The US surpassed 700,000 known fatalities to Covid-19 on Friday evening, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, even as vaccines are widely available and free to all in the country.
The milestone comes as coronavirus cases and hospital admissions have declined 15 per cent over the past two weeks.
“We’re beginning to see cases and hospitalisations decrease from their peaks in late August and early September,” Dr Rochelle Walensky, director of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a White House briefing.
The downwards trend is positive news for the US as it continues to battle a third wave of the disease driven by the highly contagious Delta variant, which has forced many schools and offices to adjust their plans for reopening.
The current wave drew comparisons to the worst surge experienced during the winter months — only now, Covid-19 vaccines are widely available and infections are being registered overwhelmingly among unvaccinated people.
A widely referenced database from Johns Hopkins University on Friday evening showed the US with 700,258 recorded deaths and over 43 million infections, the most of any country.
The country is still facing entrenched vaccine hesitancy and challenges to mask and vaccine requirements.
“When organisations implement vaccine requirements, vaccine rates … soar to 90 per cent or greater,” White House coronavirus co-ordinator Jeff Zients said in Friday's briefing, citing examples from United Airlines and others.
More than 75 per cent of the vaccine-eligible population over the age of 12 in the US have had at least one dose, according to the CDC.
US health officials say there are at least 70 million people still eligible to be vaccinated. This week, officials urged pregnant women to be immunised.
In two weeks, the Food and Drug Administration will hold highly anticipated meetings of its independent vaccine panel, which will review the possibility of authorising Moderna and Johnson & Johnson booster doses as well as the prospect of mix-and-match vaccinations. The US has authorised Pfizer booster shots for some groups.
The FDA panel will discuss Pfizer's application for its vaccine for children aged 5-11 on October 26.
California on Friday announced the nation's first Covid-19 vaccine mandate for school-aged children, saying it would be enacted after federal authorisation.
A US Supreme Court (Scotus) Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday declined to hear a case by New York City teachers to reject the state's vaccine mandate. Teachers in the country's largest school system are required to be immunised by Friday or produce an exemption to avoid losing pay.
And, in earlier in the day, Scotus released a statement that Justice Brett Kavanaugh tested positive for Covid-19. He is fully vaccinated.