US virus deaths surpass 450K; daily toll is stubbornly high

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FILE - In this Jan. 9, 2021, file photo, a hospital worker places a "COVID Patient" sticker on a body bag holding a deceased patient at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles. Coronavirus hospitalizations are falling across the United States, but deaths have remained stubbornly high. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

Coronavirus deaths in the United States surpassed 450,000 on Thursday, and daily deaths remain stubbornly high at more than 3,000 a day, despite falling infections and the arrival of multiple vaccines.

Infectious disease specialists expect deaths to start dropping soon, after new cases hit a peak right around the beginning of the year. New COVID-19 deaths could ebb as early as next week, said the new director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

But there’s also the risk that improving trends in infections and hospitalizations could be offset by people relaxing and coming together — including this Sunday, to watch football, she added.

“I’m worried about Super Bowl Sunday, quite honestly,” Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press.

Walensky said one reason cases and hospitalizations are not rising as dramatically as they were weeks ago is because the effect of holiday gatherings has faded.

The effect on deaths is delayed. The daily toll amounts to 50,000 new fatalities in the last two weeks alone.

“We’re still in quite a bad place,” she said.

The nation reported 3,912 COVID-19 deaths Wednesday, down from the pandemic peak of 4,466 deaths on Jan. 12.