The US reached this latest milestone ahead of when some models were anticipating. In December 2021, the forecasting model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggested the number of deaths would not reach 880,000 before March 2022.
In all likelihood, this latest figure is an understatement and it's possible the US has already broken the 1 million mark. The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the US is significantly higher than reported. A CDC study found that approximately 184,477 (24 percent) of COVID-19 deaths were not officially documented on death certificates between March 8, 2020, to May 29, 2021.
The hyper infectious omicron variant is likely the leading culprit behind this rise. Although omicron is thought to be less fatal than other variants, its infectiousness means the high number of people infected with it has overall equated to a higher number of deaths.
The US also has a significantly higher death rate from COVID-19 compared to many other large, high-income countries. Compared to these nations, the US has a notably lower percentage of the population who are fully vaccinated, at around 64 percent. Health problems known to increase the risk of severe COVID-19, such as obesity and diabetes, are also particularly common among Americans.
Describing the news as “another tragic milestone,” US President Joe Biden stressed the importance of getting vaccinated. While omicron is surprisingly skilled at evading the vaccine’s protection compared to other variants, being fully vaccinated still dramatically lowers your risk of falling seriously ill, hospitalization, and death.
“We now have more tools than ever before to save lives and fight this virus — with vaccines remaining our most important tool,” President Biden said in a statement.
“Vaccines and boosters have proven incredibly effective, and offer the highest level of protection. Two hundred and fifty million Americans have stepped up to protect themselves, their families, and their communities by getting at least one shot — and we have saved more than one million American lives as a result."