More than 600,000 people in the United States died from Covid-19 on Wednesday, according to data compiled by the New York Times— a once unthinkable number, 10 times the death toll President Donald J. Trump predicted. The milestone comes as the country’s fight against the coronavirus has made great progress but remains unfinished, with millions of people not yet vaccinated.
“It’s a tragedy,” said Stephen Morse, professor of epidemiology at Columbia University Medical Center. “Much of this tragedy was preventable, and it still happens. “
As many Americans celebrate the onset of summer and states have eased restrictions, the virus still kills hundreds of people a day, almost all of them unvaccinated, experts say. Although the total number of deaths in the United States is higher than anywhere else, the country’s per capita toll is lower than that of many European and Latin American countries, including Peru, Brazil, Belgium and Italy. .
The most recent 100,000 deaths have occurred more slowly, over about four months. About half of all Americans are protected by at least one dose of a vaccine, and public health experts say this has played a central role in slowing the death rate.
“Until we have control across the world, it could come back and thwart any progress we’ve made so far,” said Dr. Marcus Plescia, chief medical officer of the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, which represents state health agencies. “I am worried about people who are not taking advantage of these vaccines. They are the ones who will suffer the consequences. “
Deaths from Covid have declined by about 90% in the United States since their peak in January, according to provisional data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But about half of Covid deaths at the end of May were among people aged 50 to 74, down from just a third in December, according to a recent New York Times analysis. Older whites are driving changes in death patterns, and blacks in most age groups have experienced the smallest declines in deaths compared to other major racial groups.
Cumulative vaccination rates among blacks and Hispanics remain lower than those of Asians and whites.
In Wayne County, Michigan, where Detroit is located, vaccine reluctance is a major problem, said Dr. Teena Chopra, medical director of infection prevention and hospital epidemiology at Detroit Medical Center. . As of May, all of his Covid-19 patients were either unvaccinated or had only received a single dose of the vaccine. Several have died, she said, and patients with the virus were still being admitted.
“It makes me very frustrated and angry because getting people vaccinated is the only way to end the pandemic,” Dr Chopra said.
Denise Lu, Daniel E. Slotnik, Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith contributed reporting.