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Covid-19 milestones come and go, but there is a convergence of three in the US that are worth noting.
- One year of vaccines and 60% of all Americans vaccinated.
- 800,000 Covid-19 deaths.
- More than 50 million Covid-19 infections.
Vaccines. Tuesday marks precisely one year since the first coronavirus vaccine shots were going into arms in the US.
Over the course of that year, an incredible 202 million people and counting – more than 60% of the entire US population – have been fully vaccinated; about 484 million vaccine doses have been delivered; and now the government is encouraging everyone 16 and older to get a booster shot.
The number of people fully vaccinated is both incredible and not nearly enough. Fights over how to get the rest of the country to utilize the shots waiting for them have turned into a massive political and legal standoff over requirements.
Deaths. While it’s appropriate to acknowledge the achievement in vaccine delivery, it’s also impossible to wrap one’s head around the fact that the US will mark 800,000 recorded Covid-19 deaths in the coming days.
When those first vaccine shots were going into arms one year ago, about 300,000 Americans had died, which means there have been an additional half-million Covid-19 deaths. A large portion of them occurred after vaccines were widely available, meaning they were completely preventable. The vast majority of Covid-19 deaths are among the unvaccinated.
The true toll is much larger. The official death total almost surely undercounts the true Covid-19 toll. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published data in September suggesting the actual death toll is about 32% higher than what’s officially reported. That could mean more than 1 million Americans have likely died from Covid-19.
That also means there have been about half a million recorded Covid-19 deaths since the vaccines were first authorized for emergency use. More than 1,000 Americans continue to die every day, on average, according to the CDC.
One percent of American seniors. CNN’s Deidre McPhillips noted a staggering figure Monday: “One in every 100 seniors in the United States has died of Covid-19, according to federal data.”
The vast majority of reported Covid-19 deaths – more than three-quarters or at least 514,000 – were among people 65 or older. She added that the US Census Bureau estimates there are 50.4 million people in this age group in the country.
This ratio is even worse when narrowing down to older populations, with 1 in 60 people ages 75 and older having died from Covid-19.
Two times more likely to die. McPhillips pointed me to other data points: The racial disparity of Covid-19’s toll has improved, but Black, Hispanic and American Indian people are all still about two times more likely to die of Covid-19 than White people, she said, citing CDC data. Racial disparities in vaccination status have also narrowed.
Young adults and infections. Another chart from the CDC’s report on data through September caught my eye. It shows the inverse proportion of deaths to infections by age. Half of infections through September were among people ages 18-49 and another 22% were among people 17 and under.
These two groups, the ones we can argue spread the disease since they accounted for 72% of infections, combined to account for less than 10% of total deaths during that time. That’s still a lot of people, and each death is a tragedy. As of December 8, according to the CDC, the US recorded:
- 644 deaths for people under 18.
- 4,700 deaths for people ages 18-29.
- 13,882 for people ages 30-39.
- 33,706 deaths for people ages 40-49.
Each age group above 49 years old registered far more than 100,000 deaths.
Deaths concentrated in certain states. Back when the first vaccine doses were being administered, the virus had hit the Northeast harder than the rest of the country. In the time since, as CNN noted last week, the burden has shifted to states with less vaccine uptake.
The state with the most deaths per 100,000 residents is Mississippi, at 347. Alabama, New Jersey, Louisiana, Arizona and Oklahoma have also seen more than 300 deaths per 100,000 residents.
Vermont and Hawaii have seen the fewest deaths per 100,000 people.
Infections. At the same time the US anticipates its 800,000th death and tries to improve its 60% vaccination rate, it must try to grapple with its 50 millionth infection.
Cases are on the rise, particularly in the Northeast, as cold weather sets in and families gather for the holidays. Entering the third Covid-19 year, it’s clear vaccines and boosters will not stamp out the disease. Hopefully they will stop an unnecessary increase in deaths.