The number of Americans who have died from COVID-19 reached 1 million on May 16. This grim milestone eclipses the impact of other catastrophes in our nation’s history.
The deaths equal more than twice the U.S. military casualties of World War II (405,399), the Vietnam War (58,220) and the terrorist attack on Sept. 11, 2001 (2,977) — combined.
These fatalities also have taken the lives of more Americans than the 657,000 who perished in the flu epidemic of 1918, also known as the Spanish flu, and the more than the 700,000 who have died from HIV/AIDS since 1981.
The fact that more than 90 percent of the 1 million COVID deaths in the U.S. over the last two years have been among those ages 50 and older spotlights the urgent need to address how we support health as we age going forward.
While 1 million deaths is an overwhelming number, the breakneck development of three coronavirus vaccines that have fully immunized nearly 220 million Americans has prevented an estimated 2.2 million more fatalities from this virus, according to a Commonwealth Fund report.
Yet, while hospitalizations and deaths are far lower than they were this past winter, federal health officials and medical experts are quick to point out that this pandemic is not yet behind us.
And that is particularly true among Americans who are most at risk for the coronavirus: older adults, those with compromised immune systems and people with such underlying medical conditions as diabetes and respiratory illnesses.