The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surpassed 300,000 Monday just as the country began distributing COVID-19 shots in a monumental campaign to conquer the blast.
The death toll rivals the population of St. Louis or Pittsburgh. It is equivalent to repeating a tragedy on the scale of Hurricane Katrina every day for 5 1/2 months.
It is more than five times the number of Americans killed in the Vietnam War. It equates to a 9/11 attack every day for more than 100 days.
“The numbers are staggering – the most effective respiratory pandemic we’ve experienced in more than 102 years since the iconic Spanish flu of 1918,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s chief infectious disease expert, days before the milestone.
The U.S. crossed the threshold the same day, health care providers raised their sleeves for Pfizer’s COVID-19 shooting, marking the start of the largest vaccination campaign in U.S. history.
If a second vaccine is authorized soon, as expected, 20 million people could be immunized by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, a march in Washington is fast approaching after an election that was largely a referendum on the Trump administration’s treatment of the virus.
President-elect Joe Biden has made it clear that his first priority will be a comprehensive and disciplined effort to overcome the explosion.
The death toll was reported by Johns Hopkins University according to data provided by health authorities across the United States.
The actual number of lost lives is likely to be much higher, in part due to deaths that were not accurately recorded as coronavirus-related during the early stages of the crisis.
Globally, the virus is blamed for more than 1.6 million deaths.
Experts say it could last well into spring for the shootings and other means to control cases and deaths in the United States
With cold weather pushing people inside, where the virus is spreading more easily, and many Americans despise masks and other precautions, some public health authorities project 100,000 more could die by the end of January.
“We’re targeting probably the worst period possible because of all the things we had in the spring, fatigue, political resistance, maybe the loss of all the good will we had about people fulfilling their role,” said Jennifer Nuzzo, a researcher on public health at Johns Hopkins.
Nuzzo contrasted the government’s outspoken response to the mass mobilization undertaken after nearly 3,000 Americans were killed in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
“Thinking now we can just absorb in our country 3,000 deaths a day as if it were just a matter as usual, it just represents a moral failure,” she said.