US surpasses mark of 400,000 COVID-19 deaths on eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
More than 400,000 people in the United States have died as a result of the novel coronavirus, Johns Hopkins University said on Tuesday, as many states around the country struggle with mounting infections and hospitalisations.
The US surpassed the 400,000-death mark on Tuesday afternoon – the highest tally in the world. It has also recorded the most COVID-19 cases globally, with more than 24.1 million infections since the start of the pandemic.
The sombre milestone comes a day before the inauguration of US President-elect Joe Biden, who has promised to take the pandemic more seriously than President Donald Trump and put stronger measures in place to get it under control.
Last week, Biden announced a $1.9 trillion stimulus package proposal designed to jump-start the struggling US economy and speed up the US response.
“We have to act and we have to act now,” he said on Thursday.
Public health officials have criticised the Trump administration’s COVID-19 vaccine roll-out, saying it has been slower than expected and “chaotic”.
Many states are struggling to vaccinate people, while hospitalisations and intensive care admissions continue to mount.
California has been particularly hard hit. The populous state has recorded more than 35,000 new daily cases of COVID-19 over the past seven days, the Los Angeles Times reported, while deaths are also on the rise.
“The state has averaged 466.7 daily deaths over the last week, an increase of 32.2 percent from two weeks ago,” the newspaper said on its website on Tuesday.
Last week, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also warned that a more infectious strain of COVID-19, first detected in the United Kingdom, could become the dominant variant in the US by March.
While that strain is more easily transmissible, experts say it does not cause more severe illness or spread differently.
The incoming director of the CDC, Dr Rochelle Walensky, told the Face the Nation programme on the weekend that US coronavirus-related deaths could surpass 500,000 by mid-February.
“I think we still have some dark weeks ahead,” she said.
Landmarks across the US will be illuminated on Tuesday evening as part of a nationwide event led by Biden to honour the lives lost to COVID-19.
Biden and US Vice President-elect Kamala Harris will attend a lighting ceremony at the Reflecting Pool at the Lincoln Memorial at 5:15pm ET (22:15 GMT).