The U.S. Covid-19 death toll crept closer to 500,000 on Saturday, as hospitalizations continued a months-long decline.
The country recorded 2,706 new fatalities on Friday, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University, helping push the death toll to more than 496,000. While the seven-day average of newly reported deaths has been declining in recent weeks from record levels set in January, following on the heels of improving data on cases and hospitalizations, they remain higher than peaks seen in earlier surges.
President Biden last month, warning that the U.S. was in “a dark winter of this pandemic,” said he expected the death toll to top 500,000 in February.
His administration has been pushing to speed up the country’s vaccination program, seen as key to ending the pandemic, which will enter its second year next month. More than 59.5 million vaccine doses had been administered as of Friday, including more than 17 million second shots, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Winter storms this week, however, delayed shipments affecting roughly six million coronavirus vaccine doses across the country. The Biden administration said Friday it was taking steps to extend delivery windows and speed shipments.
Hospitalizations continued a steady decline, with 59,882 Covid-19 patients in hospitals around the country, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
An expanded version of this story appears on WSJ.com