More than 800,000 people in the United States have died from coronavirus, only two years after the first few cases of COVID-19 was first reported in Wuhan, China and a year after the vaccines were first rolled out. 

The toll almost equates to the population of San Francisco, with more than 50 million coronavirus cases have been identified in the country since the beginning of the pandemic. 

The United States reached the tragic milestone of 800,000 deaths, as the omicron variant has continued to spread, with elected officials pushing for vaccinated people to get their booster shots, and urging those who are unvaccinated to get their full dosage of the vaccine. 

After surpassing 50 million COVID-19 cases on Tuesday, the United States has the most cases of the virus in the world by far.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, has been attempting to predict the effects of COVID-19, but even he has been surprised – especially by the variants.

“I think the variant issue right now continues to be the 210-mile-an-hour curve ball that we don't really yet understand completely."

How the Variants Caused A Surge

The coronavirus death rate in the U.S. has recently worsened, with the rolling seven-day average for daily COVID-19 deaths well above 1,000 since Dec. 3, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That is a notable increase from June and July, when the rolling average for deaths were below 300. The delta variant affected this change from the summer, causing a rise in the infection rate.

Coronavirus experts are urging caution now that the omicron variant could bring a new spike, due to how transmissible it is compared to the delta variant. It is especially concerning this time of year around the holidays when many Americans have been hoping to enjoy a somewhat
“normal” holiday season this year.

So far, reports of vaccines' effectiveness against the omicron variant are mixed and unclear. 

One of the researchers, Dr.Chu, said, "Certainly the data is concerning about the decreased effectiveness of two vaccine doses against omicron, but booster doses seem to overcome that to a degree. And as with all the other surges, it will be the unvaccinated who will become seriously ill, hospitalized, and fill the hospitals past capacity."

The next three to four weeks will show more of an indication as to how impactful the omicron variant will be.

Deaths doubled in 2021 (Even With Vaccines)

Since early 2021, the pandemic's death toll has doubled. Here’s a look at some of those numbers.

  • 400,000 deaths in January
  • 600,00 in June
  • 700,000 in October
  • 800,000 in December

In Western New York?

COVID-19 Cases in Erie County have decreased by 22 percent in the past seven days, according to the Erie County Department of Health. However, our numbers are still high. Western New York has the highest 7-day COVID-19 positivity rate in the state, although it has dropped from over 11 percent to 9.27 percent, according to recent data released by New York Governor Kathy Hochul.

There were 4,345 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 7 days, which is actually down from 5,537 from the prior week. Gov. Hochul is still encouraging Western New Yorkers to get vaccinated and to make an appointment to get boosters shots.

Will the pandemic ever end?

Yes, the pandemic might end, but COVID-19 may not. Medical professionals have mentioned that it may be difficult to eradicate the disease completely.

"There is a very large focus on vaccines, but continued masking and testing needs to be emphasized to prevent community spread," Dr. Chu said. "I would like to see a universal vaccine and mask mandate, and easy and cheap testing to be available. That is what has worked in other countries, and we should be doing that here."

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