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Biden marks 900,000 covid-19 deaths and urges: ‘Get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated’

Birthday balloons float next to one of thousands of white flags next to the Washington Monument on October 1, 2021, in Suzanne Brennan Firstenberg's memorial for Americans who died from the coronavirus. (Leah Millis/Reuters)
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President Biden on Friday urged all Americans to get vaccinated, as he marked another “tragic milestone” in the coronavirus pandemic. “900,000 American lives have been lost to COVID-19,” he said in a late-night statement issued Friday. “They were beloved mothers and fathers, grandparents, children, brothers and sisters, neighbors, and friends.”

The death toll would have been higher without coronavirus vaccines, Biden said, estimating they had “saved more than one million American lives,” as he urged unvaccinated Americans to “get vaccinated, get your kids vaccinated, and get your booster shot if you are eligible.”

Less than two months ago, the White House marked 800,000 covid-19 deaths in the United States. The current wave of cases, fueled by the more transmissible omicron variant, appears to be trending down, but some states are still seeing rising cases, as hospitals remain overwhelmed and public health experts warn the vaccination rate is too low.

Visualizing the omicron wave striking and rolling across the country

The Washington Post tracker, which uses data from Johns Hopkins University and local and state government sites, shows at least 900,000 reported deaths since Feb. 29, 2020.

The United States is still lagging behind other wealthy countries on vaccination as political polarization, misinformation, confusing public health messaging and barriers to access continue to hobble its vaccination drive. Sixty-four percent of Americans are fully vaccinated, according to Washington Post data, and 42 percent of the fully vaccinated have received their booster dose.

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“If everyone had gotten vaccinated and boosted as vaccines became available 300,000 Americans would likely still be with us,” Ashish K. Jha, Dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, tweeted Saturday as he warned the death toll could hit 1 million by April. “The loss is staggering. And so much of it, preventable.”

Recent data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that between October and November 2021, in 25 jurisdictions in the United States, unvaccinated people were more than 53 times as likely to die of covid-19 than people who were vaccinated and boosted.

There was an average of 326,666 reported covid-19 cases in the United States over the past week — far fewer than the seven-day average of 553,000 recorded a month ago. Meanwhile, hospitalizations are still high but trending downward after peaking around mid-January.

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This has led some public health experts to express cautious optimism that the pandemic could be managed in the coming months.

In late January, Anthony S. Fauci, the White House’s chief medical adviser for the pandemic, said on ABC’s “The Week” that he hoped that the country would soon be entering what he called a best-case scenario, provided adequate vaccinations, testing, masks and treatments were in place.

“We would hope that, as we get into the next weeks to month or so, we will see throughout the entire country the level of infection get … down to such a low level that it’s essentially integrated into the general respiratory infections that we have learned to live with.”

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In his statement, Biden acknowledged how difficult the pandemic has been for many Americans, especially those who have lost loved ones to covid-19. “I know that the emotional, physical, and psychological weight of this pandemic has been incredibly difficult to bear,” he wrote.

“Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting at least one shot,” he added. “We can save even more lives — and spare countless families from the deepest pain imaginable — if everybody does their part.”