Coronavirus deaths reach 600,000 in the US

Covid-19 continues to affect America amid sliding vaccination rates

A woman looks at the "Naming the Lost Memorials," as the U.S. deaths from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are expected to surpass 600,000, at The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 10, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

More than 600,000 people in the US have died from Covid-19, according to an official tracker on Tuesday, as the nation continues to lead the world in fatalities from the pandemic.

The latest milestone underscores how the coronavirus pandemic is still hitting America despite its high rate of vaccinations.

The widely referenced global database from Johns Hopkins University said a total of 600,012 people had died of Covid-19 in the US.

Brazil and India follow with 488,228 and 377,031 deaths respectively, though experts say the true tolls are much higher.

The US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention's tally is not far behind Johns Hopkins, with 597,343 fatalities.

"America knows first-hand the tragedies of this pandemic," President Joe Biden said in remarks from Britain last week.

"We’ve had more people die in the United States than anywhere in the world: nearly 600,000 of our fellow Americans – moms, dads, sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, grandparents."

The death rate has slowed from about 100,000 per month during the worst surge in the winter.

In Washington last week, the National Cathedral tolled its bell 600 times — once for every 1,000 deaths — as it did for earlier milestones.

The US marked 500,000 virus deaths on February 22, more than three months ago, showing how the nation's vaccination programme has affected the fatality rate.

More than 144 million people aged 12 and up have been fully immunised, about 43 per cent of the US population, and 174 million people have had at least one dose.

The US is seeing a seven-day average of less than 340 daily deaths and 13,000 daily cases, according to the CDC.

This is dramatically lower than the peak of 4,500 deaths recorded on January 19.

A group of Congress members gathered on Monday to hold a moment of silence for the hundreds of thousands dead to the virus.

FILE PHOTO: Members of Congress observe a moment of silence for the 600,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., June 14, 2021. REUTERS/Evelyn Hockstein/File Photo

The country is also moving towards reopening economic activity.

"But we also know the path to recovery," Mr Biden said Thursday.

California, the first state to shut down in March 2020, is marking a "reopening day" on June 15 with the removal of most capacity limits, physical distancing and mask-wearing requirements.

The state has reported the highest death toll from Covid-19 with more than 63,000 fatalities.

Also on Tuesday, New York state lifted its remaining coronavirus measures for businesses and other spaces, marking a major step in its gradual reopening after once being the global epicentre of the pandemic.

"We have the lowest number of daily deaths since the first day of this pandemic," the president said.

"Our economy is rebounding. Our vaccination programme has already saved tens of thousands of lives, with that count growing each day. And it has allowed millions of Americans to get back to living their lives."

A woman and child look at the "Naming the Lost Memorials," as the U.S. deaths from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) are expected to surpass 600,000, at The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York, U.S., June 10, 2021. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The situation is far from rosy, however: Mr Biden had aimed for 70 per cent of US adults to have had at least one vaccine dose by July 4, the nation's independence day, but the goal probably will not be met.

The US has large supplies of vaccines, though the rate of vaccinations is declining, particularly among those sceptical of the shot, and doses will start expiring as early as this month.

"There's still too many lives being lost," Mr Biden said during remarks from Belgium on Monday. Citing case and death numbers, "significantly lower than the peak of the crisis, but it's still a real tragedy."

"Please, please get vaccinated as soon as possible. We've had enough pain – enough pain."

Meanwhile, countries around the world are clamouring for vaccines as the virus spreads amid the rise of threatening variants, like the highly transmissible Delta mutation.

Mr Biden announced last week his administration purchased 500 million Pfizer-BioNTech vaccines for distribution to lower-income countries.

The pandemic ranks among the top three deadliest mass events in US history, behind the 1918 influenza outbreak and the ongoing HIV/Aids pandemic.

The US is inching towards the 675,000 deaths seen during the 1918 flu pandemic, despite differences in population size and medical improvements.

While devastating, the current official tallies are suspected to be far lower than the true number of fatalities.

The University of Washington published a study in May suggesting the US death toll is over 900,000. The CDC said it is reviewing the research to see whether the agency should adjust its count.