The death toll from COVID-19 has surpassed 200,000 people in the United States, making the coronavirus one of the leading causes of death in the country. Caitlin Rivers, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told NPR that if current mortality trends continue, "COVID-19 will likely be the third-leading cause of death, after heart disease and cancer" by the end of the year.
"I hoped we would be in a better place by now," Rivers said. "It's an enormous and tragic loss of life."
The death toll in the U.S. is the highest in the world, followed by Brazil and India. More than 20% of the 966,000 global COVID-19 deaths have occurred in the United States, which makes up just 5% of the world's population. The U.S. is ranked 11th in per capita deaths, with 61 deaths per 100,000 residents.
After a brief lull in new cases in August, the numbers have started to rise again. Over the last seven days, there has been an average of more than 43,300 new cases per day, a 19% jump from last week. More than half of the states are reporting a rise in new cases, while several are seeing test positivity rates above 15%.
Health officials fear that the pandemic will only worsen in the fall and winter as the flu season starts to heat up. According to the most recent projections by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, more than 378,000 people will die from COVID-19 by the end of the year.
"It's hard for me to think of a positive scenario where things are going to get better in October and November," Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley, told USA Today. "I don't see behavior changing adequately. I don't see testing ramping up."
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