The United States passed more than 600,000 confirmed COVID-19 deaths on Tuesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, marking another pandemic milestone on the same day that major states such as California and New York lifted their remaining restrictions.
Deaths have declined dramatically in recent weeks, reaching the lowest point since March 2020, according to The Wall Street Journal . COVID-19 fatalities peaked in mid-January at about 3,300 daily deaths and then dropped below 1,000 deaths in early April. The seven-day average fell below 500 at the end of May and is now hovering around 300, according to CDC data.
“Crossing the 600,000 milestone is a sobering reminder that the virus is still spreading and that there are still too many people unvaccinated,” Ajay Sethi, an infectious diseases professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told the newspaper.
“In the U.S., death from Covid is almost entirely preventable,” he said, particularly now that vaccines are widely available.
The U.S. first surpassed 100,000 COVID-19 deaths in May 2020, The Wall Street Journal reported, followed by 200,000 deaths about four months later in September. In less than three months, the country reached 300,000 deaths in December, and then 400,000 in January and 500,000 in February. Now it has taken another four months to pass the 600,000 mark.
Worldwide, more than 3.8 million COVID-19 deaths have been reported, according to Johns Hopkins data. More people have died globally from the coronavirus already in 2021 than in all of 2020, hitting poorer countries particularly hard, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Deaths have decreased in the U.S. as COVID-19 vaccinations have increased. About 52.6% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose, and 43.9% of the population is considered fully vaccinated, according to the latest CDC tally.
Celebrating the vaccination numbers on Tuesday, California and New York lifted most of their remaining coronavirus restrictions, according to The Associated Press. California dropped state rules on social distancing and capacity limits at restaurants, bars, grocery stores, gyms and stadiums. Face masks are no longer required in most locations for those who are vaccinated.
New York also eased most rules about gathering sizes, social distancing and certain cleaning protocols for businesses. Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that 70% of adults had received at least one dose of the vaccine.
“What does 70% mean? It means that we can now return to life as we know it,” he said.
Massachusetts lifted its state of emergency on Tuesday, the AP reported, though many restrictions had already been eased. Lawmakers in Kansas also let a state of emergency expire on Tuesday, and Maryland announced its state of emergency will end on July 1.
Vermont lifted all remaining state pandemic restrictions on Monday. Gov. Phil Scott announced that at least 80% of residents ages 12 and older have received at least one vaccine dose. Vermont was the first state to pass the 80% milestone for all eligible residents, according to The New York Times , and Hawaii and Massachusetts have vaccinated 80% of ages 18 and older.
“Our state has shown the world what’s possible when you have a group of people with the right attitude following the data and trusting medical sciences,” Scott said.
Johns Hopkins University: “COVID-19 Dashboard.”
The Wall Street Journal: “U.S. Covid-19 Deaths Top 600,000.”
CDC: “Trends in Number of COVID-19 Cases and Deaths in the US Reported to CDC, by State/Territory.”
CDC: “COVID-19 Vaccinations in the United States.”
The Associated Press: “US COVID-19 deaths hit 600,000, equal to yearly cancer toll.”
The New York Times: “Vermont is the first state to partially vaccinate at least 80 percent of its eligible population.”
This post originally appeared on Medscape Medical News Headlines