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US marks a year since first coronavirus case was reported

Registered nurse Nikki Hollinger cleans up a room as a body of a COVID-19 victim lies in a body bag labeled with stickers at Providence Holy Cross Medical Center in the Mission Hills section of Los Angeles, Saturday, Jan. 9, 2021. The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed 400,000 in the waning hours in office for President Donald Trump. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus has surpassed 400,000, and Wednesday marks exactly one year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the country.

The milestone came almost exactly a year after health officials diagnosed the nation’s first case of the virus, and months of efforts by Trump to downplay the threat and his administration’s responsibility to confront it.

The number of dead is greater than the population of New Orleans, Cleveland or Tampa.

The coronavirus has killed nearly as many Americans who are lost annually to strokes, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, flu and pneumonia combined.

With more than 4,000 deaths recorded on some recent days — the most since the pandemic began — the toll by week’s end will probably surpass the number of Americans killed in World War II.

“We need to follow the science and the 400,000th death is shameful,” said Cliff Daniels, chief strategy officer for Methodist Hospital of Southern California, near Los Angeles. With its morgue full, the hospital has parked a refrigerated truck outside to hold the bodies of COVID-19 victims until funeral homes can retrieve them.

“It’s so incredibly, unimaginably sad that so many people have died that could have been avoided,” he said.

President-elect Joe Biden, who will be sworn in Wednesday, took part in an evening remembrance ceremony Tuesday near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington. The 400,000 dead were represented by 400 lights placed around the reflecting pool. The bell at the Washington National Cathedral tolled 400 times.

The U.S. accounts for nearly 1 of every 5 virus deaths reported worldwide, far more than any other country despite its great wealth and medical resources.