The US death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 200,000. It took the world's richest country just seven months to reach the grim milestone.
The United States reported its 200,000th COVID-19 death on Tuesday, according to data compiled by the Johns Hopkins University. More than 6.8 million people in the country have been infected with the virus.
It was only in late February that the US confirmed its first coronavirus death. Since then, the country has registered more fatalities and infections than any other on the planet in gross terms.
The true US death toll is thought to be much higher, as many fatalities were likely ascribed to other causes, particularly early on in the pandemic before testing was more widespread.
"It is completely unfathomable that we've reached this point,'' said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher.
With nearly 330 million people, the US is home to roughly 5% of the world's population, but more than 20% of its known COVID-19 deaths.
More than 31 million people have been infected with coronavirus globally, with around 965,000 deaths.
The news comes just six weeks before the US presidential election. Incumbent Donald Trump's response to the pandemic has been a central theme of the campaign.
Critics say the president has consistently failed to adequately address the crisis. Trump himself has frequently sought to downplay the pandemic's severity, insisting the country was "rounding the corner" or that the virus would "disappear."
Trump has also claimed a COVID-19 vaccine could well be ready before voting day on November 3.
Mixed messages from the White House have exacerbated the patchwork response states around the country have implemented to curb the spread of the virus. In addition, the pandemic has exposed deep inequalities within the US. Nearly 30 million people in the country lack health insurance, and COVID-19 disproportionately impacts minority communities.
The latest figures show that the crisis is worsening. The death toll continues to rise, averaging around 770 per day. Health experts warn that without widespread masking, social distancing measures, contact-tracing and increased testing capacity, the pandemic will persist, particularly during the colder fall and winter months. A University of Washington forecast recently predicted the country could see 400,000 coronavirus fatalities by January.
dr/msh (dpa, AFP, AP)