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US Set to Hit Grim COVID Milestone

500,000 deaths
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Feb 21, 2021 5:19 PM CST

(Newser) – The U. 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—roughly the population of Kansas City, Mo., 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, Alzheimer’s, flu and pneumonia combined. “It’s nothing like we have ever been through in the last 102 years, since the 1918 influenza pandemic,” the nation’s top infectious disease expert, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNN's State of the Union. The first known deaths from the virus in the US happened in early February 2020, both of them in Santa Clara County, Calif. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead.

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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 Americans who lost family members during the pandemic. Her husband, Anthony Willis, died Dec. 28, followed by her mother-in-law in early January. “They are gone. Your loved one is gone, but you are still alive,” Willis said. “It’s 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.” Despite efforts to administer coronavirus vaccines, a widely cited model by the University of Washington projects the US 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 Meet The Press.

(Read more coronavirus stories.)

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