On March 29, 2020, Dr. Anthony Fauci went on CNN and told viewers that the coronavirus pandemic could cause between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the United States. He admitted that he did not like to make a prediction about “such a moving target,” given that “you could so easily be wrong.”
And this prediction was indeed wrong.
At least 664,000 people across the country have died of COVID-19 since the crisis began around 20 months ago, according to data from Johns Hopkins University reported Wednesday.
That means at least 1 in 500 people in the U.S. have died of the coronavirus, as CNN first pointed out. Around 0.2% of our neighbors, friends and loved ones are gone.
Furthermore, the true death toll is likely higher due to a lack of testing early on in the pandemic and differences in how deaths are reported between states. After the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention analyzed case data from February 2020 to May 2021, it estimated that the true number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths was actually 767,000 over that time period. The total would be even higher now.
When Fauci made his prediction in March 2020, the virus was mainly terrorizing New York City, which had reported fewer than 800 deaths at that point.
A lot, obviously, has changed since then. The current death toll has been fueled in large part by many Americans’ failure to follow basic public health guidelines such as masking indoors and getting the vaccine, once available.
And beyond mortality figures, many, many more people across the country are known to have contracted the virus ― the U.S. has recorded more than 41 million cases so far. Somewhere between 10% and 30% of those cases turn into what doctors and patients are calling long COVID ― cases where the patient experiences sometimes debilitating symptoms for weeks or months after infection.
Luckily there is some evidence that long COVID is less common in vaccinated people, and plenty of evidence that vaccination prevents infection and serious disease.
As of Wednesday morning, only 54% of Americans had been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.
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