The U.S. has hit 700,000 fatalities from COVID-19, a milestone marked by the spread of the delta variant as well as readily available vaccines that largely prevent serious illness and death. Health experts and the Biden administration blame this latest surge on the tens of millions of Americans who have declined vaccination.
This viral wave — which is peaking but not yet over — has killed a slightly different profile of patient. COVID-19 remains most dangerous for older people, but nursing home deaths are running well below their previous peaks, even in hot spots like Florida, thanks in part to targeted vaccinations. Yet the delta wave has killed a higher proportion of people ages 40-65, who have lower rates of vaccine uptake.
It will have taken less than four months for the virus to claim another 100,000 lives in the U.S., which has the world’s highest death toll. Even with vaccines, and now increasing mandates, the nation will now surpass last year’s death toll of almost 352,000 people.
The picture looked more optimistic on June 15, when the U.S. passed 600,000 fatalities. The virus had ebbed after a deadly winter surge and as millions of Americans, particularly senior citizens, were vaccinated.
“Today, we’re closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus,” President Joe Biden said on July 4.
But by then, the B.1.617.2 variant, first detected in India in 2020 and later named delta, already accounted for 85% of new cases, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Infection. It spread largely among pockets of the unvaccinated, first from Missouri to the U.S. South. Florida for a time made up a fifth of U.S. cases.
© 2021 Bloomberg L.P Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC