CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. death toll from COVID-19 topped 600,000 on Tuesday, even as the vaccination drive has drastically brought down daily cases and fatalities and allowed the country to emerge from the pandemic and look forward to summer.
The number of lives lost, as recorded by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Baltimore or Milwaukee. It is about equal to the number of Americans who died of cancer in 2019. Worldwide, the COVID-19 death toll stands at about 3.8 million confirmed deaths.
The real totals in the U.S. and around the globe are thought to be significantly higher, with many cases overlooked or possibly concealed by some countries.
The milestone came the same day that California, the most populous state and the first to impose a coronavirus lockdown, lifted most of its remaining restrictions and ushered in what has been billed as its “Grand Reopening” just in time for summer.
Gone are state rules on social distancing and limits on capacity at restaurants, bars, supermarkets, gyms, stadiums and other places. Disneyland is throwing open its gates to all tourists after allowing just California residents. Fans will be able to sit elbow-to-elbow and cheer without masks at Dodgers and Giants games.
Elsewhere around the country, states continued to move closer to normal, step by step. Massachusetts officially lifted its state of emergency Tuesday, though many restrictions had already been eased, including mask requirements and limits on gatherings.
With the advent of the vaccine in mid-December, COVID-19 deaths per day in the U.S. have plummeted to an average of around 340, from a high of over 3,400 in mid-January. Cases are running at about 14,000 a day on average, down from a quarter-million per day over the winter.
The pace of new vaccinations in the U.S. has dropped below 400,000 people per day — down from a high of nearly 2 million per day two months ago.
To date 64.5% of the adult U.S. population have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine and 140.5 million are fully vaccinated,according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data.
This comes as President Joe Biden unveiled plans for the U.S. to donate 500 million vaccine doses around the globe over the next year.
The new U.S. commitment is to purchase and donate 500 million Pfizer doses for distribution through the global COVAX alliance to 92 lower-income countries and the African Union, bringing the first steady supply of mRNA vaccine to the countries that need it most.
The Associated Press contributed to this report