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U.S. approaches 1 million COVID deaths on 2nd anniversary of pandemic

·Senior Writer
·3 min read
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This Friday will mark the second anniversary of March 11, 2020 — the day many Americans recognize as the start of the coronavirus pandemic.

In a few weeks, the nation will likely reach a grim milestone that once seemed unimaginable: 1 million COVID-19 deaths.

According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 964,000 Americans have died of complications from COVID-19, and nearly 50,000 in the past 28 days.

At that rate, the U.S. will surpass 1 million coronavirus deaths in about 20 days, or the end of March.

The death toll is especially staggering when you consider what Americans thought it would be at the start of the pandemic. According to a Yahoo News/YouGov poll conducted at the time, 88 percent predicted that the U.S. death toll — then at 28 — would never top 10,000.

In April 2020, President Donald Trump said the projected number of American deaths related to the coronavirus would be “substantially under” 100,000 people.

“It looks like we’ll be at about a 60,000 mark,” Trump said on April 19, 2020. The U.S. passed 100,000 coronavirus deaths a month later.

In February 2021, shortly after he took office, President Biden addressed the nation from the White House after the U.S. surpassed 500,000 COVID-19 deaths.

Columns representing victims of the coronavirus are lit as they are displayed along the sides of the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on the eve of Joe Biden's presidential inauguration on Jan. 19, 2021.
Columns representing victims of the coronavirus line the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool on the eve of Joe Biden's inauguration on Jan. 19, 2021. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

“As we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, we remember each person and the life they lived,” Biden said. “They’re people we knew. They’re people we feel like we knew.”

Around that time, nearly a quarter (23 percent) of Americans said that a close friend or family member had died of COVID-19.

“We have to fight this together, as one people, as the United States of America,” Biden said. “That’s the only way we're going to beat this virus. … We can do this.”

Last July, Biden delivered an Independence Day speech in which he all but declared victory over COVID-19.

"We are emerging from the darkness of years; a year of pandemic and isolation; a year of pain, fear and heartbreaking loss," he said. "Today, we're closer than ever to declaring our independence from a deadly virus."

President Biden gestures as he delivers remarks at the White House on Independence Day 2021.
President Biden delivers remarks at the White House on Independence Day 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

But the emergence of the highly contagious Delta and Omicron variants, combined with the reluctance of a large swath of Americans to get vaccinated, set back that declaration indefinitely.

The president has since acknowledged that clear victory over the coronavirus, at least from a federal government perspective, may never come.

“Look, there is no federal solution,” Biden said on Dec. 27. “This gets solved at a state level.”

During the past few months, many states have decided to lift mask requirements and other restrictions.

In February, California became the first state to formally shift to an "endemic" approach to the coronavirus, with Gov. Gavin Newsom announcing a plan that emphasizes quick reaction to community outbreaks over mandates and shutdowns. "We will work to live with this virus," he said.

Earlier this month, the Biden administration unveiled a similar plan to keep COVID-19 from causing mass disruption in the months and years to come.

During his State of the Union address, Biden vowed to move the country beyond the emergency stage of the pandemic, while also refusing to give up the fight.

“I know some are talking about living with COVID-19,” the president said. “But tonight, I say that we never will just accept living with COVID-19.”

How are vaccination rates affecting the latest COVID surge? Check out this explainer from Yahoo Immersive to find out.

See the data in 3D. Explore the latest COVID-19 data in your browser of scan this QR code with your phone to launch the experience in augmented reality.