On Tuesday afternoon, the United States of America surpassed a grim milestone as more than 100,000 deaths resulting from COVID-19 were officially recorded.
As of 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time, 100,103 Americans had died from the disease, with 1.7 million cumulative cases having been determined as well. Americans now make up nearly 30 percent of all COVID fatalities in the world. Unfortunately, with several states relaxing social distancing methods and no treatment or vaccine for the disease yet developed, it’s expected that the disease’s death toll will continue to climb over the next few months.
Projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington say that, as of Tuesday, the rate of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. is around 31.59 for every 100,000 citizens in the country. By the time Independence Day rolls around (July 4), that rate is expected to go up to 41.27 deaths per 100,000 — an increase that could mean more than 30,000 additional Americans may die from the disease between now and then.
The total number of Americans who have died from the disease, however, is likely much higher than we understand it to be at this time. Many health experts, including coronavirus task force member Anthony Fauci, who also serves as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, are adamant that our numbers are higher than the “official” totals reveal.
“Almost certainly it’s higher,” Fauci said of the death toll during testimony before the Senate earlier this month. “There may have been people who died at home who were not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital.”
Excess deaths in March and early April also suggest that some fatalities went unnoticed. Even accounting for coronavirus-related deaths, researchers noted that there appeared to be more deaths than usual occurring at that time of year, hinting that some COVID deaths may not have been counted.
The high death count comes almost two months to the day that President Donald Trump tried to assure Americans that the total cases of the disease seen in the country would be “close to zero” within a matter of days after 15 cases had been positively identified.
“When you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done,” Trump said at the time.
In that same week, as criticisms mounted that he was ignoring advice from health experts to take the situation more seriously, Trump decried those worries and said he believed they were being instigated by Democrats who were launching a “new hoax” against him in order to make him look bad.
The president pressed on with similar claims up to the second week of March, when he errantly compared the disease to the flu and continued to express the belief that the media and Democrats were trying “to inflame the CoronaVirus situation, far beyond what the facts would warrant.”
Some researchers have said that, had Trump actually taken a more careful approach at that time — including pushing for social distancing measures on or near the same dates he made those latter comments — we would have had fewer deaths from the disease than we see now, with one estimate suggesting as much as 60 percent of the total death count at this time might be attributable, in part, to the delayed response from the Trump administration.