U.S. coronavirus death toll passes 400,000 as Biden prepares to take office
The U.S. has hit a grim milestone on the eve of President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration: 400,000 deaths from Covid-19, according to a tracker maintained by Johns Hopkins University.
The staggering toll comes amid a struggling national vaccination effort that has resulted in just 12.3 million shots administered — well below the Trump administration’s goal of vaccinating 20 million people by the end of 2020.
Biden, meanwhile, has set an ambitious target of 100 million shots by the end of his first 100 days in office.
"This will be one of the most challenging operational efforts we’ve undertaken as a nation,” Biden said Thursday, announcing the details of his vaccination plan. “We’ll have to move heaven and Earth.”
So far the U.S. has seen about 23 million cases of Covid-19, with the number of new cases each day now averaging over 230,000. Daily deaths have averaged 3,312 over the last week, and about 130,000 people are hospitalized with the infection, according to the COVID Tracking Project.
The number of deaths has spiked in the last month. After the country hit 200,000 deaths in late September, it took more than two months to reach 300,000 deaths. The U.S. added another 100,000 in just one month.
The U.S. death toll has far outpaced the worst-case scenarios predicted at the start of summer, when President Donald Trump said the U.S. was the "world leader" in responding to the pandemic.
"Look, we’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people," Trump said at a Fox News virtual town hall in early May. "That’s a horrible thing."
The recent surge in infections and deaths has increased pressure on Biden to bring the pandemic under control.
His administration aims to expand vaccination sites beyond hospitals and pharmacies, using schools, libraries, churches and community centers to make shots more accessible in underserved communities. Biden also wants to hire 100,000 public health workers to assist states with administering vaccinations and contact tracing.
States have received 31.2 million doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna Covid-19 vaccine, according to CDC data as of Jan. 15. However, only 1.6 million people have received both doses of either vaccine.
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