WASHINGTON, United States (AFP) — More than 400,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States since the pandemic began, according to Johns Hopkins University on Tuesday, the eve of the presidential inauguration of Joe Biden, who has made the fight against the coronavirus a priority of his first term.
The bleak threshold was reached only about a month after the US recorded its 300,000th death from the disease, in mid-December, and nearly a year since it announced its first COVID death, at the end of February 2020.
The toll in the world’s wealthiest nation remains by far the highest in absolute terms, though some other countries are registering more deaths in proportion to their populations, such as Italy, Britain and Belgium.
After the first COVID-19 death was announced in the US in February 2020 it took about three months to pass the 100,000 mark, during a first wave that hit New York particularly hard.
It took another four months to reach 200,000 fatalities, and just under three months to reach 300,000.
But as cases have surged across the country with the arrival of winter and the holiday season in recent months, deaths have followed suit.
About one American in two believes the virus is currently not at all under control, according to a Washington Post-NBC poll released Tuesday.
Some 120,000 people are currently hospitalised because of COVID-19, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which analyses data from across the country on a daily basis.
In total, the US has recorded more than 24.1 million cases — though with testing shaky at the start of the pandemic, the real toll is believed to be much higher.
The US began vaccinating its residents in mid-December, but it will take months before the current outbreak can be contained.
Just over three percent of the population, or about 10.5 million people, have so far received one of the two vaccines licensed in the US — developed by Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna — of which 1.6 million people have received the two required doses.
Biden, eager to speed things up, has promised 100 million doses injected during his first 100 days in office.
To achieve that goal he will push for the creation of new community vaccination centres in gyms, stadiums and schools, and will mobilise an additional 100,000 healthcare workers.