United States passes one million Covid deaths


By Bernd Debusmann Jr, May 12: The US has passed more than one million Covid-related deaths, says the White House.

President Joe Biden said the country was marking "a tragic milestone" and each death was "an irreplaceable loss".

It's the highest official total in the world - although the World Health Organization believes the true death toll may be much higher elsewhere.

The US has also recorded more than 80 million Covid cases, out of a 330 million population.

The first confirmed case was reported on 20 January 2020, when a man flew home to Seattle from Wuhan in China.

The 35-year-old survived, after 10 days of pneumonia, coughs, fever, nausea and vomiting. But deaths began to be reported just a few weeks later.

In the two years since, death rates have ebbed and flowed as waves of the virus swept across the country - reaching highs of more than 4,000 a day in early 2021.

Public health experts give several reasons for the high US death toll - including high rates of obesity and hypertension, overworked hospital systems, some vaccine hesitancy and a large older population.

Each US state may have a slightly different way to define a Covid death, and such deaths are often not solely because of the virus.

When did the deaths take place?

The US has seen the number of daily reported deaths spike on several occasions, often coming as new variants spread across the country.

The first wave - the initial pandemic - saw highs of more than 2,500 daily reported deaths in April 2020, about eight months before the first vaccines were rolled out in December.

"The dangerous surges, where our hospitals were full and new deaths were overwhelming, have all come on the heels of new variants," Dr Mark Cameron, an associate professor in the department of population and quantitative health sciences at Case Western University in Ohio, told the BBC.

Most of the one million Americans who died during the pandemic lost their lives after the vaccines were introduced. That's down to the sheer scale of people still catching the virus - it does not mean the vaccines aren't working. Vaccines massively cut severe Covid risk.

A study from the Rand Corporation credited the jabs with saving 140,000 lives in the US by May 2021 alone.

A separate analysis by the Peterson Center for Healthcare and the Kaiser Family Foundation in April this year estimated that around a quarter of the US deaths - about 234,000 people - could have been prevented with vaccines.

"You can't necessarily simplify this to be a pandemic of the unvaccinated. Everyone knows someone who had the whole vaccination regimen and still got very sick," Dr Cameron added.

"But the data is clear, the risk of Covid-19 and death is higher in the unvaccinated."

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