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Another grim COVID-19 milestone: At least 800,000 Americans have died

The country's first coronavirus deaths were traced to Northern California in February 2020.
Image: The Wider Image: 'I just ask God to help me': Texas funeral home crushed by death as U.S. COVID toll nears 500,000
Lila Blanks puts her head on husband Gregory Blanks' casket ahead of his funeral in San Felipe, Texas, on Jan. 26, 2021. Blanks died of complications from COVID-19.Callaghan O'Hare / Reuters
/ Source: NBC News

The United States passed another grim COVID-19 milestone Monday, as more than 800,000 Americans have now died from the virus that's plagued the country for nearly two years.

There have been at least 800,156 confirmed deaths traced to the coronavirus, according to a rolling tally by NBC News.

That's more than in any other nation in the world, and a total larger than the population of Boston, Washington, D.C. or Seattle.

“It’s a very sad moment, it’s mind-boggling,” said Dr. Michael Rodriguez, vice chairman of the Department of Family Medicine at UCLA's David Geffen School of Medicine. “We’re beyond numb.”

Rodriquez, who practiced in San Francisco during the AIDS crisis of the 1990s, said he struggles to grasp the enormity of 800,000 deaths.

The virus claimed its first known American victims in February 2020. When President Joe Biden took office on Jan. 20, the COVID-19 death toll was at 403,596.

Dr. Vin Gupta, a critical care pulmonologist and affiliate associate professor at the University of Washington, said he fears the pandemic isn’t close to slowing down. He expects the U.S. death toll to reach 1 million at some point in 2022.

“That’s just the reality of the situation,” he said. “The same people who didn’t get an initial shot won’t get boosters. It’s a lot of preventable death.”

In total, the U.S. has recorded nearly 50 million cases since the pandemic began.

About 64% of those age 5 and older have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer vaccines or one dose of the single-jab Johnson & Johnson.

Last month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention strengthened its recommendations about booster shots, advising everyone over 18 to get a booster six months after their second Pfizer or Moderna shot or two months after their Johnson & Johnson vaccine.

Vaccines have proven to be safe, effective and accepted by a majority of Americans.

However, vaccine hesitancy among a significant minority of the country has led to a "pandemic of the unvaccinated," health officials have repeatedly said, with both the delta and omicron variants continuing to spread.

"Technology has been important, but it's not been enough," Rodriguez said. "Unfortunately there has been this politicization that's resulted in massive misinformation."

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