The number of coronavirus-related deaths in the United States has surpassed 800,000, according to a tally compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
It is the highest reported national death toll since the beginning of the global COVID-19 pandemic, according to the data released on Tuesday.
The US accounts for approximately 4 percent of the world’s population but about 15 percent of the 5.3 million known deaths from the coronavirus since it emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan in late 2019.
“As we mark the tragic milestone of 800,000 American deaths due to Covid-19, we remember each person and the lives they lived, and we pray for the loved ones left behind,” President Joe Biden said in a statement.
“As we head into the winter and confront a new variant, we must resolve to keep fighting this virus together,” he said.
The majority of the deaths in the US were recorded among unvaccinated people.
Vaccinations picked up during the fourth wave of the disease, driven by the Delta variant, and more than 60 percent of the country’s 332 million people are now fully vaccinated – though the US still lags behind other wealthy nations.
The grim milestone was passed as the country prepares for the winter amid the spread of the Omicron variant, which experts say could be more transmissible than previous strains of the virus.
The US is now into its fifth wave, with the epicentre in colder northern states, as people gather more often indoors.
Omicron, which has caused worldwide alarm since it was first reported in South Africa in late November, now accounts for approximately three percent of US cases, but that share is expected to rise rapidly, as has been seen in other countries.
Even if early data suggesting the variant causes milder illness in most people is confirmed, its increased transmissibility and ability to overcome prior immunity may negate this advantage, by infecting far more people.
Health authorities are urging everyone over the age of 16 to get a booster shot to restore immunity to levels comparable to two doses against earlier strains.
Democrats Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer, who lead the House of Representatives and Senate respectively, as well as House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy and other members of Congress, held a moment of silence on the steps of the Capitol building on Tuesday evening.
“On this day … we will remember that 800,000 loved ones did not make it this far: a lost father or grandfather, mother or grandmother, a friend, a familiar face in the neighborhood,” Schumer said in a statement.
“All of us know of someone whom this disease has taken away.”