‘Heartbreaking milestone’: US COVID-19 death toll exceeds half million

NEW YORK: The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed half a million, a staggering number that all but matches the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.

President Joe Biden held a sunset moment of silence and a candle-lighting ceremony at the White House and ordered American flags lowered at federal buildings for the next five days.

“As a nation, we can’t accept such a cruel fate. We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow,” he said, adding, “We have to resist viewing each life as a statistic or a blur.”

He further said, “Today we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone – 500,071 dead. I ask all Americans to remember. Remember those we lost and remember those we left behind,” calling for Americans to fight pandemic together.

The half-million milestone, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, comes as states redouble efforts to get the COVID-19 vaccine after last week’s winter weather closed clinics, slowed vaccine deliveries and forced tens of thousands of people to miss their shots.

The U.S. toll is by far the highest reported in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the nearly 2.5 million coronavirus deaths globally, The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. were in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 deaths.

As of Sunday, according to officials, more than 13 percent of people in the U.S have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Meanwhile, several new research papers suggest that COVID-19 survivors who have gotten the first dose of vaccine are generating immune responses that might render a second shot unnecessary.