The United States crossed the staggering milestone of 500,000 Covid-19 deaths on Monday — just over a year since the coronavirus pandemic claimed its first known victim in Santa Clara County, California.
The country had recorded more than 28 million Covid cases and 500,054 lives lost as of Monday afternoon, although daily cases and hospitalisations have fallen to the lowest level since before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays.
About 19 percent of total global coronavirus deaths have occurred in the United States, an outsized figure given that the nation accounts for just four percent of the world’s population.
“These numbers are stunning,” Dr Anthony Fauci, a top infectious disease adviser to President Joe Biden, told ABC News. “If you look back historically, we’ve done worse than almost any other country and we’re a highly developed, rich country.”
The country’s poor performance reflects the lack of a unified, national response last year, when the administration of former president Donald Trump mostly left states to their own devices in tackling the greatest public health crisis in a century, with the president often in conflict with his own health experts.
President Biden ordered that US flags on federal property be lowered to half mast for five days.
The National Cathedral in Washington tolled its bells 500 times on Monday evening to honour the lives lost to Covid-19 in a livestream event.
The virus has taken a full year off the average life expectancy in the United States, the biggest decline since World War Two.
Sweeping through the United States at the beginning of last year, the epidemic had claimed its first 100,000 lives by May.