US virus death toll tops 400,000 in Trump’s final hours

It took just over a month for deaths to rise from 300,000

EL CAJON, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 15: (EDITORIAL USE ONLY) Embalmer and funeral director Kristy Oliver unwraps a new casket which will be used for a person who died after contracting COVID-19 at East County Mortuary on January 15, 2020 in El Cajon, California. The mortuary on average was handling about 50 bodies per month but owner Robert Zakar believes they may process closer to 100 in January as California continues to see a spike in coronavirus deaths. The mortuary holds the bodies of those who pass away due to COVID-19 for a minimum of three days before they are processed along with various other COVID-related safety measures.   Mario Tama/Getty Images/AFP
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

The US death toll from the coronavirus passed 400,000 on Tuesday in the last hours in office for President Donald Trump, whose handling of the crisis has been judged by public health experts to be a singular failure.

The running total of lives lost, as compiled by Johns Hopkins University, is nearly equal to the number of Americans killed in the Second World War.

It is about the population of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Tampa, Florida; or New Orleans, Louisiana.

It is equal to the sea of humanity at Woodstock in 1969.

It is just short of the estimated 409,000 Americans who died in 2019 of strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined.

And the virus is not finished with the US, even with the arrival of the vaccines that could end the outbreak.

A widely quoted model from the University of Washington projects the death toll will reach about 567,000 by May 1.

While the Trump administration has been credited with Operation Warp Speed, the programme to develop and distribute coronavirus vaccines, he has repeatedly played down the threat.

He mocked masks and railed against lockdowns, promoted unproven and unsafe treatments, undercut scientific experts and expressed little compassion for victims.

Even his own bout of Covid-19 seemed to leave Mr Trump unchanged.

The White House defended the administration.

“We grieve every single life lost to this pandemic and thanks to the president’s leadership, Operation Warp Speed has led to the development of safe and effective vaccines in record time, something many said would never happen,”  White House spokesman Judd Deere said.

President-elect Joe Biden takes office on Wednesday.

The nation reached the 400,000 milestone in less than a year. The two first known deaths in the US were in early February 2020, in Santa Clara County, California.

While the count is based on figures supplied by government agencies around the world, the real death toll is believed to be significantly higher, in part because of inadequate testing and cases inaccurately attributed to other causes early on.

It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. It took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000.