UPDATED with latest: As of Monday, 500,000 American lives had been lost to Covid-19, according to AP, CNN and NBC News. That’s a startling figure almost exactly one year into the pandemic.
At its outbreak, many said the virus was no more deadly than the seasonal flu. One year on, it’s killed nearly ten times the what a season flu does in a bad year. The worst seasonal loss of lives due to flu in the past decade have come in 2014-2015 and 2017-2018 at 51,000 and 61,000 lives lost accordingly. The seasonal toll has been as low as 12,000 — in 2011-2012.
Put another way, 500,000 lives lost is greater than the population of Miami or Kansas City. It’s also roughly equal to all American lives lost in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War combined.
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Members of the White House coronavirus task force said on Monday that the milestone is “a truly tragic reminder of the enormity of this pandemic and the loss it has inflicted.”
According to the Washington Post today, “researchers in Scotland reported Monday that both the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech and Oxford-AstraZeneca shots greatly reduced hospital admissions from covid-19 among the elderly — by up to 85 percent and 94 percent, respectively.”
WH leaders warned that, despite the fact that numbers have fallen greatly in the past few weeks, cases remain significantly elevated. Monday’s case levels, they added, are “comparable with the last summer’s peak.”
As a result, according to an AP report, “Experts warn that over 100,000 more deaths are likely in the next few months,” pushing the total number of deaths ever closer to that of the Spanish Flu outbreak, which took 675,000 American lives in 1918-1919.
The president and First Lady will hold a moment of silence at sundown on Monday to remember American lives lost to the pandemic.
PREVIOUSLY on January 22: A little over three weeks after the day the United States lost more souls to Covid-19 than it did in World War II, the country had some very good news. On Tuesday, the daily number of new cases in America fell below 100,000 for the first time in over three months. The last time daily new cases in the country were below 100,000 was on November 3, 2020.
With cases below that early winter mark and 33 million Americans having received at least one dose of a vaccine, there was reason for optimism. One of the country’s largest school systems, Montgomery County in Maryland, received approval from its school board on Tuesday to reopen. Districts across the country were considering doing likewise.
In Los Angeles, the nation’s largest district moved closer to seeing students return to campus. LA County’s adjusted case rate stood at 31.7 per 100,000. That’s down from 46 per 100,000 two weeks ago and just above the 25 per 100,000 mark needed to allow reopenings. A public health official told the LA Board of Supervisors Tuesday that the county will likely meet the 25-case rate threshold in a matter of weeks.
Gov. Gavin Newsom, meanwhile, has been pushing harder for in-person learning to resume for small groups of younger students. He said Tuesday he is negotiating with state legislators on a deal to accelerate the return of in-person learning by this spring.
LAUSD Superintendent Austin Beutner and leaders of the United Teachers Los Angeles union have said teachers and school staff should be vaccinated before returning to the classroom. Newsom countered that, given the shortage of vaccine, that could only be done if doses were taken away from seniors.
Amid the good news, however, there was increasing concern about mutant strains of the virus taking hold stateside. The CDC revealed on Tuesday that there had been 944 cases of the UK, South African and Brazilian variants. “The vast majority of these cases, 932, are the more contagious variant known as B.1.1.7, which was originally detected in the UK. This variant has been found in 34 states, including 343 cases in Florida, 156 in California and 59 in New York,” the center said in a statement.
In California another strain, dubbed the West Coast Variant, is proliferating. Last week, California’s top health official revealed that over 1,000 cases of the West Coast variant had been discovered in the state. Governor Gavin Newsom said on Monday that that number had risen to 1,200. That’s a 20% increase in less than a week. The variant is suspected of being more transmissible. It is unknown if it is more vaccine resistant.
Meanwhile two new UK strains, one of which was called a “concern,” have been identified in England. They show similarities to the South African and Brazilian variants.