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Thursday, March 4, 2021

White House on COVID-19 toll: Flags to fly at half-staff for five days

President Biden on Monday will order American flags on federal property to be lowered to half-staff for five days as the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 nears 500,000.

Mr. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, announced the move hours before Mr. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris planned to host a memorial ceremony in the Cross Hall of the White House.

The president will “highlight the magnitude of loss that this milestone marks for the American people and so many families across the country,” Ms. Psaki said.

“He will also speak to the power of the American people to turn the tide on this pandemic by working together, following public health guidelines and getting in line to be vaccinated as soon as they are eligible,” she said.

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The Johns Hopkins University tracker put the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 at nearly 499,200 at midday Monday, meaning the country would likely reach the half-million mark before the end of the day or by Tuesday.

It is a staggering toll that eclipses U.S. combat deaths from major wars of the 20th century and is roughly equivalent to the population of Atlanta or Kansas City.

High-population California recently eclipsed New York as the state with the most COVID-19 deaths overall, with over 49,000 compared to 46,000-plus, while New Jersey has seen the highest share of deaths per 100,000 residents, at 257.

The U.S. toll is by far the highest of any country in the world, though it is unclear how detailed or transparent other high-population nations were about documenting their deaths.

The American case-fatality rate — the share of people who test positive and then die — is 1.8%, putting it in good stead compared to many large European nations, although the U.S. has lost more people per share of its population than places like France and Germany.

The U.K., which battled a fast-moving mutation of the virus and is slowly easing its lockdown rules after getting an early start on vaccinations, fares worse than the U.S. in both forms of accounting, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


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