US surpasses 500,000 COVID-19 deaths as NY virus spread slows


NEW YORK — More than 500,000 people have died of COVID-19 in the United States, according to updated data from Johns Hopkins University on Monday.

The figure surpasses the number of people who died in 2019 of chronic lower respiratory diseases, stroke, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined.

Watch remarks from President Biden below:

“It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said Sunday on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

The devastating milestone also comes nearly a year after the first known case of coronavirus was reported in New York on March 1, 2020.

Once considered the epicenter of the pandemic, New Yorkers have made great strides in stemming the spread of the virus.

Following a post-holiday season surge in cases and hospitalizations, the statewide positivity rate on a rolling seven-day average was 3.5%, the state Health Department announced Monday. Hospitalizations remained below 6,000 for a third consecutive day.

However, the state reported an additional 89 people died of the virus. The death toll since March 2020 rose to 37,940.

The progress was also marred by the confirmation of the first known New York resident to test positive for the South African variant, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

“We continue to see a reduction in positivity and hospitalizations throughout the state, which is good news, and this progress is allowing us to reopen the valve on our economy even further,” Cuomo said in a statement on Sunday. “But with the discovery of a case of the South African variant in the state, it’s more important than ever for New Yorkers to stay vigilant, wear masks, wash hands and stay socially distanced. We are in a race right now — between our ability to vaccinate and these variants which are actively trying to proliferate — and we will only win that race if we stay smart and disciplined.”

The vaccine rollout, meanwhile, continued at a slower pace than most people anticipated.

Winter storms that walloped a large swath of the United States last week also wreaked havoc on the federal distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, officials have said. New York City and New Jersey health officials reported vaccine shipping delays related to the weather.

Despite efforts to administer vaccines, a widely cited model by the University of Washington projects the U.S. death toll will surpass 589,000 by June 1.

The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. happened in early February 2020, both of them in Santa Clara County, California. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December. Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and about two months to climb from 400,000 to the brink of 500,000.
The global death toll approached 2.5 million on Monday, according to Johns Hopkins.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real death toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and cases inaccurately attributed to other causes early on.

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