The number of U.S. COVID-19 deaths in 2021 has surpassed the 2020 death toll, according to data provided by the federal government and Johns Hopkins University.
Some 385,343 Americans were reported to have died of COVID in 2020. The total death toll now exceeds 770,800.
Experts attribute this increase to the public's growing unwillingness to mask and social distance as well as to lower-than-expected vaccination rates. They also acknowledge that the virus is making inroads among highly vaccinated populations due to the emergence of the contagious Delta variant. The most recent data from the New York Times shows hot spots flaring up in well-vaxxed parts of the Midwest, New England, and the Southwest, rather than in the more vaccine-skeptical Southern states.
About 59 percent of the U.S. population has been vaccinated. According to a study co-authored by epidemiologist Ana Bento, higher vaccination rates could have saved 140,000 lives between the beginning of January 2021 and the end of May, but Bento also told the Wall Street Journal that the vaccine is "not a panacea."
Public health authorities continue to urge unvaccinated Americans to take the vaccine and to encourage those who have been vaccinated to get booster shots.