U.S. passes 200K COVID-related deaths, world’s highest

The U.S. has recorded more than 200,000 coronavirus-related deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine, the highest death toll in the world.

The nation had 200,252 confirmed COVID-19 deaths at 2:15 p.m. EDT Tuesday, more than any other nation in the world, according to a map tracking the virus.

“It is completely unfathomable that we’ve reached this point,” Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher, told The Associated Press.

Globally, the virus has killed more than 965,000 people. Brazil is the only other nation to have experienced a six-figure death toll, with more than 137,000.

The number of dead in the U.S. is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. It is roughly equal to the population of Salt Lake City or Huntsville, Alabama.

Coronavirus-related deaths are running at close to 770 a day on average, and a model from the University of Washington predicts the overall U.S. toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year as schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. A vaccine is unlikely to become widely available until 2021.

As the coronavirus pandemic began bearing down on the United States in March, President Donald Trump said if the U.S. could keep the death toll between 100,000 to 200,000 people it would indicate that his administration had “done a very good job.”

“If we didn’t do our job, it would be three and a half, two and a half, maybe 3 million people,” Trump said Friday. “We have done a phenomenal job with respect to COVID-19.”

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After revelations in a new book by journalist Bob Woodward that Trump intentionally played down the seriousness of the virus earlier this year, Trump’s opponent this fall, Democrat Joe Biden, said, “You’ve got to level with the American people — shoot from the shoulder,” adding, “There’s not been a time they’ve not been able to step up.”

Trump has insisted he wasn’t downplaying the severity of the virus when he compared it with the seasonal flu and undercut public health officials who pushed for more stringent mitigation efforts.

CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield told state governors last week to prepare for the vaccine.

Trump continues promising a coronavirus vaccine will be approved within weeks. The president has championed his administration’s aggressive vaccine push, but Democrats have responded by raising doubts a shot approved under Trump can be trusted, making the coronavirus vaccine an election flashpoint.

“We will deliver a safe and effective vaccine before the end of the year, and it could be very, very soon. It could be very, very soon,” Trump said at a campaign rally in Mosinee, Wisconsin.

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“I trust vaccines, I trust scientists, but I don’t trust Donald Trump,” Biden said last week after receiving a briefing on COVID-19. Trump responded by accusing Biden of pushing “anti-vaccine theories.”

A group of nine pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies made a public pledge last week, promising to only seek approval for COVID-19 vaccines demonstrated to be safe and effective, in an effort to allay fears that development of the shot might be politically tainted.

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In May, the president announced “Operation Warp Speed,” a project to accelerate vaccine development and deliver 300 million doses by year’s end. The government has selected eight vaccine candidates for the program, beginning manufacturing of the shots even while they remain in clinical trials with the expectation that one or more will work.

Top government health officials including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, have said a vaccine may be available as soon as mid-2021.

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Globally, more than 30 million have been infected by the coronavirus, which the World Health Organization declared a pandemic on March 11, 2020.

The U.S. leads the world in the number of cases — more than 6.8 million — and deaths. However, while India’s number of confirmed cases is less than the U.S., health officials expect the world’s second most-populous nation to soon overtake the U.S. in that category.