HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) – The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 100,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
A once-unthinkable toll that now appears to be just the beginning of untold misery in the months ahead as Las Vegas casinos and Walt Disney World make plans to reopen, crowds of unmasked Americans swarm beaches and public health officials predict a resurgence by fall.
That number is the best estimate and most assuredly an undercount. But it represents the stark reality that more Americans have died from the virus than from the Vietnam and Korea wars combined.
“It is a grim milestone,” said Josh Michaud, associate director of global health policy with the Kaiser Family Foundation in Washington. “It’s a striking reminder of how dangerous this virus can be.”
Worldwide, the virus has infected more than 5.6 million people and killed over 350,000, with the U.S. having the most confirmed cases and deaths by far, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University. Europe has recorded about 170,000 deaths, while the U.S. reached more than 100,000 in less than four months.
The true death toll from the virus, which emerged in China late last year and was first reported in the U.S. in January, is widely believed to be significantly higher, with experts saying many victims died of COVID-19 without ever being tested for it.
California Governor Gavin Newsom shared a statement to social media on Wednesday.
“While we have fared a lot better than other states as it relates to the mortality, the number of deaths in the state of California as it relates to this pandemic — by no means have we been immune,” Newsom said in a video posted to Twitter. “We have over 3,800 humans being that have lost their lives since the beginning of this pandemic. We lost 19 people in the last 24 hours in California. We saw a number of new positive tests increased by over 2,000 in the last 24 hours here in the state of California. It’s a long way of saying we still have a long way of going to get to where we need to be which is immunity and to a vaccine.”
At the end March, the United States eclipsed China with 3,500 deaths. Now, the U.S. has not only the highest death total, but the highest number of confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world, making up more than 30% of the global total.
Early on, President Donald Trump downplayed the severity of the coronavirus and called it no worse than the common flu. He previously predicted the country wouldn’t reach this death toll. As early as March, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, was warning that COVID-19 could claim more than 100,000 lives in the U.S.
“I think we’ll be substantially under that number,” Trump said on April 10. Ten days later, he said, “We’re going toward 50- or 60,000 people.” Ten days after that: “We’re probably heading to 60,000, 70,000.”
Critics have said deaths spiked because Trump was slow to respond, but he has contended on Twitter that it could have been 20 times higher without his actions. He has urged states to reopen their economies after months of stay-at-home restrictions.
The virus exacted an especially vicious toll on Trump’s hometown of New York City and its surrounding suburbs, killing more than 21,000. At the peak, hundreds of people were dying per day in New York City, and hospitals, ambulances and first responders were inundated with patients.
The densely packed New York metropolitan area, consisting of about 20 million people across a region that encompasses the city’s northern suburbs, Long Island and northern New Jersey, has been the hardest-hit corner of the country, accounting for at least one-third of the nation’s deaths.
The stark reality comes as only half of Americans said they would be willing to get vaccinated if scientists are successful in developing a vaccine, according to a new poll released Wednesday from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, issued a stern warning after viewing video showing Memorial Day crowds gathered at a pool party in Missouri.
“We have a situation in which you see that type of crowding with no mask and people interacting. That’s not prudent and that’s inviting a situation that could get out of control,” he said during an interview Wednesday on CNN. “Don’t start leapfrogging some of the recommendations in the guidelines because that’s really tempting fate and asking for trouble.”
After months of lockdowns in countries around the world, places have begun reopening in stages. Mediterranean beaches and Las Vegas casinos laid out plans to welcome tourists again. Churches began opening up. And humans restless at being cooped up indoors for weeks began venturing outside in droves, often without practicing safe social distancing or wearing protective coverings.
Summertime is already a time when more people head outdoors. This year, it also means the every-four-years national political conventions in the United States where the two major political parties anoint a presidential candidate.
This story will be updated
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