The United States surpassed 700,000 deaths from the coronavirus on Friday, a milestone that few experts had anticipated months ago when vaccines became widely available to the American public.
An overwhelming majority of Americans who have died in recent months, a period in which the country has offered broad access to shots, were unvaccinated. The United States has had one of the highest recent death rates of any country with an ample supply of vaccines.
The new and alarming surge of deaths this summer means that the coronavirus pandemic has become the deadliest in American history, overtaking the toll from the influenza pandemic of 1918 and 1919, which killed about 675,000 people.
“This Delta wave just rips through the unvaccinated,” said Howard Markel, a medical historian at the University of Michigan. The deaths that have followed the wide availability of vaccines, he added, are “absolutely needless.”
The recent virus deaths are distinct from those in previous chapters of the pandemic, an analysis by The New York Times shows. People who died in the last three and a half months were concentrated in the South, a region that has lagged in vaccinations; many of the deaths were reported in Florida, Mississippi, Louisiana and Arkansas. And those who died were younger: In August, every age group under 55 had its highest death toll of the pandemic.
Ms. Stripling, a 38-year-old single mother, had not been vaccinated against the coronavirus, and now she had tested positive. Get some rest, her boss, Justin Grimball, reassured her.