500,000 COVID deaths in the U.S. and hopes for herd immunity

US hits 500K COVID deaths

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The nation’s health leaders are optimistic with the declining COVID-19 positive cases and hospitalizations, but deaths remain a major concern. This week, the country hit more than half a million dead because of the pandemic.

Alabama State Health Officer, Dr. Scott Harris, was glad to see the drop in positive COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations. But, Dr. Harris said hitting more than 500,000 deaths in the United States is a somber reminder the pandemic is far from over.

Just take a look at the number in Alabama: We are approaching over 9,600 deaths. Dr. Harris said the COVID death count nationally over the last 12 months is more than the country saw in combat deaths reported in World War II. Harris said the country and Alabama are going in the right direction. People just need to continue their safety habits of wearing masks and social distancing. Harris said COVID deaths are going down, finally.

“January was the worst month we had for deaths following everything that happened during the December holidays, but we have plateaued there. The number of deaths is not increasing. We are still having some, unfortunately. Deaths are the lagging indicator. They are the last thing to go up or down,” Harris said.

The number of positive COVID cases and hospitalizations continue on a downward trend. This, along with increasing number of vaccinations, are giving Alabama health leaders optimism that the end could be insight. But, could we be on the verge of herd immunity by summer?

Herd immunity means a large number of people have gotten and recovered from the disease. Others have gotten vaccinated against it. In fact, an epidemiologist out at UAB says herd immunity against the spread of the disease could be possible by summer.

The number of COVID cases is dropping dramatically across the country. One report has it down 66% from a month ago. UAB Epidemiologist Dr. Suzanne Lund said in Yahoo Finance News, herd immunity is possible by summer. She points to a Columbia University study that a third of the country could have already been exposed to the coronavirus. Dr. Lund said they should know more in the next few months.

Dr. Harris is more optimistic about stemming the pandemic now than before, but Dr. Harris said they are still a longways from getting about 70% of the country vaccinated to help obtain herd immunity.

“We hope that number is going to go up. Ultimately, you would like to get around 280-300 million people vaccinated. You can do the math and see it’s going to take a while to get there,” Harris said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci said over the weekend the country may have to continue wearing masks until next year. Dr. Harris said he’s not sure about that, knowing how many in Alabama hate wearing masks.

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