The United States has earned the dubious distinction of being the first country in the world to surpass one million COVID-19 deaths, more than two years after the country confirmed its first cases of viral infection.
According to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University, the world's worst-hit country this week surpassed the death toll once considered unimaginable.
While it marks a somber occasion for families in the US who lost their loved ones to the pandemic, it is also a reminder of how top US officials, including former President Donald Trump, initially brushed off the threat posed by the coronavirus and chose to live in denial.
While deaths from the cataclysmic virus have slowed in recent weeks, about 360 people continue to die every day across the country.
The US is the worst-affected country in the world in terms of COVID-19 deaths. At a distant second is Brazil, which has recorded just over 660,000 confirmed coronavirus deaths till now.
President Joe Biden last week said the somber milestone meant there are “one million empty chairs around the family dinner table.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House's chief medical adviser, was quoted as saying that the milestone was "terrible" and "tragic".
"It is terrible — horrible," he said. "To have that many people die of a transmissible disease in a two-year period — it is very sobering and very sad and tragic."
The COVID-19 death toll in the US is far more than the number of people who have died from AIDS in the country, and more than those who died from the 1918-1919 flu pandemic.
Lies and obfuscations
The one-million death toll is far higher than what most people could have imagined in the early days of the pandemic when then-president Donald Trump repeatedly downplayed the outbreak.
Just a few months into the pandemic, Trump made a prediction, saying, “Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people.”
Later that same month—in June 2020 — the US death toll crossed 100,000. The virus continued to consume precious lives.
When the US marked 500,000 deaths from COVID-19 in February 2021, Fauci admitted that the country had "done worse than most any other country" despite being a "developed, rich nation".
Trump's brazen lies about the pandemic were accompanied by his administration’s lack of preparation for the mammoth crisis.
Once he claimed that the country has “the lowest fatality rate in the world" from the coronavirus, drawing scorn and ridicule. The remark came when the US had the world’s ninth-worst mortality rate, with 41.33 deaths per 100,000 people.
Washington also left no stone unturned in weaponizing the pandemic against countries such as Iran through crippling sanctions. It created many hurdles for Tehran in its fight against the pandemic.
The US refused to lift sanctions on Iran when the pandemic was taking a heavy toll on ordinary people in the country. On the contrary, it intensified the coercive economic measures against the county.
According to Iranian health authorities, US sanctions seriously hindered access to essential medicine required for the fight against the pandemic in Iran.
A study jointly conducted by the Intelligence & Alliance Think Tank and the Taihe Institute in December last year blamed the US for being “most responsible for the fast global spread of the virus.”
Citing US economic sanctions, the research said that Washington had even added to the pains of people in several counties, including Iran.
Iranians, however, turned the adversity into an opportunity.
Today, the coronavirus map of Iran has no red or orange zones and the fatalities have also dropped significantly, which shows how the impact of sanctions on Iran's healthcare industry was effectively neutralized by Iranian scientists.