US Covid death toll passes 500,000 in grim milestone

The number of US coronavirus deaths have passed 500,000 as of Monday (22 February 2021) according to data from John Hopkins University. Over 28 million have also tested positive for COVID-19 in the USA. This is higher than any nation in the world.

Both statistics are the worst in the world and the pandemic has thrown a harsh spotlight on the country’s ability to cope with such a disaster, especially during the tumultuous tenure of Donald Trump, whose administration botched the government response.

After a devastating winter surge in cases, for the first time in months, the average number of daily new coronavirus cases in the US fell below 100,000 on 12 February. Even with the decrease in cases, the US is still experiencing 1,500 to 3,500 deaths a day and public health officials have warned recent progress could easily reverse.

Perhaps the biggest threat is the new variants of the virus, which appear to spread more quickly and easily. Scientists are working to understand how these variants could change the effectiveness of vaccines as the US attempts to ramp up the scale of its inoculation distribution.

Trump’s administration reacted slowly at the start of the pandemic and then frequently sought to undermine the science around the virus, including spreading unfounded conspiracy theories and unverified treatments. Trump, who was eventually infected himself, especially inflamed racial tensions by blaming China and also flouting widely accepted practices, such as mask-wearing.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s top infectious disease expert, said political divisiveness – which helped transform mask wearing from a public health measure to a political statement – has contributed significantly to the high COVID-19 death toll.

COVID-19 deaths, hospitalisations and cases have disproportionately affected Black, Latino and Indigenous people. American Indian or Alaska Native people have died at 2.4 times the rate of white people, Black people at 1.9 times the rate and Latino people at 2.3 times the rate, according to the CDC.

The high death is due to how the US organises it’s healthcare services which is mainly made up of thousands of individual private firms which requires patients to pay out of their own pockets- something most Americans cannot afford.

Jenny Smith, is a member of the YCL’s Birmingham Branch

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