Coronavirus | U.S. tops 500,000 virus deaths, matching the toll of three wars

Despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by June 1

Updated - February 23, 2021 09:10 am IST

Published - February 23, 2021 04:32 am IST - Baltimore (US)

File photo shows people take a self-administered coronavirus test at a COVID-19 testing site in a park in Los Angeles. File

File photo shows people take a self-administered coronavirus test at a COVID-19 testing site in a park in Los Angeles. File

The COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. has topped 500,000, all but matching the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.

The lives lost, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University on Monday, are about equal to the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and greater than that of Miami; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Omaha, Nebraska.

And despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by June 1.

The U.S. toll is by far the highest reported in the world, and the true numbers are thought to be significantly greater, in part because of the many cases that were overlooked, especially early in the outbreak.

Average daily deaths and cases have plummeted in the past few weeks, but experts warn that dangerous variants could cause the trend to reverse itself.

Some experts say not enough Americans have been inoculated yet for the vaccine to be making much of a difference.

Instead, the drop-off in deaths and cases has been attributed to the passing of the holidays; the cold and bleak days of midwinter, when many people are inclined to stay home; and better adherence to mask rules and social distancing.

The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. happened in early February 2020. 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 U.S. recorded an estimated 405,000 deaths in World War II, 58,000 in the Vietnam War and 36,000 in the Korean War.

Candle lighting ceremony

Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are set to commemorate the huge loss of life due to COVID-19 during an event at the White House that will include a speech by the president, a moment of silence and a candle lighting ceremony.

Biden will also order that U.S. flags on federal property be lowered to half staff for five days, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters.

The National Cathedral in Washington will also toll its bells 500 times to honor the lives lost to COVID-19 in a livestream event, according to a notice on its website.

- With inputs from Reuters

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