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Coronavirus

COVID claims 1 million U.S. lives, leaving trail of loss

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Joanna Martinez, a funeral home worker, looks into a refrigeration cooler with decedents who passed on due to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) marked with red tags inside a refrigeration cooler with other bodies not affected at the Farmingto

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By Maria Caspani

NEW YORK (Reuters) – The United States has now recorded more than 1 million COVID-19 deaths, according to a Reuters tally, crossing a once-unthinkable milestone about two years after the first cases upended everyday life and quickly transformed it.

The 1 million mark is a stark reminder of the staggering grief and loss caused by the pandemic even as the threat posed by the virus wanes in the minds of many people. It represents about one death for every 327 Americans, or more than the entire population of San Francisco or Seattle.

By the time the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a global pandemic on March 11, 2020, the virus had claimed 36 lives in the United States. In the months that followed, the deadly virus spread like wildfire, finding fertile ground in densely populated urban areas such as New York City and then reaching every corner of the country.

By June 2020, the U.S. death toll had surpassed the total of the country’s military deaths in World War One and it would exceed the American military losses of War World Two by January 2021 when more than 405,000 deaths were recorded.

The disease has left few places on Earth untouched, with 6.7 million confirmed deaths globally. The true toll, including those who died of COVID-19 as well as those who perished as an indirect result of the outbreak, was likely closer to 15 million, the WHO said.

Some of the images associated with COVID death are forever burned in the collective mind of Americans: refrigerated trucks stationed outside hospitals overflowing with the dead; intubated patients in sealed-off intensive care units; exhausted doctors and nurses who battled through every wave of the virus.

Millions of Americans eagerly rolled up their sleeves to receive COVID vaccines after distribution began in late 2020. By early 2021, the virus had already claimed a staggering 500,000 lives.

At one point in January of that year, more people died from COVID-19 every day on average than were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

COVID-19 preyed on the elderly and those with compromised health, but it did not spare healthy youth either, killing more than 1,000 children. Researchers estimate 213,000 U.S. children https://imperialcollegelondon.github.io/orphanhood_calculator/#/country/United%20States%20of%20America lost at least one parent or primary caregiver during the pandemic, taking an immeasurable emotional toll.

While nestling in big cities, coronavirus has also ravaged rural communities with limited access to medical care.

The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on native communities and communities of color. It hit harder where people lived in congregate settings, such as prisons, and decimated entire families. It exposed inequalities deeply entrenched in U.S. society and set off a wave of change affecting most aspects of life in the United States.

With the COVID-19 threat subsiding after the Omicron wave last winter, many Americans have shed masks and returned to offices in recent weeks. Restaurants and bars are once again teeming with patrons, and the public’s attention has shifted to inflation and economic concerns.

But researchers are already working on yet another booster shot as the virus continues to mutate.

“By no means is it over,” said top U.S. infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci at a recent event. “We still are experiencing a global pandemic.”

TRACKING THE PANDEMIC

Trackng the COVID-19 pandemic is not an exact science. Reuters and the other organizations who make tallies are reaching 1 million U.S. deaths at different times. The variation is due to how each organization counts COVID deaths. For example, Reuters includes both confirmed and probable deaths where that data is available.

     The precise toll of the pandemic may never be truly known. Some people who died while infected were never tested and do not appear in the data. Others, while having COVID-19, may have died for another reason, such as a cancer, but were still counted.

The CDC estimates that 1.1 million excess deaths have taken place since Feb. 1, 2020, mainly from COVID. Excess mortality is the increase in total number of deaths, from any cause, compared with previous years.

    You can read more about the Reuters methodology for tracking COVID cases and deaths here: https://graphics.reuters.com/world-coronavirus-tracker-and-maps/en/methodology/

    You can find more information on CDC excess deaths here: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/covid19/excess_deaths.htm

Coronavirus

U.S. traffic deaths in 2021 jump to highest number since 2005

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is pictured at twilight along 42nd St. in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915 – the highest number killed on American roads in a single-year since 2005, regulators said on Tuesday in a preliminary estimate.

The yearly increase is the highest reported since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using its current traffic fatality tracking system in 1975.

The number of pedestrians killed jumped 13% to 7,342, hitting the highest number since 1981. The number of people on bicycles killed rose 5% to 985, the highest number since at least 1980, according to a NHTSA report.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

In January, USDOT released a strategy designed to cut the soaring number of traffic deaths on American roads.

Traffic deaths surged after pandemic lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior.

“An increase in dangerous driving – speeding, distracted driving, drug- and alcohol-impaired driving, not buckling up – during the pandemic, combined with roads designed for speed instead of safety, has wiped out a decade and a half of progress in reducing traffic crashes, injuries and deaths,” the Governors Highway Safety Association said in a statement.

Traffic deaths in 2020 rose 6.8%. They are now up 18% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

NHTSA said the fatality rate in 2021 fell slightly to 1.33 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled, down from 1.34 in 2020, which was the highest rate since 2007.

One factor for the big jump in 2020 was that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in riskier behavior, NHTSA said.

As U.S. roads became less crowded, some motorists perceived police were less likely to issue tickets because of COVID-19, experts say.

NHTSA research findings from 2020 indicating incidents of speeding and traveling without a seatbelt were higher than before the pandemic. In 2020, the number of crashes fell 22% to 5.25 million and those injured fell 17% to 2.28 million even as deaths rose.

