May 18, 2022, 7:50 a.m. EDT

U.S. officially surpasses 1 million COVID-19 deaths

By Mike Murphy

The U.S. has officially surpassed 1 million deaths from COVID-19, according to data Tuesday from John Hopkins University.

According to Hopkins data , 1,000,139 Americans have died from COVID-19 so far. Experts say the actual death toll is likely higher.

“While 1 million COVID-19 deaths is a mind-boggling number, we know that the U.S. actually reached this tragic milestone some time ago,” Crystal Watson, the public health lead at Hopkins’ Coronavirus Research Center and a senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, said in a statement. “Hundreds of thousands more people have died from COVID-19 in the U.S. than are officially counted.”

“1 million empty chairs around the family dinner table,”  President Joe Biden said last week in anticipation of the grim milestone.  “As a nation, we must not grow numb to such sorrow. To heal, we must remember. We must remain vigilant against this pandemic and do everything we can to save as many lives as possible.”

“This pandemic isn’t over,” Biden added, though most restrictions — such as mask mandates — have been lifted as the country tries to resume normal life.

Read: Opinion: It’s impossible to determine your personal COVID-19 risks and frustrating to try—but you can still take action

While COVID vaccines have helped prevent an even worse toll, health officials say many lives could have been saved if U.S. vaccination rates were higher.

“A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation estimated that 60% of all adult COVID-19 deaths in the United States since June 2021 could have been prevented through vaccination with just the primary series alone, an estimated 234,000 deaths,” William Moss, executive director of the Johns Hopkins International Vaccine Access Center, said Tuesday.

About 78% of Americans have received at least one dose of the vaccine, according to a New York Times tracker , but just 66% are fully vaccinated.

Also: Free rapid at-home COVID tests: You can order a third round from the federal government — here’s how

The milestone in deaths comes amid a new surge in infections, with cases rising in nearly every state, but especially the Northeast and Midwest.

The U.S. is averaging 95,813 COVID cases a day, according to the Times tracker, up 57% from two weeks ago. Hospitalizations are also sharply up, to 22,975 a day, a 26% jump from 14 days ago, while deaths have dropped 9% to 301 a day, according to the Times’ data.

Worldwide, at least 6.28 million people have died from COVID-19, according to Hopkins data. As with in the U.S., the actual number of deaths is estimated to be much higher.

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