COVID: The Leading Cause of Death in the U.S.

According to CBS News (and several other outlets), COVID-19 was the leading cause of death in the United States this week:

Yesterday there were over 200,000 new cases diagnosed in the United States, and almost 3,000 new deaths (from

For perspective, there were more cases diagnosed in the U.S. yesterday than have occurred in Japan all year. One day of U.S. cases is more than 8 months (240 days) of cases in Japan.

Visually, (according to the NY Times) this is what our case counts and fatalities look like:

Given that we have experienced almost 300,000 deaths (293,445), and almost 3,000 U.S. residents are now dying every day, this is when 500,000, 750,000 and 1 million U.S. residents would die of COVID, at the current rates:
500,000 U.S. deaths: February 17, 2021
750,000 U.S. deaths: May 12, 2021
1,000,000 U.S. deaths: August 4, 2021

A point to consider is- what will the effect of a vaccine approval (or several vaccines approved) be on case rates and fatality rates? The short answer is, I don’t know.

The longer answer is based on the following:
1) When will the vaccine be approved?
2) When will it first be available?
3) What groups will receive the vaccine first?
4) When will 10%, 20%, 30% etc. be vaccinated
5) Most importantly-what total percentage of Americans will be vaccinated?

Remember-a vaccine does not work unless people are vaccinated with it.

Regarding the first question, it looks like a vaccine approval might occur this week or next.
Regarding the second question, the vaccine will probably be rolled out soon after approval. In the UK, approval occurred last week, and yesterday (December 8) were the first vaccine administrations.
Regarding the third question, front-line healthcare workers and nursing home residents will be first in line.

Questions 4 and 5 are important from a public health perspective. Given our current political environment (a high proportion of the public refuse to wear masks), how many Americans do you think will get vaccinated? The reason I ask is-what happens if only 50% of Americans get vaccinated, and the vaccine is 90% effective? And how long will it take for 50% of Americans to get vaccinated?

If 50% of Americans do not get vaccinated, and it takes until June to achieve that, then 500,000 Americans will die from COVID before there is any impact on daily case counts and fatality rates.

My belief is that case counts are going to continue to rise, for the following reasons:
1) It is cold outside. That pushes us inside (homes, restaurants, bars, etc.), where transmission rate go up.
2) The Christmas break is coming up. Families and friends are going to gather (the same way they did for Thanksgiving). Case counts rose after Thanksgiving, and they will do so again after Christmas.

3) The more people who are infected, the more people get infected. That is how this works. People must contact people in order to spread the virus.

Given that 300,000 Americans have already died from COVID, I believe it is a given that we will reach 500,000 COVID deaths in February. Vaccination of a small percentage of the population (5-10% by February?) won’t change that much.

If our behavior doesn’t improve, I believe that 1 million Americans will die from COVID.

Shame on us. Those are all preventable deaths. We have done this to ourselves.


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