U.S. coronavirus death toll tops 200K as officials fear fall surge

Source: Politico | September 22, 2020 | Gabrielle Wanneh

As the milestone approached, President Donald Trump played down the virus while his health experts urged Americans to keep up their guard.

U.S. coronavirus deaths surpassed 200,000 on Tuesday, hitting a dismal milestone in the country’s troubled pandemic response as health officials worry the fall and winter could bring more devastation.

The U.S. continues to lead the world in deaths and confirmed cases, with about 6.9 million infections since the coronavirus emerged in January, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker. Despite accounting for 4 percent of the global population, the U.S. has recorded about 20 percent of the world’s coronavirus deaths.

While President Donald Trump insists against evidence the pandemic is nearing an end, health experts have urged the country to stay on guard, as more schools and businesses reopen and people spend more time indoors. Trump health officials have emphasized that basic public health tools like physical distancing and mask wearing remain key to keeping the virus in check, especially with flu season looming. But Trump continues to downplay those measures and the virus’ risk as he holds packed rallies with mostly maskless crowds and urges states to swiftly lift restrictions.

“We’re rounding the corner on the pandemic,” Trump said on “Fox & Friends” on Monday. “And we’ve done a phenomenal job.” Later that night at a campaign rally, he falsely claimed that the virus affects “virtually nobody” under 18 years old.

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday struck a somber tone in marking the milestone, acknowledging the emotional toll the pandemic has inflicted on many.

“No words can numb your pain, but know the nation grieves with you,” Biden wrote on Twitter. “Today is dark, but we will overcome this. Keep the faith.”

The pace of coronavirus deaths has slowed since an infection surge across the Sun Belt states this summer helped drive the daily toll over 1,000. Fewer than 800 people are now dying each day, which is still hundreds more than during a brief lull at the start of summer. Meanwhile, the number of daily infections in the past two weeks has ticked up from roughly 35,000 to 40,000.

The cooler weather and flu season could bring new risks, health experts have long warned. The nation may be on course for over 400,000 coronavirus deaths by year’s end, according to the latest projection from the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation, whose modeling was influential in the White House’s early coronavirus response.

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