This is an important step which, in the opinion of all, should not have happened so soon.
The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 eclipsed 700,000 on Friday night – a number higher than the population of Boston. The last 100,000 deaths came at a time when vaccines – which massively prevent death, hospitalization, and serious illness – were available to every American over the age of 12.
This step is deeply frustrating for doctors, public health officials and the American public, who have seen a pandemic that had abated by early summer take a bleak turn. Tens of millions of Americans have refused to be vaccinated, allowing the highly contagious delta variant to cross the country and drop the death toll from 600,000 to 700,000 in 3.5 months.
Florida has suffered by far the most deaths of any state during that time, with the virus having killed an estimated 17,000 residents since mid-June. Texas was second with 13,000 deaths. The two states account for 15% of the country’s population, but more than 30% of the country’s deaths since the country crossed the 600,000 threshold.
Dr David Dowdy, an infectious disease epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health who analyzed the publicly released data, said it was safe to say that at least 70,000 of the last 100,000 deaths were in people not vaccinated. And of those vaccinated people who died from breakthrough infections, most caught the virus from an unvaccinated person, he said.
âIf we had been more efficient in our vaccination, then I think it’s fair to say that we could have avoided 90% of these deaths,â Dowdy said since mid-June.
âIt’s not just a number on a screen,â said Dowdy. “These are tens of thousands of such tragic stories of people whose families have lost someone who matters to them.”
Danny Baker is one of them.
The 28-year-old seed hauler from Riley, Kansas, contracted COVID-19 over the summer, spent more than a month in hospital and died on September 14. He left behind a wife and a 7 month old baby girl.
âThis thing took a grown man, a 28-year-old, 6â²2 â³, 300-pound man, and shot him like nothing had happened,â said his father, JD Baker, 56. years old, from Milford, Kansas. “And so if young people think that they are still … protected because of their youth and their strength, it is no longer there.”
At the start of the pandemic, Danny Baker, who was a high school championship trap shooter and enjoyed hunting and fishing, insisted he would be the first in line for a vaccine, recalled his mother.
But just as vaccinations opened up for her age group, the United States recommended a halt in use of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine to investigate reports of rare but potentially dangerous blood clots. The news scared him, as did reports circulating online that the vaccine could harm fertility, although medical experts say there is no biological reason the injections could affect fertility.
His wife was breastfeeding too, so they decided to wait. Health experts now say breastfeeding mothers should receive the vaccine for their own protection and that it may even provide some protection to their babies through antibodies passed in breast milk.
“There is just a lot of misunderstanding about the vaccine,” said his wife, Aubrea Baker, 27, a labor and delivery nurse, adding that her husband’s death had inspired a Facebook page and at least 100 people to follow suit. get vaccinated. âIt’s not that we weren’t going to get it. We just hadn’t gotten it yet.
When deaths surpassed 600,000 in mid-June, vaccinations were already lowering the number of cases, restrictions were lifted and people were eagerly awaiting a return to normal in the summer. The daily death toll in the United States had fallen to an average of around 340, from a high of more than 3,000 in mid-January. Soon after, health officials declared it to be an unvaccinated pandemic.
But as the Delta variant swept across the country, the number of cases and deaths skyrocketed – especially among the unvaccinated and younger, with hospitals across the country reporting a dramatic increase in admissions and deaths among those under. 65 years. They have also reported peak infections and deaths, albeit far lower rates, prompting providing booster shots to vulnerable Americans.
Now, daily deaths average about 1,900 per day. Cases have started to decline from their September highs, but there are concerns that the situation will worsen during the winter months, when colder weather pushes people indoors.
Almost 65% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, while about 56% are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
But millions of people refuse or remain on the fence because of fear, misinformation and political beliefs. Healthcare workers say they have been threatened by patients and community members who don’t believe COVID-19 is real.
The first known deaths from the virus in the United States were in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 deaths. During the deadliest phase of the disaster, in the winter of 2020-21, it took a little over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 deaths.
The United States reached 500,000 deaths in mid-February, when the country was still in the midst of a winter wave and vaccines were only available to a limited number of people. The death toll stood at around 570,000 in April, when every adult American became eligible for gunfire.
âI remember when we passed the 100,000 dead mark, people just shook their heads and said ‘Oh my God’,â said Dr. Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association. âThen we said, ‘Are we going to get to 200,000? “Then we kept looking at 100,000 deaths,” and eventually passed the estimated 675,000 deaths in the United States from the 1918-19 influenza pandemic.
âAnd we’re not done yet,â Benjamin said.
Deaths during the delta surge have been relentless in southern hot spots. Nearly 79 out of 100,000 people in Florida have died from COVID since mid-June, the highest rate in the country.
Amanda Alexander, a COVID-19 intensive care nurse at Augusta University Medical Center in Georgia, said Thursday she had seen a patient die on each of her previous three shifts.
âI saw a 20-year-old die. I looked at people in their 30s, 40s, âwith no pre-existing conditions that would have put them at greater risk, she said. âNinety-nine percent of our patients are not vaccinated. And it’s so frustrating because the facts don’t lie and we see it every day.