policymakers seem to have run out of ideas to urge people to roll up their sleeves.

“There are not many tools left. We need to double down and come up with new ones,” he said.

COVID-19 has become one of the top three causes of death in the US, behind two major causes – heart disease and cancer.

“We fought each other over the tools that really save lives. Just the sheer amount of politics and misinformation surrounding vaccines, which are surprisingly effective and safe, is astounding, says Sharfstein.

“This is the consequence,” he added.


Associated Press writers Robert Jablon in Los Angeles and Patrick Whittle in Portland, Maine, contributed to this report.

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