Within 10 months since the onset of a public health crisis that has upended the lives of millions of Americans, the nation’s death toll has surpassed 330,000, during what has become the year’s deadliest month, with nearly 60,000 lives lost within the final weeks of 2020.
The overwhelming scale of death means that one in 1,000 Americans have died from Covid-19.
Nearly 19 million confirmed infections have been reported in 2020, with an average number of daily new cases remaining above 200,000 within the year’s final days, according to Johns Hopkins University – more than three times higher than the outbreak’s summer peak in July.
Within the final weeks of the year, Covid-19 has become the leading cause of death in the US. Health officials have forecast a death toll that could reach 400,000 early next year – eclipsing American lives lost during World War II, based on projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.
The arrival and promise of an effective vaccine, of which nearly 2 million doses have already been administered, will arrive too late for thousands of current patients.
States reported a record-high 120,000 Covid-19 patients who were currently hospitalised on Christmas Eve, according to the Covid Tracking Project. That figure broke a record that was just one-day old, when more than 119,000 people were hospitalised.
At Christmas, health systems reported nearly 119,000 hospitalised patients.
The first reported coronavirus-linked death in the US was on 29 February in Washington state, though health officials later determined that two California residents died from Covid-19 earlier that month.
Within the next few months, the nation’s death toll eclipsed 100,000 in May. Four months later, another 100,000 Americans had died from the disease.
Eleven weeks later, as infections and hospitalisations surged, deaths followed, reaching 300,000 by mid-December.
As the US reached its latest tragic milestone, millions of Americans passed through airports within the week leading up to Christmas, defying warnings from health officials to stay home to help combat the spread of the disease.
Health officials have braced for a spike in cases and hospitalisations to follow, as they did after Thanksgiving, as families and groups gathered to celebrate.
Donald Trump has refused to sign a $900bn relief package that extends $300 weekly federal unemployment benefits for 11 weeks and send a one-time $600 direct payment to most Americans. A lapse in benefits, effective on 26 December, could delay critically needed relief to millions of Americans.