US approaches coronavirus death toll of 500,000

Support us and go ad-free

The US stands on the brink of a once-unthinkable tally: 500,000 people lost to the coronavirus.

A year into the pandemic, the running total of lives lost is 498,897 – roughly the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and just shy of the size of Atlanta.

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

America’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci told CNN:

It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic.

Rising death toll

The US virus death toll reached 400,000 on 19 January in the waning hours in office for president Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis was judged by public health experts to be a failure.

The first known deaths from the virus in the US 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.

Remembrance ceremony

US president Joe Biden will mark the grim milestone with a moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House.

The White House said Mr Biden will deliver remarks at sunset to honour those who lost their lives.

He will be joined at the event by first lady Jill Biden and vice president Kamala Harris and her husband, Doug Emhoff.

Mr Biden has made a point of recognizing the lives lost from the virus. His first event upon arriving in Washington for his inauguration a month ago was to deliver remarks at a Covid-19 memorial ceremony.

A personal story

Joyce Willis of Las Vegas is among the countless Americans who lost family members during the pandemic. Her husband, Anthony Willis, died on December 28, followed by her mother-in-law in early January.

She was unable to see him in hospital before he died because she, too, had the virus and could not visit.

Virus Outbreak
Joe Biden, right, and Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer tour a Pfizer manufacturing site in Portage, Michigan (AP)

Mrs Willis said:

They are gone. Your loved one is gone, but you are still alive,

It’s like you still have to get up every morning. You have to take care of your kids and make a living. There is no way around it. You just have to move on.

Then came a nightmare scenario of caring for her father-in-law while dealing with grief, arranging funerals, paying bills, helping her children navigate online school and figuring out how to go back to work as an occupational therapist.

What could lie ahead

The global death toll is approaching 2.5 million, 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.

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

Dr Fauci said later on NBC’s Meet The Press:

People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us