US COVID Deaths Near 500K, Biden Plans Candle-Lighting Ceremony To Honor Milestone
The US is on the cusp of what some are calling a "once unthinkable" milestone: it's nearing 500K killed by COVID.
More Americans succumbed to the virus last year than those killed by chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined in 2019.
President Joe Biden is expected to mark the occasion with a moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House on Monday. He will deliver the remarks at sunset to honor the dead.
Cases, deaths and hospitalizations related to COVID are sliding across the US. New York State is raising indoor dining capacity and taking other steps to reopen.
After the beginning of the pandemic, it took four months to reach the first 100K dead. The toll hit 200K deaths in September and 300K in December. Then it took just over a month to go from 300K to 400K and about two months to climb from 400K to the brink of 500K. Meanwhile, the global death toll is approaching the 2.5MM mark, though that milestone is still probably more than a week away.
On the vaccine front, the US continues to surge ahead of Europe. Globally, more than 205MM shots have been given across more than 90 countries. More than 63MM of those have been administered in the US. In the US, more Americans have now received at least one dose than have tested positive for the virus since the pandemic began. So far, 63.1MM doses have been given. In the last week, an average of 1.33MM doses per day were administered. Though the pace of the shots was slowed by bad weather last week, according to Dr. Fauci, they will be back on track by midweek.
Cases have fallen precipitously, with the US now reporting fewer than 60K cases per day (down from the early January peak of 300K+).
In the UK, a new Scottish study has found that the country's vaccine rollout is helping to reduce hospitalizations. By the fourth week after receiving a vaccine, the risk of hospitalization fell by 85% to 94%, depending on which vaccine was administered. As numbers decline from their holiday peaks, the UK is preparing to roll out its timeline for reopening. PM Boris Johnson is expected to announce Monday that the reopening will begin March 8.
Deaths are falling also in Russia, which just recorded its lowest daily tally since mid-November. The country has also seen a steady decline in cases: it reported 12.6K on Monday, down from a peak of almost 30K a day in December. Over the weekend, it became the first country to approve a third COVID vaccine as it registered an inoculation by the state-run Chumakov Center (though Phase 3 safety trials won’t begin until March).
Back in Western Europe, as the UK prepares to accelerate its reopening, a top German health official is arguing the spread of the virus must slow further before the government can consider additional steps to loosen restrictions.