LOS ANGELES - Despite data indicating that the pandemic is improving in the U.S. and other parts of the world, the global death toll this year from the novel coronavirus has already eclipsed 2020’s.
As of June 20, more than 3.8 million people around the world have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Globally, approximately 1.8 million people were killed by the virus in 2020. So far this year, more than 1.9 million people have already lost their lives to the deadly disease as of June 20.
The grim milestone is a reminder that not only is the U.S. still in the throes of the ongoing pandemic but, despite vaccinations climbing and hospitalization rates, cases and deaths declining, the disease still remains a very real threat in much of the world.
Johns Hopkins reported on June 15 that more than 600,000 Americans died of COVID-19 since the onset of the pandemic.
At this reported death toll, the United States has amassed the most deaths around the globe — far outpacing Brazil, whose 502,586 deaths are second-most in the world as of June 22.
At more than 33.4 million, the U.S. also leads the world in confirmed cases. India’s recent surge in cases has pushed the south-Asian nation much closer, with more than 29.3 million cases.
Even so, data indicates the status of the pandemic is improving. The U.S. reached 500,000 total deaths from COVID-19 in late February and needed nearly four months to accumulate another 100,000.
During the winter surge, America tallied 100,000 deaths in just a month.
But despite the improvement in handling the pandemic in many developed countries, medical experts say the goal should be getting as many people vaccinated as possible — not just in the U.S., but around the world.
In an interview with FOX TV Stations on April 6, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading expert on infectious diseases said "if we suppress it in the United States or in the developed world, that’s going to be great."
"Now, this brings up an important question: As long as you have virus replicating anywhere in the world, the chances of developing variants are considerable, which will ultimately come back and could perhaps negatively impact our own response. That’s one of the real prevailing arguments for why we need to make sure the whole world gets vaccinated – not just the people in the developed world," he added.
The U.S. has allotted to share 80 million COVID-19 vaccine doses abroad in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the push to vaccinate Americans is becoming even more important as states ease coronavirus restrictions amid the rise of the highly transmissible COVID-19 delta variant.
The so-called COVID-19 delta variant, which was first detected in India, now represents more than 20% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks, or double what it was when the Centers for Disease Control last reported on the variant’s prevalence.
But Fauci has said indications are that the COVID-19 vaccines remain effective against the variant.
The variant is accounting for half of new infections in the regions that include Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Colorado, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming.
The U.S. government is stepping up efforts to get younger Americans vaccinated for COVID-19 as concerns grow about the spread of the delta variant that threatens to set the country back in the months ahead.
The push is underway as the delta variant, first identified in India, has come to represent more than 20% of coronavirus infections in the U.S. in the last two weeks, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Tuesday. That's double what it was when the CDC last reported on the variant’s prevalence.
"The delta variant is currently the greatest threat in the U.S. to our attempt to eliminate COVID-19," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said at a White House briefing on the virus. "Good news: Our vaccines are effective against the delta variant."
He added: "We have the tools. So let’s use them, and crush the outbreak."
The White House acknowledged Tuesday that President Joe Biden will fall short of reaching his goal of vaccinating 70% of all American adults with at least one shot by Independence Day. But it said he had reached that threshold for those aged 30 and older and expects to meet it for those age 27 or older by the July 4 holiday.
This story was reported in Los Angeles. Jordan Smith and The Associated Press contributed.