US records 700,000 COVID deaths as cases begin to decline

US records 700,000 COVID deaths as cases begin to decline

 On Friday, the United States reached its latest catastrophic epidemic stage, surpassing 700,000 deaths from COVID-19 as the surge from the delta variant began to slow and give overwhelmed hospitals some respite.

 The US reached 600,000 to 700,000 deaths, driven by the spread of the rampant variant among unvaccinated Americans. 

The latest milestone is deeply frustrating for public health leaders and frontline medical professionals because vaccines became available to all eligible Americans for six months, and that shots significantly protect against hospitalization and death.

The decline in COVID-19 cases across the United States has given hospitals some relief over the past several weeks. Still, officials are preparing for another potential increase as cold weather pushes people indoors.

Unknowns include how flu season could strain an already exhausted hospital staff and whether those who refused vaccination would change their decisions.

"If you are not vaccinated or have protection from natural infection, this virus will find you," warned Mike Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota.

Nationally, the number of people now in hospital with COVID-19 has fallen to about 75,000 from more than 93,000 in early September. New cases are declining at around 112,000 a day on average, dropping nearly a third in two weeks.

Deaths, too, appear to be declining, averaging around 1,900 a day versus more than 2,000 about a week ago, even though the US shut down on Friday at a heartbreaking mark of 700,000 deaths overall since the pandemic began.

Reducing the increase in summer is attributed to more masks being worn and more people being vaccinated. The number of cases could also be due to the virus being burnt through by susceptible people and the people running out of fuel.

In another promising development, Merck said Friday that its experimental pills for people infected with the novel coronavirus cut hospital admissions and deaths by half. If authorized by regulators, it would be the first pill to treat COVID-19 - and a significant, easy-to-use new weapon in the arsenal against the pandemic.

All treatments now permitted in the United States against the coronavirus require an intravenous injection.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's chief infectious disease specialist, warned Friday that some might see the encouraging trends as a reason to stay unvaccinated.

With cases now declining, the military team is scheduled to leave at the end of October.

However, the hospital's chief medical officer, Dr. Catherine O'Neill, said the hospitalization rate is not declining as quickly as cases are raised because the delta variable affects more young people who are healthy and living longer in the intensive care unit respirators.

"It creates a lot of ICU patients who are not moving anywhere," she said. Many patients do not go home at all. In the past few weeks, the hospital had seen several days with more than five COVID-19 deaths per day, including one day when there were ten deaths.

"We lost another dad in his forties just a few days ago," O'Neill said. "It keeps happening. And that is the tragedy of COVID."

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