Timeline: How the US reached 500,000 COVID-19 deaths

Unfathomable one year ago, the United States has passed the grim mark of 500,000 deaths from COVID-19.

On Monday, President Joe Biden led Americans in observing a moment of silence to commemorate the grisly milestone, urging Americans to set aside partisan differences and fight the pandemic together.

Here is a look back over the past 12 months and how the US reached such a devastating death toll.

Early cases

On January 21, 2020, the US confirmed its first case of coronavirus.

The case was a citizen who returned from a trip to the Wuhan area in China. The man, in his 30s, was reported in good condition.

Former President Donald Trump described the presence of the virus as “just one person coming in from China” and said his administration had the new disease “totally under control”.

The first US death was announced on February 29 in Seattle. It subsequently emerged two other patients had died in California earlier that month.

Trump told reporters the deceased person was a “medically high-risk” woman in her late 50s – a health official in Washington state later said it was a man.

The outbreak spread rapidly across the country, forcing state governors and local authorities to impose lockdowns. It ravaged New York state early on and spread quickly nationwide.

By mid-March, the death toll had surpassed 100 with cases confirmed in every state. The US came to a standstill with schools closed and links to the rest of the world drastically reduced.

The economy soon struggled. On March 23, Trump said the country could not afford to continue the lockdowns.

“America will again and soon be open for business,” Trump said. “Very soon. A lot sooner than three or four months that somebody was suggesting. Lot sooner. We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.”

Trump left the management of fighting the pandemic to individual states.

On April 6, the US reported the third-highest number of reported deaths from the virus in the world, with 10,000 dead.

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