US surpasses grim milestone with 600,000 lives lost to COVID-19

It was just over a year ago that the country recorded 100,000 COVID-19 deaths.

June 15, 2021, 12:54 PM

The number of Americans who have died from COVID-19 has now eclipsed 600,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, 15 months since the onset of the pandemic.

The milestone is a sobering reminder that hundreds of Americans are still dying each day even as the nation begins to enter its "new normal."

It was just over a year ago when the country recorded 100,000 confirmed virus-related deaths.

PHOTO: 600,000 Americans Lost to COVID-19
600,000 Americans Lost to COVID-19
covid.cdc.gov, Johns Hopkins University

“A year ago, we were already stunned by the sheer loss of life at the 100,000 milestone and now we recognize that the impact was far greater than we could have imagined,” said Dr. John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children's Hospital and an ABC News contributor.

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences estimates that 5.4 million Americans have lost a loved one because of COVID-19.

The U.S. COVID death toll is now more than 200 times higher than the number of lives lost during the U.S. attacks on Sept. 11. It is now approaching the total number of American deaths that were recorded during the 1918 influenza pandemic.

For context: 600,000 people could fill Yankee Stadium -- eleven times -- or Boston's Fenway Park 16 times over.

"It is still very real. It is still something that is very serious and should be taken very seriously," Shamayne Cruz, a respiratory therapist at UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central in Colorado Springs, told ABC News.

Globally, the virus has claimed more than 3.8 million lives. The U.S., which makes up just over 4% of the global population, accounts for approximately 16% of the world's COVID-19 related deaths. The U.S. has the highest death toll of any country in the world.

“This pandemic is really beyond anything that we've ever experienced and yet another milestone highlights the fact that we are still not yet out of the woods,” Brownstein said.

PHOTO: Messages are seen on ribbons as part of the "Naming the Lost Memorials," as the U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are expected to surpass 600,000, at The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 10, 2021.
Messages are seen on ribbons as part of the "Naming the Lost Memorials," as the U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are expected to surpass 600,000, at The Green-Wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, N.Y., June 10, 2021.
Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters

The U.S. surpassed 500,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Feb. 22, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.

Since the country’s viral peak in January, the average number of daily cases and deaths has plummeted by over 90%. Hospitalization levels too have fallen dramatically in recent months, with admission numbers down by more than 60% since mid-April.

The U.S. is currently averaging just under 350 new coronavirus-related deaths a day, with the nation reporting around 2,450 deaths a week, significantly lower than the 23,000 deaths reported over a seven-day period in January.

And with approximately 52.5% of the total U.S. population now vaccinated with at least one dose, states are quickly moving to drop coronavirus restrictions and face covering requirements for residents, signaling a modified return to pre-pandemic times.

PHOTO: Bodies are moved to a refrigeration truck serving as a temporary morgue at Wyckoff Hospital in the Borough of Brooklyn, April 6, 2020, in New York.
Bodies are moved to a refrigeration truck serving as a temporary morgue at Wyckoff Hospital in the Borough of Brooklyn, April 6, 2020, in New York.
Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images, FILE

Health officials, however, remain concerned about rapidly mutating variants and unvaccinated Americans.

President Joe Biden and other health officials are now urging young Americans to get vaccinated, given the potential threat of the Delta variant, which is spreading rapidly among younger populations in the United Kingdom.

Folks, the Delta variant — a highly infectious COVID-19 strain — is spreading rapidly among young people between 12 and 20 years old in the U.K. If you’re young and haven’t gotten your shot yet, it really is time. It’s the best way to protect yourself and those you love.

— President Biden (@POTUS) June 8, 2021
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