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Biden to address nation as COVID-19 deaths top 500,000 in U.S.

The president plans to mark the death toll with a candle-lighting ceremony at 6:15 p.m. in Washington, D.C.
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Coronavirus has killed more than 500,000 people in the United States, Johns Hopkins University reports.

The U.S. reached the grim milestone today, just over one year since the first COVID-19 case was reported in the country and a little over a month after passing 400,000 coronavirus deaths Jan. 19.

President Joe Biden plans to mark the death toll with a candle-lighting ceremony at 6:15 p.m. in Washington, D.C., CNN reported.

Biden also will order U.S. flags flown at half-mast for the next five days to honor coronavirus victims, KTVU reported.

The number of dead rivals the populations of Sacramento, California or Atlanta, NBC News reported. It’s more than double the total of U.S. combat deaths in World War II.

There have been more than 111 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with more than 2.4 million deaths, according to the university. More than 28 million cases have been confirmed in the United States.

The U.S. leads the world in coronavirus deaths, followed by Brazil with more than 246,000 and Mexico with more than 180,000.

More than 49,000 people have died in California of coronavirus, followed by more than 46,000 in New York and more than 42,000 in Texas, the university says.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the 2019-20 seasonal flu killed 22,000 people nationally. A 2009 swine flu pandemic killed more than 12,000 people in the United States.

Before taking office in January, top officials in Biden’s administration had warned the toll would shortly top half a million.

“The virus is going to get worse before it gets better,” Ron Klain, White House chief of staff, said in January, The New York Times reported. “People who are contracting the virus today will start to get sick next month, will add to the death toll in late February, even March, so it’s going to take awhile to turn this around.”

A recent study found 40 percent of the COVID-19 deaths in the United States could have been prevented, in part faulting former President Donald Trump’s response to the outbreak, USA Today reported.

Biden has ramped up efforts to inoculate Americans against the coronavirus, including purchasing 200 million additional doses, Fox News reported. Two vaccines have been approved for use in the United States.

“Our hope is that by the end of summer, everybody, almost everybody, almost 300 million shots,” Biden said. “It is going to take time.”

The coronavirus outbreak began in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, possibly after the virus passed to humans from bats and pangolins, an Asian scaly anteater, McClatchy News reported.