The United States passed a grim milestone this week, as the death toll from coronavirus exceeded the number of Americans killed in combat during World War II.
Notably, deaths from the coronavirus pandemic have only been recorded for the past year, while U.S. involvement in World War II lasted around four years.
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The country’s coronavirus numbers surpassed the combat death totals from WWII on Thursday evening, USA Today reported, just hours after a committee of vaccine scientists recommended that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorize the first COVID-19 vaccine for public distribution.
While the prospect for a vaccine to stop the spread of the virus is good news, thousands of more Americans are expected to die from COVID-19 before the rollout of inoculations begins.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington predicts that the cumulative number of coronavirus casualties will exceed 380,428 deaths by January 20, 2021 — an additional 87,681 deaths between now and the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden, or an average of approximately 2,192 deaths per day over the next 40 days.
Some experts are predicting that the daily average death rate will end up being much higher.
“We are in the timeframe now that probably for the next 60 to 90 days we’re going to have more deaths per day than we had at 9/11 or we had at Pearl Harbor,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Robert Redfield said during an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations earlier this week.
Despite these dire predictions, President Donald Trump has seemed less concerned about preventing the spread of COVID-19 over the past several weeks, putting more focus on his erroneous claims of election fraud and attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump has hosted a slew of holiday parties at the White House, where social distancing standards put forward by the CDC are being ignored.
Trump has frequently downplayed the threat of coronavirus to the American people, telling them at many points over the past year that the pandemic would somehow disappear of its own accord.
Biden, who defeated Trump in the presidential election last month, has taken a much different approach, wearing masks when he does appear in public and pledging to take the crisis more seriously when he assumes office next month.
Among the goals Biden has laid out for his first 100 days of office, the president-elect intends to require masks be worn in federal buildings as well as on public modes of transportation that utilize interstate highways and railroads. Though he has previously suggested that he lacks the authority to issue a nationwide mask mandate, Biden intends to promote masks more than the current administration has done.