The United States has surpassed 600,000 dead from COVID-19, the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center reported Tuesday. The count spans from the beginning of the pandemic 15 months ago.
While the numbers of new COVID-19 cases and daily deaths in the United States have fallen steadily in recent weeks, the milestone is a harsh reminder of the toll the pandemic has taken and is still taking.
U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday acknowledged the approaching milestone, saying that while new cases and deaths are dropping dramatically in the U.S., "there's still too many lives being lost," and "now is not the time to let our guard down."
In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced late Monday that the government would be pushing back by nearly four weeks its "road map out of lockdown" date — from June 21 to July 19 — on which all COVID-19-related restrictions would be lifted.
Speaking to reporters, Johnson said the decision was based on a surge in COVID-19 infections caused by the delta variant of the virus in certain parts of the country. He said July 19 will be "a terminus date" that will allow the country to proceed with full reopening.
Racial inequalities in COVID deaths
Meanwhile, The Associated Press reports it has uncovered data showing how the pandemic has exposed wide racial inequalities in the U.S.
A story published Monday by the AP said that where race is known, white Americans account for 61% of all COVID-19 deaths, followed by Hispanics with 19%, Blacks with 15%, and Asian Americans with 4% — figures that track with each group's share of the U.S. population as a whole.
But the news agency said an analysis of data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that after adjusting for population age differences, Native Americans, Hispanics and Blacks are two to three times more likely than whites to die of the disease. The AP also found that Hispanics are dying at much younger ages than other groups — 37% of Hispanic deaths were of people younger than 65, compared with 30% for Blacks and 12% for whites.
According to the AP, Blacks and Hispanics overall have less access to medical care and are in poorer health, with higher rates of diabetes and high blood pressure. They are less likely to work from home and more likely to work at jobs deemed "essential" and to live in crowded, multigenerational households, where working family members are more likely to expose others to the virus.
An analyst with the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health policy research organization, told the AP that the high rates of COVID-19 deaths among Blacks and Hispanics parallel sharply with the low vaccination rates among those groups.
As of Tuesday afternoon, the United States had posted 600,159 deaths out of nearly 33.5 million total infections, according to Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.