U.S. surpasses half a million COVID-19 deaths

Virus Outbreak US Surge hospital COVID-19

FILE – In this Nov. 19, 2020, file photo, registered nurse Virginia Petersen works on a computer while assisting a COVID-19 patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. U.S. hospitals slammed with COVID-19 patients are trying to lure nurses and doctors out of retirement and recruiting nursing students and new graduates who have yet to earn their licenses. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

More than half a million people in the U.S. have now died of COVID-19, a stark reminder of the toll the pandemic has taken on the country as the rate of the virus slows.

The U.S. crossed the threshold Monday, nearly a year after the first wave of COVID-19 led to widespread lockdowns and stay-at-home orders. As of Monday at least 28 million Americans are confirmed to have contracted the virus — a number that is likely much higher.

The U.S. leads the world in deaths caused by the virus. The country represents about 4% of the world’s population but accounts for about 20% of the world’s 2.5 million COVID-19 deaths.

Brazil, with 246,000 deaths is the only other country in the world that has recorded at least 200,000 deaths.

The U.S. also leads the world in total recorded COVID-19 cases with nearly 30 million. India and Brazil are the only other countries with at least 10 million total cases.

President Joe Biden is expected to hold a remembrance ceremony at the White House to honor those killed by the virus on Monday evening.

Despite the pain and suffering linked to half a million deaths, health experts are hopeful that the U.S. is already through the darkest days of the pandemic. There are two COVID-19 vaccines approved for emergency use — both of which have been proven to be safe and highly effective.

There are also several other vaccine candidates that could be approved in the weeks ahead. And while the spread of the virus and rates of severe infections of the disease remain elevated, they’ve plummeted in recent weeks.

Since peaking at nearly a quarter of a million new cases each day in early January, case rates have declined to an average of about 66,000 a day. Average deaths have also decreased from about 3,300 a day to about 1,900 a day.

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