U.S. nears 600,000 coronavirus deaths

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Nation unlikely to reach Biden’s goal of 70% partial vaccinations by July 4

While the number of new domestic cases continues falling, the U.S. is nonetheless approaching another grim milestone in the battle against the global coronavirus pandemic.

On Tuesday, the U.S. continued approaching 600,000 dead from COVID, and the nation continues to lead the world in number of overall cases. Data from Johns Hopkins University of Medicine show the U.S. at more than 599,500 dead and 33 million cases.

India is second in the world in number of cases, at 29.2 million, followed by Brazil with 17.2 million. Other than the U.S., however, Brazil has more deaths than any other nation with more than 482,000. India is third in deaths at more than 363,000.

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The U.S. is increasingly unlikely to meet President Joe Biden’s target to have 70% of Americans at least partially vaccinated by July 4.

About 15.5 million unvaccinated adults need to receive at least one dose in the next four weeks for Biden to meet his goal. But the pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped below 400,000 people per day — down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.

The White House has launched a monthlong blitz to combat vaccine hesitancy and a lack of urgency to get shots, particularly in the South and Midwest, but it is increasingly resigned to missing the president’s vaccination target. The administration insists that even if the goal isn’t reached, it will have little effect on the overall U.S. recovery, which is already ahead of where Biden said it would be months ago.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told reporters at a briefing Tuesday that he still hopes the goal will be met “and if we don’t, we’re going to continue to keep pushing.”

So far, 14 states have reached 70% coverage among adults, with about a dozen more on pace to reach the milestone by July 4. But the state-to-state variation is stark.

ExploreDespite ample shots and incentives, vaccine rates lag far behind in the South

Fauci said the administration is “pleading” with states, particularly those with low vaccination rates, to step up their efforts in the coming months, though some of the states trailing behind are hardly sharing the urgency.

On a conference call Tuesday, White House COVID-19 coordinator Jeff Zients delivered an impassioned call for governors to join the administration in “pulling out all the stops” on vaccinations this month. “We need your leadership on the ground — which is where it matters the most — more than ever,” he said.

Biden is in the middle of his first overseas trip as president, meeting with leaders from the Group of Seven industrialized nations. The G-7 leaders are committing to sharing at least 1 billion coronavirus shots with struggling countries around the world — half the doses coming from the U.S. and 100 million from the U.K.

Vaccine sharing commitments from Biden and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson set the stage for the G-7 meeting in southwest England, where leaders will pivot Friday from opening greetings and a “family photo” directly into a session on “Building Back Better From COVID-19.”

Biden said the U.S. will donate 500 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and previewed a coordinated effort by the advanced economies to make vaccination widely and speedily available everywhere. The commitment was on top of 80 million doses Biden has already pledged to donate by the end of June.

Johnson, for his part, said the first 5 million U.K. doses would be shared in the coming weeks, with the remainder coming during the next year. He said he expected the G-7 to commit to 1 billion doses in all.

“At the G-7 Summit I hope my fellow leaders will make similar pledges so that, together, we can vaccinate the world by the end of next year and build back better from coronavirus,” Johnson said in a statement, referencing a slogan that he and Biden have both used.

French President Emmanuel Macron welcomed the U.S. commitment and said Europe should do the same. He said France would share at least 30 million doses globally by year’s end.

Biden predicted the U.S. doses and the overall G-7 commitment would “supercharge” the global vaccination campaign, adding the U.S. doses come with no strings attached.

The U.S. commitment is to buy and donate 500 million Pfizer doses for distribution through the global COVAX alliance to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first steady supply of mRNA vaccine to the countries that need it most.

Biden said the U.S.-manufactured doses will be shipped starting in August, with the goal of distributing 200 million by the end of the year. The remaining 300 million doses would be shipped in the first half of 2022. A price tag for the doses was not released, but the U.S. is now set to be COVAX’s largest vaccine donor in addition to its single largest funder with a $4 billion commitment.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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