WASHINGTON, DC -- The Covid-19 death toll in the U.S. topped 500,000 Monday, all but matching the number of Americans killed in World War II, Korea and Vietnam combined.
"Today we mark a truly grim, heartbreaking milestone: 500,071 dead," President Joe Biden said in remarks to the nation.
"That's more lives lost to this virus than any other nation on Earth. But as we acknowledge the scale of this mass death in America, remember each person and the life they lived," he continued.
Following his brief speech, Biden, first lady Jill Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and second gentleman Doug Emhoff walked out to the South Portico at the White House where candles were lit and displayed on the steps for a moment of silence.
The lives lost, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, are about equal to the population of Kansas City, Missouri, and greater than that of Miami, Florida; Raleigh, North Carolina; or Omaha, Nebraska.
And despite the rollout of vaccines since mid-December, a closely watched model from the University of Washington projects more than 589,000 dead by June 1.
The U.S. toll is by far the highest reported in the world, accounting for 20 percent of the nearly 2.5 million coronavirus deaths globally, though the true numbers are thought to be significantly greater, in part because of the many cases that were overlooked, especially early in the outbreak.
California is the state with the most recorded coronavirus deaths, 49,345, followed by New York with 46,812, and Texas, 42,162, according to Johns Hopkins data.
Los Angeles County's 19,885 recorded fatalities, is the highest among U.S. counties, Johns Hopkins health data shows.
Average daily deaths and cases across the nation have plummeted in the past few weeks. Virus deaths have fallen from more than 4,000 reported on some days in January to an average of fewer than 1,900 per day. But experts warn that dangerous variants could cause the trend to reverse itself.
Some experts say not enough Americans have been inoculated yet for the vaccine to be making much of a difference.
To date, there have been over 64 million Covid-19 doses administered in the U.S., and 19.4 million Americans have received two doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
Instead, the drop-off in deaths and cases has been attributed to the passing of the holidays; the cold and bleak days of midwinter, when many people are inclined to stay home; and better adherence to mask rules and social distancing.
The first known deaths from the virus in the U.S. happened in early February 2020. It took four months to reach the first 100,000 dead. The toll hit 200,000 deaths in September and 300,000 in December. Then it took just over a month to go from 300,000 to 400,000 and about two months to climb from 400,000 to the brink of 500,000 -- an average of 2,899 deaths a day, according to health data.
By comparison, 2,996, people were killed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The U.S. recorded an estimated 405,000 deaths in World War II, 58,000 in the Vietnam War and 36,000 in the Korean War.