U.S. could hit 200,000th Covid death this weekend

How many lives have been lost to the coronavirus in the United States? Roughly the same as the number of people who live in Akron, Ohio, or Tempe, Arizona, or Tallahassee, Florida.

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© Provided by NBC News

The total number of Covid-19 fatalities in the U.S. was a world-leading 198,886 as of Friday, according to the latest NBC News figures. The country also leads the world with 6.7 million confirmed coronavirus cases.

And with people dying in the U.S. at a rate of about 790 per day, the total death toll was likely to eclipse 200,000 sometime over the weekend, NBC News was projecting.

With the U.S. poised to hit that melancholic milestone, President Donald Trump was continuing to face accusations that he lied to the American public about the dangers of the pandemic, after he was caught on tape in February privately telling the journalist Bob Woodward that Covid-19 was “deadly stuff.”

Dr. Thomas Frieden, a former director of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Friday that Trump has spent much of the last seven months “fighting science, not the virus.”

“Because of that, we’re hitting 200,000 recorded deaths and, quite frankly, there’s more deaths than that in the U.S.,” Frieden told MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle. “Many, if not most of those, were preventable.”

Trump, Frieden said, is banking on a Covid-19 vaccine and unproven theories like “herd immunity” to end this crisis.

“This idea that a vaccine is going to come and everything is going to be fine, or we’re going to get herd immunity, I feel like the administration is saying immunity is around the corner, “ Frieden said. “It’s not. We’re going to have this virus with us for a long time.”

While Trump has denied lying to the country, in the months that followed that Woodward interview he dismissed the pandemic as a Democratic “hoax,” spread misinformation about Covid-19, contradicted his own public health experts, and politicized the wearing of masks by refusing to wear one for several months.

As recently as July, Trump insisted the pandemic would “just disappear.”

Meanwhile, critics say his administration was slow to respond to the pandemic. Trump didn’t declare a national emergency until March 13 and accelerated the crisis by pressuring Republican governors to reopen their states in April and May just as the outbreak was picking up steam in the Sun Belt and the South.

New York has reported the most Covid-19 deaths with 33,917 as of Friday. But most of those happened in the early days of the pandemic when public health officials were still trying to figure out how to contain the crisis. Now the state boasts an infection rate of under 1 percent, while 10 more deaths were reported overnight.

“We went from the highest infection rate to one of the lowest, and that’s a testament to the hard work of New Yorkers who came together and flattened the curve,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.

Texas has reported the most coronavirus deaths in the last two months with more than 10,000, NBC News numbers show. Since the start of the pandemic, the Lone Star State has reported 14,920 fatalities out of a total 710,231 confirmed cases.

Adjusted by population, Mississippi has proportionally had the most deaths in the last two months. It has reported 2,780 fatalities and 91,935 cases.

Other states that have seen the biggest spikes in Covid-19 deaths during the past two months are Florida, South Carolina and Louisiana.

The silver lining? Just three weeks ago, Americans were dying at a rate of 1,000 a week from the virus, NBC News figures showed.

More than 30 million coronavirus cases have been reported worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University Covid-19 dashboard. The U.S. accounts for more than a fifth of those cases and about a fifth of the world’s 947,266 fatalities.

In other coronavirus news:

  • The CDC revised its rules again after it was widely criticized for quietly tweaking its guidance last month to say that people who have come in contact with Covid-19 but have no symptoms need not be tested. Now, it says: “If you have been in close contact, such as within 6 feet of a person with documented SARS-CoV-2 infection for at least 15 minutes and do not have symptoms, you need a test.” Testing people who have been exposed to the virus, even if they don’t feel sick, is critical to stopping further transmission. It later turned out that the controversial change was the work of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, which is led by Vice President Mike Pence. And it was done while Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert and a frequent Trump target, was having surgery.
  • New Jersey lawmakers have agreed to a so-called millionaire’s tax to fill the cash gap after the coronavirus crisis blew a big hole in the state budget. “If it’s signed into law, it would be one of the first in the country to address state revenue shortfalls caused by the economic crisis by upping collections on the rich,” CNBC reported. Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, is expected to ink the deal next month. While Republicans and some Democrats have been reluctant to raise taxes on the rich and risk an exodus from their states, Murphy said what they are seeking are just “pennies on their top dollars earned” that would help “undo years of tax inequities.” The Jersey deal raises taxes on people earning more than $1 million a year from 8.9 percent to 10.75 percent and provides a rebate of up to $500 to households earning less than $150,000 if they have a child. Previously, the 10.75 percent rate had applied only to those earning more than $5 million a year.
  • In a Facebook post, Pastor Paul Van Noy of the Candlelight Christian Fellowship in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, told his flock in July that if they believe in Jesus, “there is no need to fear the cause and effect of Covid-19.” Not long after that, the self-styled “no-masker” caught the infection and has spent the last two weeks in intensive care. Van Noy wrote on the church website Thursday that he’s still on oxygen and expects to be in the hospital for a few more days but is getting better. “Now it is time to get back to church,” he wrote. At least six members of the church have tested positive for Covid-19, the local NBC News affiliate reported.
  • It was a depressing start to Rosh Hashanah in Israel as Jews said good riddance to year 5780 on Friday and rang in their new year while under a nationwide Covid-19 lockdown. Typically, Israelis hold large family gatherings and pack synagogues to celebrate. Not this year. “Our goal is to curb the rise, reduce morbidity,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday when he announced the new restrictions. “I know these steps come at a difficult price for all of us. This is not the holiday we are used to.” Israel has recorded 176,933 coronavirus cases since the beginning of the pandemic and 1,169 deaths. But it has also seen a spike in new cases in recent days.

  • Mississippi, Indiana, Texas, Louisiana and Tennessee continue to limit vote-by-mail access and don’t consider the pandemic to be a valid reason for absentee voting, NBC News reported. Each state faces numerous legal challenges from voters who are fearful of voting in person. And with less than two months until Election Day, many voters remain confused about whether and how they can vote by mail. That uncertainty “has the potential to affect voter access and, therefore, the outcomes of the elections themselves.”

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