US closes in on 200,000 virus deaths, weeks before election
Mend Urgent Care workers wearing personal protective equipment perform drive-up COVID-19 testing for students and faculty at University Prep Value High School on September 18, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. Most California schools have gone virtual while others are placing physical distancing and other protocols like testing to keep in-person classes in session.
AFP/Kevin Winter/Getty Images
US closes in on 200,000 virus deaths, weeks before election
Ivan Couronne, Issam Ahmed (Agence France-Presse) - September 22, 2020 - 7:29am

WASHINGTON, United States — The United States edged close to registering 200,000 Covid-19 deaths on Monday, the latest grim milestone for the country just weeks before voters decide if President Donald Trump will stay in office.

According to a rolling tally by Johns Hopkins University, 199,743 Americans have died and 6.8 million have been confirmed infected.

The US has had the world's highest official death toll for months, ahead of Brazil and India, with 136,895 and 87,882 deaths respectively.

Overall, the US accounts for four percent of the world's population and 20 percent of its coronavirus deaths, while its daily fatality rate relative to the overall population is four times greater than that of the European Union.

Critics say the statistics expose the Trump administration's failure to meet its sternest test ahead of the November 3 election.

"Due to Donald Trump's lies and incompetence in the past six months, (we) have seen one of the gravest losses of American life in history," his Democratic rival Joe Biden charged on Monday.

"With this crisis, a real crisis, a crisis that required serious presidential leadership, he just wasn't up to it. He froze. He failed to act. He panicked. And America has paid the worst price of any nation in the world."

Trump insisted on "Fox and Friends" Monday that the United States was "rounding the corner with or without a vaccine."

But the president has high hopes that the swift approval of a vaccine will boost his reelection chances.

"I would say that you'll have (a vaccine) long before the end of the year, maybe by the end of October," he told Fox, adding that his priority was "total safety -- it's number one." 

Trump has set even more ambitious goals, stating that by April of next year, most Americans who want to be immunized will have a vaccine. 

Most experts argue that betting on vaccines is not a viable strategy.

Without adhering to masks, distancing and contact-tracing, and without ramping up testing, tens of thousands more could still die before life returns to normal in the US.

"What we need to do is shift... towards a more screening approach that's proactive to test asymptomatic individuals," Harvard surgeon and health policy researcher Thomas Tsai told AFP.

He said the government should approve rapid, at-home antigen tests, which it has been reluctant to do so far, and which would require the government to pay for it instead of insurance companies.

"Covid will be the third leading cause of death this year in the US," tweeted Tom Frieden, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) under former president Barack Obama.

"The staggering death toll from the virus is a reflection of a failed national response, but it's not too late to turn it around."

Only the number of people who died from heart disease and cancer will be higher.

Series of errors

It's likely that the US actually crossed 200,000 deaths in July, said Eric Topol, director of the Scripps Research Institute, citing the excess mortality rate.

The initial lack of tests led to an undercount of the virus' toll.

"We are the outlier to have been caught totally flat-footed with no testing, and just not learning from mistakes," Topol added, explaining why the virus continues to kill more than in Europe, despite improvements in how the disease is managed in hospitals.

Belgium, Spain and Britain still have higher total death rates per capita than the United States, but were able to partly control the first wave of outbreaks through near-total lockdowns.

"We never got adequate suppression, and yet we're opening everything and trying to make believe that everything is just great," said Topol.

Adoption of public health measures remains mixed across the US.

In many cities, students have gone back to school virtually, the indoor areas of bars and restaurants remain closed, and mask use is up. 

But hotspots are still flaring up, currently in the Midwest and on college campuses that returned to in-person learning.

Critics say Trump abdicated responsibility and left it to the state governors to deal with the crisis and decide on lockdowns.

"We had a crazy quilt of responses across the country that totally confused the average person," William Schaffner, a health policy professor at Vanderbilt University, told AFP. 

"We needed a unified, coherent, strong, national response."

The public health system will be tested as we move into fall and winter, said Harvard epidemiologist Michael Mina.

Anticipating a "twindemic" of coronavirus and flu, officials are stocking up on a record number of flu vaccines.

2020 US PRESIDENTIAL RACE NOVEL CORONAVIRUS UNITED STATES
As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: October 28, 2020 - 9:33pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

October 28, 2020 - 9:33pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,168,750 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 11:00 GMT on Wednesday.

More than 44,056,470 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 29,694,100 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

October 28, 2020 - 4:07pm

The Department of Health registers 2,053 new COVID-19 infections. This brings the total number of cases in the Philippines to 375,180.

To date, there are 38,995 active cases. The DOH also reports 61 new deaths and 540 new recoveries.

October 27, 2020 - 6:04pm

Russia tightens anti-coronavirus restrictions including mask-wearing in public spaces after registering a record daily spike in virus deaths.

According to the country's consumer safety regulator, face masks are to be worn in crowded areas, on public transport, in taxis and lifts from Wednesday. — AFP

October 27, 2020 - 4:24pm

The Department of Health reports 1,524 new infections, bringing the total number of COVID-19 cases in the Philippines to 373,144.

Of the total confirmed, 37,489 or 10% were active COVID-19 cases. There are 353 new recoveries and 14 additional deaths.

October 26, 2020 - 10:23pm

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 1,155,301 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Monday.

At least 43,080,500 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 29,194,100 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

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