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Coronavirus

U.S. traffic deaths jump 10.5% in 2021 to highest number since 2005

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Traffic is pictured at twilight along 42nd St. in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S., March 27, 2019. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. traffic deaths jumped 10.5% in 2021 to 42,915 – the highest number killed on American roads in a single-year since 2005, U.S. regulators said Tuesday in its preliminary estimate.

The yearly increase is the highest reported since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) began using its current traffic fatality tracking system in 1975.

“We face a crisis on America’s roadways that we must address together,” said U.S. Transportation (USDOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.

In January, USDOT released a strategy designed to cut the soaring number of traffic deaths on American roads.

Traffic deaths surged after coronavirus lockdowns ended in 2020 as more drivers engaged in unsafe behavior like speeding and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

Traffic deaths in 2020 rose 6.8% and up 18% over pre-pandemic 2019 levels.

Forty four U.S. states and the District of Columbia all are projected to have an increase in traffic deaths.

NHTSA said the fatality rate in 2021 fell slightly to 1.33 fatalities per 100 million miles traveled down from 1.34 million in 2020, which was the highest rate since 2007.

One factor for the big jump in 2020 was that drivers who remained on the roads engaged in riskier behavior, NHTSA said.

As U.S. roads became less crowded, some motorists perceived police were less likely to issue tickets because of COVID-19, experts say.

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Coronavirus

Shanghai hits prized ‘zero COVID’ status but lockdown lingers

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© Reuters. A man looks over the barriers of a closed street during lockdown amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, in Shanghai, China, May 16, 2022. REUTERS/Aly Song

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By David Stanway and Martin Quin Pollard

SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) -Shanghai achieved its long-awaited milestone of three consecutive days with no new COVID-19 cases outside quarantine zones on Tuesday but most residents will have to put up with confinement for a while longer before resuming more normal life.

For other cities in China that have been under lockdown, three days with no new cases in the community usually means “zero COVID” status and the beginning of the lifting of restrictions.

The commercial hub of 25 million set out on Monday its clearest timetable yet for exiting a lockdown now in its seventh week, but the plan was met with scepticism by many residents who have seen isolation extended time and again.

“Normality is very far away,” said one Shanghai resident still stuck at home.

Shanghai plans to resume outdoor activities in stages, with some shops reopening this week, but with most restrictions on movement remaining in place until May 21, after which public transport and other services will resume gradually.

By June, the lockdown should be lifted, but residents will still be asked to get tested frequently.

More people were allowed out of their homes this week, with some joggers and dog walkers spotted. One man was seen fishing in a Shanghai creek.

But tall fences remained around many residential compounds and there were almost no private cars on the streets, with most people still confined to their homes.

It was not clear how many shops re-opened this week but in one positive sign, delivery apps showed more options for people to order from on Tuesday.

A social media account run by the ruling Communist Party’s official People’s Daily newspaper posted photographs on Monday evening that it said showed breakfast joints, restaurants and hairdressers opening up.

But one social media user described the post as “nonsense”.

“We have been locked in at home for two months … This story is meant for anyone else other than people in Shanghai.”

By Tuesday morning, the post had been deleted.

A video posted by another state-backed media outlet announced the reopening of a grocery store, showing about 10 members of staff in hazmat suits making heart shapes with their hands, but only two people who looked like shoppers.

A sign on the shop’s door said customers must present a negative COVID test and a pass showing they are allowed out of their home, among other requirements.

Overall, Shanghai reported fewer than 1,000 new cases for May 16, all in areas under the strictest controls.

INVESTMENT WARNING

China’s uncompromising “zero-COVID” policy has placed hundreds of millions of consumers and workers under various restrictions at a time when the rest of the world is lifting them to “live with the virus” even as infections spread.

Data this week showed the havoc wreaked on the economy by Shanghai’s lockdown and the curbs in dozens of other major cities, with retail sales and industrial output plunging at their fastest pace in more than two years in April.

The capital Beijing saw a 16% plunge in retail sales in April, the beginning of its current outbreak, according to Reuters calculations based on January-April data released on Tuesday. Property sales dropped 26%.

The American Chamber of Commerce warned that COVID controls would hamper foreign investment in China for years to come as travel curbs disrupt due diligence on projects. Big firms are also exploring alternatives for supply chains, it said.

China’s slowing economy will struggle to stage the kind of stunning recovery it achieved from the early depths of the pandemic two years ago, analysts and policy insiders say.

But China’s state planner said on Tuesday it would strengthen support for manufacturers, the service sector and small firms to mitigate COVID’s impact.

A meeting convened by China’s top political consultative body with tech executives was also being closely watched for signs of any easing of a regulatory crackdown on the sector that has weighed on growth.

Chinese shares closed higher on bets for looser regulatory scrutiny on the tech sector and Shanghai’s progress on COVID.

TIGHTENING IN BEIJING

Beijing’s latest daily case count was 52, with authorities discovering a few dozen new infections on an almost daily basis despite gradually tightening restrictions over the past three weeks or so.

Dine-in services are banned in the capital, some malls and other businesses are shut, public transport is curtailed and many residents have been advised to work from home.

Residents in some COVID-affected parts of Beijing’s Fengtai district were ordered not to leave their neighbourhoods, state television reported on Tuesday.

In Beijing’s largest district, Chaoyang, some compounds have closed side exits while main gates are manned by volunteers checking health credentials on the mobile app authorities use to track COVID.

Security personnel patrolled the banks of the Liangma canal, which has become a picnic spot in recent weeks for residents not allowed to go elsewhere. Signs had been put up asking people to “avoid crowds, gatherings and eating together”.

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