1 Million COVID Deaths: The Tragic Toll Of The Pandemic In The US Extends Far Beyond The Numbers

As the United States faces the tragic milestone of 1 million deaths from COVID-19, President Biden says the “irreplaceable losses” from the pandemic must not be forgotten.

“As a nation, we must not be numb to such pain. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible.” Mr. Biden said Thursday morning.

Flags will fly at half-staff through the weekend, the White House announced.

While most counts have yet to officially reach 1 million — a Johns Hopkins University tally surpassed 999,000 on Thursday morning — the true sum of COVID deaths across the country already far exceeds that mark.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that the number of “excess deaths” during the pandemic had already exceeded one million during the Omicron winter wave in January.

But even by a more conservative count, the virus has ranked behind only heart disease and cancer as a leading cause of death in the United States in the past two years.

That’s orders of magnitude higher than the toll typically attributed to other infectious diseases. The 2017-18 flu season, one of the deadliest in decades, claimed an estimated 52,000 lives.

In the wake of the winter surge, the daily number of deaths from COVID-19 has dropped in recent months. The 7-day rolling average is now around 300 reported deaths per day, down from more than 3,000 per day in February.

But cases and hospitalizations are accelerating once again, many related to Omicron’s rapidly spreading BA.2.12.1 subvariant that now accounts for more than a third of new infections.

On May 4, for the first time in months, the CDC warned that it predicted the rate of new COVID-19 deaths would “likely increase” across the country in the coming weeks.

Millions more were left to mourn

Gone are millions more Americans mourning those who have died from COVID-19, including nearly 200,000 children who lost a father or caregiver.

Helping children heal from the mental scars of COVID


Many families have lost several loved ones to the disease. A father and two daughters from a single San Antonio family are among the dead, CBS affiliate KENS-TV reported last year. José Bustos, Delilah Bustos Arreola and Verónica Bustos González died within eight days of each other, at one point sharing the same intensive care unit at the hospital.

“The day my aunt was intubated on August 17… she was intubated four hours before my grandfather’s death, so we were unable to inform her of my mother’s critical condition,” Desiree Moczygemba told the station.

When Jesús Enríquez died in January, CBS Denver reported that the 29-year-old left behind a wife and five children.

“I had to hold his hand and be there with him in his final moments,” his widow, Bianca, told the station. “It was heartbreaking. I felt helpless. It was very, very difficult for me.”

Others were unable to be with loved ones in their final days as overwhelmed hospitals blocked visitors during some of the worst waves of the pandemic.

nurse jasmine christakos told CBS News about one nightin early 2020, when staff members at his hospital in the Bronx gathered around the bed of a patient whose family couldn’t get in. “We said a prayer, said our goodbyes and told the family, no, they don’t die alone. They died with us,” he said.

While the virus has claimed the greatest toll among older people (three out of four deaths were in people 65 and older), Americans of all ages, including children, have died from the disease.

North Carolina first grader Ethan Govan is among more than 350 children, ages 5 to 11, lost to COVID-19.

“He didn’t let anything stop him or slow him down. He was just a very loving and sweet boy,” his mother, Sharon Huff, told CBS affiliate WBTV-TV last year.

An unequal toll

COVID deaths have hit some communities and industries much harder than others.

essential workers, hailed as heroes in the early days of the pandemic, they faced greater risks than Americans working at home from computer screens.

“It would have been nice to see them care more about their employees,” Maria Andrade, the daughter of Jose Andrade-Garcia, an Iowa meatpacking plant worker, told CBS affiliate KCCI-TV. Adrade-Garcia died of COVID-19 a week before his scheduled retirement in 2020. A disproportionate number of essential workers, and COVID victims in general, are people of color.

Age-adjusted data shows that African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans are twice as likely to die from COVID-19 as their white counterparts, underscoring longstanding disadvantages in housing, the workplace, access to medical care and underlying conditions.

On the Navajo Nation, which experienced one of the worst infection rates in the country during the pandemic, Philamena Belone is among hundreds of COVID-19 deaths mourning.

Belone, a third-grade teacher in New Mexico, continued to teach students virtually even during her battle with the virus, CBS affiliate KRQE-TV reported in 2020.

“Our children on the reservation deserve the best, and my sister was the best teacher they could ask for,” her brother, Phillip Belone, told the station.

The impact of vaccines against COVID-19

Federal health officials say vaccines have significantly reduced the number of deaths, and could have saved even more lives if more Americans got vaccinated. In recent months, the increasing availability of troops COVID-19 treatments it has also helped decrease the number of victims.

CDC survey data suggests that vaccination rates are now equally high among adults of all races, although uptake of booster shots lags among Hispanic and black adults.

“This is serious. People have to take this seriously, people are literally dying,” Mel Reeves, a prominent Black community activist in the Twin Cities, told CBS Minnesota from his hospital bed in December. He acknowledged that he had delayed getting vaccinated due to concerns about other medical issues, but urged others not to delay.

“If you can get vaccinated, get vaccinated, wear your mask, some things can be prevented. We have to overcome our fears in order to live.”

Reeves died in January from complications of COVID at the age of 64.

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