Covid deaths in the United States surpass 800,000.


Coronavirus deaths in the United States surpassed 800,000 on Wednesday, according to a New York Times database, as the pandemic neared the end of a second year and as known virus cases in this country rose above 50 million.

The new death toll — the highest known number of any country — comes a year after vaccines against the coronavirus began rolling out in the United States. It also comes at a tenuous moment in the pandemic: Cases are rising once again, hospitals in some parts of the country are stretched to their limits with Covid patients and the threat and uncertainties of a new variant loom.

More than 1,200 people in the United States are dying from Covid-19 each day.

The last 100,000 deaths occurred in less than 11 weeks as the pace of death has picked up, moving faster than at any time other than last winter’s surge. The current uptick is being driven by the Delta variant. It is not yet known how the Omicron variant, which continues to emerge in more states, might affect those trends in the coming weeks and months.

Naoko Muramatsu, a professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago’s School of Public Health, said that from the beginning of the pandemic in 2020, older people have suffered disproportionately.

“Early on, Covid was considered to be an older people’s problem,” she said. Nearly two years later, those difficulties have persisted, whether in the form of a high death rate or isolation, which in many cases already existed but expanded significantly as the months wore on. Older people steered clear of crowded public gatherings and younger relatives stayed away, fearful of exposing those more vulnerable to the virus.

Some 75 percent of the 800,000 Covid-19 deaths have involved people 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans has died. Countless others have found themselves isolated.

“Covid really made something visible that was already going on for older adults,” she said. “Older people were so vulnerable.”

After the first known coronavirus death in the United States in February 2020, the virus’s death toll in this country reached 100,000 people in only three months. The pace of deaths slowed throughout summer 2020, then quickened throughout the fall and winter, and then slowed again this spring and summer.

Throughout the summer, most people dying from the virus were concentrated in the South. But the most recent 100,000 deaths — beginning in early October — have spread out across the nation, in a broad belt across the middle of the country from Pennsylvania to Texas, the Mountain West and Michigan.

The benchmark of 800,000 deaths in the United States occurred despite the wide availability of vaccines for most of 2021.

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Older people have been vaccinated at a much higher rate than younger age groups and yet the brutal effects of the virus on them has persisted. The share of younger people among all virus deaths in the United States increased this year, but, in the last two months, the portion of older people has risen once again, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

By now, Covid-19 has become the third leading cause of death among Americans 65 and older, after heart disease and cancer. It is responsible for about 13 percent of all deaths in that age group since the beginning of 2020, more than diabetes, accidents, Alzheimer’s disease or dementia.