COVID-19 deaths topped 400,000 today as fatal cases in the United States reached 401,256, according to the Microsoft Bing COVID-19 Tracker. A large number of experts believe the number will rise to 500,000 as the spread of the disease quickens, at least one new mutation of the disease reaches the United States and vaccination rates slow below what the federal government had set as a goal.
U.S. deaths stand at almost 20% of the global total of 2,031,599.
The high death toll began in the New York City area and the regions around Chicago and Detroit. New York State still has the highest number of deaths among all states at 40,570. That is primarily due to a huge number of deaths in late March, April and early May. Deaths in New York City alone have reached 26,036. Of the 10 counties with the most deaths, four are parts of New York City: Kings County (Brooklyn), Queens County, Bronx County and New York County (Manhattan). Several counties adjacent to New York City in New Jersey and New York State are also high among counties with the most deaths.
As the disease spread south and west, deaths in several cities in those regions soared. Los Angeles County, the only county with over a million confirmed cases, has posted 13,757 deaths, the highest of any county as well. Maricopa County, home to Phoenix, has 6,437. Miami-Dade has 4,561. And Harris County, home to Houston, has 3,777. Each of these counties is among the top 20 counties based on the death count.
The largest states in the south and west also have the highest death counts among all states. The figure in California is 33,592. The number in Texas sits at 32,747. And, in Florida, it is 24,513.
Based on another measure, deaths per 100,000 people, sparsely populated states were not spared. A month ago, North and South Dakota were savaged. Many of these deaths were blamed on a lack of mask-wearing and social distancing. Despite a population that ranks 45th among all states, North Dakota ranks 38th in confirmed cases with 105,544 confirmed cases. It has 1,656 fatal cases.
The disease has returned with a vengeance to several states hit hard in the summer. Based on deaths per 100,000 over the course of a seven-day average, one traditional measure of the severity of the rise in deaths, Arizona ranks first at 2.21. It is followed by Alabama at 1.90, Kansas at 1.74, Pennsylvania at 1.71 and Mississippi at 1.70. As a contrast, the state with the lowest count by this measure is Alaska at 0.10, followed by Hawaii at 0.13 and Vermont at 0.16. At this point, based on these figures, there is no longer a geographic pattern.
What does the near-term future hold? One of the most carefully followed and widely regarded models of the spread of the disease is from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington. Its worst-case scenario is that over 633,000 Americans will die by April 30. Certainly, the slow rollout of the vaccines makes that more likely by the day.