With cases of COVID-19 rising again in Europe, the United States, and elsewhere, the world marked a grim milestone on Monday as the recorded number of people who have died from the coronavirus surpassed 1 million.
The reported death toll, which public health experts believe is a gross undercount of the true devastation wrought by the outbreak, marks a sobering reminder of a global failure to contain the virus from the outset and the ongoing struggle to control it in the absence of a vaccine.
Since COVID-19 was identified in late December in Wuhan, China, the disease has spread across the globe, impacting nearly every country in the world. More than 33 million cases have been recorded worldwide, including 7.1 million cases in the US — the highest number reported by any country — according to data from the Coronavirus Resource Center at Johns Hopkins University.
The US has also recorded the most deaths of any country, with roughly 205,000 Americans dying from the disease, followed by Brazil, India, and Mexico. Though the US makes up just 4.3% of the world’s population, its death toll makes up more than 20% of reported deaths worldwide.
In recent days, daily case reports worldwide have been on the rise, averaging around 300,000 new cases per day over the past seven days, according to Johns Hopkins data.
In the US, which is seeing a seven-day average of about 40,000 new cases daily, public health experts warned of darker days ahead as temperatures begin to get colder.
“We’re not in a good place,” Anthony Fauci, one of the US’s top infectious disease scientists, said Monday during an interview on Good Morning America. “As we get into the fall and the winter, you really want the level of community spread to be as low as you can possibly get it.”
Fauci noted that as the weather gets colder, people will spend more time indoors where, researchers have found, the virus is more likely to spread via particles in the air.
In Europe, officials have started implementing new restrictions on bars, restaurants, and other businesses as multiple countries hit hard by the virus in the spring try to stave off a new surge in hospitalizations.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who was sickened by COVID-19 earlier this year, called on world leaders to unite against the disease, which he described as a “common foe.”
“With nearly a million people dead, with colossal economic suffering already inflicted and more to come, there is a moral imperative for humanity to be honest and to reach a joint understanding of how the pandemic began, and how it was able to spread — not because I want to blame any country or government or to score points,” Johnson said Saturday in a speech to the United Nations General Assembly.
“I simply believe — as a former COVID patient — that we all have a right to know so that we can collectively do our best to prevent a recurrence.”