US COVID-19 deaths reach 700,000 amid spike in delta cases

As of the latest figures on Friday, the United States has reached 700,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic, a grim milestone amid anti-vax sentiments and continued misinformation. The deaths are largely now driven by the delta variant, which is highly contagious and particularly dangerous for people who remain unvaccinated.

Underscoring the delta variant's highly transmissible nature is the fact that it only took around 3.5 months for the US to go from 600,000 to 700,000 deaths, the overwhelming majority of which have impacted those who did not receive one of the COVID-19 vaccines. The recent spike in delta cases has overwhelmed many hospitals and led to an increase in infections among those too young to be vaccinated.

Despite the readily available and entirely free vaccines, around 70 million people are estimated as still unvaccinated. Of those, the reasons for the lack of vaccination range from general apathy and stalling to outright conspiracy theories and politics. The most recent spike in infections is only now decreasing, but public health officials remain concerned.

The US is entering its winter season, a time when flu and other respiratory viruses are common. Compounding the issue is that RSV cases began climbing this summer months earlier than the typical peak season, stoking concerns that this winter may result in yet another spike in hospitalizations and an increased burden on the healthcare system.

In addition to the large number of COVID-19 cases experienced in the US this summer, the healthcare system is facing a growing shortage of staff as many professionals retire early, change careers, or suffer burnout as a result of working during the pandemic. A number of hospitals and healthcare facilities have fired relatively high numbers of nurses and other staff who refuse to get vaccinated against the virus, fueling shortages.

As of October 1, around 64.7-percent of the US population had received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with 185 million people fully vaccinated and another 4.7 million also having received a booster shot.