US becomes first country to record half a million COVID deaths

The US has become the first country to record more than half a million deaths with coronavirus.

The pandemic has now seen 500,071 COVID-related fatalities in the country and more than 28 million people infected, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus tracker.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are to commemorate the huge loss of life on Monday at a White House event that will include a speech by the president, a moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony.

In a statement the president said: “We, as a nation, must remember them so we can begin to heal, to unite, and find purpose as one nation to defeat this pandemic.”

Nurse practitioner Tabe Mase gives U.S. President-elect Joe Biden a dose of a vaccine against the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital, in Newark, Delaware, U.S. December 21, 2020. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Image:Joe Biden, seen getting a COVID-19 vaccine, blames Donald Trump for failing to manage its rollout

The president will also order that US flags on federal property be lowered to half-mast for five days, a White House spokeswoman told reporters.

She said the events “will highlight the magnitude of loss that this milestone marks for the American people”.

Brazil has the second highest number of coronavirus deaths globally with about 250,000.

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The fact the US leads the world in both death and infection numbers reflected poor planning by the Trump administration, President Biden has previously said.

Confirming the US had bought enough doses “to vaccinate all Americans”, he accused Mr Trump of failing to manage the vaccine rollout.

“While scientists did their job in discovering vaccines in record time, my predecessor – I’ll be very blunt about it – did not do his job in getting ready for the massive challenge of vaccinating hundreds of millions,” he said.

In December, the US’s average daily deaths linked to COVID-19 touched 2,276 with one daily total exceeding the 2,977 people who lost their lives in the 9/11 terror attacks.

Indigenous Americans are the worst-affected racial group as a percentage of population, recording almost 211 deaths per 100,000 people, Statista said.

Despite Mr Biden’s criticisms, there is cause for hope in the vaccine rollout, with official statistics saying about 64 million jabs had so far been given.

That puts the US on course to exceed the president’s stated target of 100m doses in his government’s first 100 days, though progress was hampered by the recent freezing weather.

2020 deadliest year in US history as COVID 'kills one American every 33 seconds'

2020 deadliest year in US history as COVID ‘kills one American every 33 seconds’

And case numbers are also dropping – down to around 100,000 per day this month from 250,000 in January.

It is a far cry from Mr Trump’s optimistic prediction last April, that, even if it did nothing, the US would lose 50,000 to 60,000 people to the virus.

Mark Gibson

Graduates in Northwestern University, Evanston, Illinois 1990. Move to Los Angeles California in 2004. Specialized in Internet journalism.

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