According to data released by Johns Hopkins University, more people have died from COVID-19 in 2021 than in 2020.
Despite President Biden’s promise to “shut down the virus,” since January 1, 2021, more than 353,000 deaths have been attributed to COVID-19. This is around 1,000 more than the number of people who died from COVID-19 during the first ten months of the pandemic in 2020.
According to medical experts, there are several key differences between 2020 and 2021 which could account for this change.
“Florida International University professor and Department of Epidemiology chairwoman Dr. Mary Jo Trepka told the New York Daily News that the much more contagious delta variant upped the number of cases,” the outlet reported, “making cumulative totals much higher. That was compounded by the lack of herd immunity because of low vaccine uptake.”
“So there were a lot of people being exposed, in the face of not really having herd immunity anywhere, and having the delta variant, which is much more contagious,” Trepka said.
Trepka also noted that caseload, as well as vulnerability to COVID-19, are important factors to consider.
“The more cases you get, the more deaths you’re going to have,” she said, while that also depends on who contracts COVID-19 since risk levels increase with factors like age and health.
“There’s a certain risk of death in all age groups, so the more cases you have the more deaths there’ll be,” Trepka said.
Another factor is that the emergence of the “delta variant” may have changed the vaccination rate required to achieve herd immunity.
“We’re hoping that we can improve vaccination rates so that we don’t get another sizable surge like we had this summer,” she said. “The level of vaccination that you need to get herd immunity depends on the pathogen. When you have something that’s very communicable, you have to vaccinate a much higher percentage of the population to get herd immunity.”
“The coronavirus doesn’t really know what year it is,” said Dr. David Dowdy, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. “And the death has largely come in waves.”
“I think it is fair to say that had we been better about vaccinating the population before this most recent wave, we could have averted a substantial number of those deaths,” Dowdy continued.
“It’s still true that even now a third of our adult population is not fully vaccinated, and so we still have a large number of people — you’re talking over 50 million people — who are at risk of getting really sick from this disease and potentially dying,” Dowdy said. “If we were able to get those people vaccinated, that would bring the risk of death from this disease down to — not to nothing, but to a very manageable level.”
According to The New York Times, there have been a total of 44.3 million cases of COVID-19 in the United States since the pandemic began, resulting in more than 714,000 deaths.
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