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Deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. (Source: Johns Hopkins University Graphic: Phil Holm & Nicky Forster)

Daily U.S. case counts of COVID-19. (Source: Johns Hopkins University Graphic: Phil Holm & Nicky Forster)



IThis illustration, created at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), reveals ultrastructural morphology exhibited by coronaviruses. Note the spikes that adorn the outer surface of the virus, which impart the look of a corona surrounding the virion, when viewed electron microscopically. The novel coronavirus was named Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The illness caused by the virus is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).


February 21, 2021

U.S. coronavirus death toll approaches milestone of 500,000

By John Raby

The Associated Press

February 2020: First known COVID-19 deaths in California

May 28, 2020: 100,000 U.S. deaths

September 22, 2020: 200,000 U.S. deaths

December 14, 2020: 300,000 U.S. deaths

January 19, 2021: 400,000 U.S. deaths

February 22, 2021: 500,000 U.S. deaths

The U.S. stood Sunday at 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 was about 498,000 ó 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, Alzheimerís, flu, and pneumonia combined.

"Itís nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic," the nationís top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNNís "State of the Union."

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

The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. 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.

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

There were anxious calls from the ICU when her husband was hospitalized. She was unable to see him before he died because she, too, had the virus and could not visit.

"They are gone. Your loved one is gone, but you are still alive," Willis said. "Itís 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.

Her father-in-law, a Vietnam vet, also contracted the virus. He also suffered from respiratory issues and died on February 8. The family isnít sure if COVID-19 contributed to his death.

"Some days I feel OK and other days I feel like Iím strong and I can do this," she said. "And then other days it just hits me. My whole world is turned upside-down."

The global death toll was 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 U.S. death toll will surpass 589,000 by June 1.

"People will be talking about this decades and decades and decades from now," Fauci said on NBCís "Meet The Press."

Associated Press Writer Heather Hollingsworth in Kansas City, Missouri, contributed to this report.


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