More than 5 million people worldwide have died from COVID-19 in less than two years, according to Johns Hopkins University's count early Monday. That's about the same number of people who have live in Los Angeles and San Francisco combined, The Associated Press notes, or have died in all battles between nations since 1950. COVID-19 is now the No. 3 cause of death worldwide, after heart disease and stroke.
Nearly half of the world's recorded deaths are from wealthier countries that make up one-eighth of the world's population — the U.S., Britain, the European Union, and Brazil — AP reports. The U.S. alone accounts for 740,000 deaths, the most of any official count, though many countries are believed to have much larger death tolls than their official numbers.
"What's uniquely different about this pandemic is it hit hardest the high-resource countries," said Dr. Wafaa El-Sadr, director of Columbia University's ICAP global health center. "That's the irony of COVID-19." Wealthier countries have larger proportions of populations vulnerable to the coronavirus — elderly people, cancer survivors, nursing home residents — while poorer countries tend to have larger numbers of young people.
Wealthier countries also have more access to COVID-19 vaccines, and outbreaks have been shifting around the globe. Russia, Ukraine, and other parts of Eastern Europe are currently hot spots of COVID-19 and vaccine misinformation. Meanwhile, "the pandemic appears to be winding down in the United States in a thousand subtle ways, but without any singular milestone, or a cymbal-crashing announcement of freedom from the virus," The Washington Post reports.
New infections have dropped below 75,000 a day, nearly half the number from August, but more than 1,000 people are dying of COVID-19 in the U.S. on any average day, the Post notes. Nobody knows if there will be another surge this winter. "My feeling now is that we're nearing a steady state where things might get a little better or worse, for the next few years," says Bob Wachter, chairman of the Department of Medicine at the University of California at San Francisco. "It's not great, but it is what it is."