1 of 5 | A pedestrian walks wearing a face mask and fogged up face shield to protect from and to prevent the spread of the coronavirus in New York City. File Photo by John Angelillo/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 2 (UPI) -- The United States has hit a grim milestone 700,000 COVID-19 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
The country hit the figure Friday as the demand for new vaccinations neared its lowest point since they were introduced in December, ABC News reported.
Less than two weeks ago, the death toll from COVID-19 surpassed the 1918 influenza outbreak, making it the deadliest pandemic in U.S. history, according to a count compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
The COVID-19 death toll is also higher in the United States than the death toll from cancer last year, higher than the number of U.S. troops who have died in all battles since the Revolution, and about the same size as the population of Boston, ABC News noted. Together, the country's four largest states, California, New York, Texas and Florida, have accounted for a third of the total COVID-19 deaths, and each have reported more than 50,000 deaths.
"Heading into the winter months, we can significantly delay the next grim milestone if more people, especially those at high risk for severe illness, choose to get vaccinated," Ajay Sethi, an epidemiologist and associate professor of population health sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison told ABC News.
The United States reported Saturday morning over 43 million total cases and over 700,300 total deaths from COVID-19, according to JHU's global tracker. The numbers rose after the country reported 158,284 new cases and 2,434 new deaths Friday, JHU data shows.
The recent death rate in the United States has been one of the highest of any country with an ample supply of vaccines, The New York Times reported.
About 185 million Americans have received the COVID-19 vaccine, but nearly 70 million eligible Americans remain unvaccinated, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky told reporters Friday.
The number of Americans receiving the newly authorized Pfizer third dose is higher on average than the number receiving a new vaccine each day.
"My team and I could see very early on that this pathogen had the potential to kill this many people in the U.S., " Jeffrey Shaman, a Columbia University professor of environmental health sciences told ABC News. "I did not anticipate just how fractious the response would be, how leaders would not be able to or interested in unifying the country to come together and overcome political differences to combat the virus.
"I'm saddened this did not happen. I think if it had, fewer people would have died and the economic consequences of the pandemic would also have been lessened," Shaman added.
Amid the the rise of the Delta variant, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new data earlier in the week showing that vaccines still dramatically reduce the risk of being hospitalized and dying of COVID-19.
Chief medical adviser to the president Dr. Anthony Fauci presented COVID-19 data from Public Health-Seattle and King County, to reporters Friday, which showed people who are not fully vaccinated are eight times more likely to test positive, 41 times more likely to be hospitalized, and 57 times more likely to die compared to people who are unvaccinated.
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Jeffrey Zients reiterated at a press briefing Friday that the administration was "laser-focused on getting more shots in arms, particularly to vaccinate the unvaccinated."
"That's our path out of this pandemic," Zients said.