The tragic COVID milestone brought sorrow, but arrived amid a growing belief the United States’ worst coronavirus days may be behind it.

But as temperatures dropped, and Americans began travelling across the country to visit family for Thanksgiving and Christmas, the death count rapidly accelerated. It took just a month for the national death toll to surge from 300,000 to 400,000, a milestone reached on the eve of Bidens inauguration. The 500,000 toll came just a month later.
In absolute terms, the US death count is the highest in the world. On a per capita basis it is the ninth highest, according to Johns Hopkins University, behind countries such as Belgium, the United Kingdom and Italy.
Its nothing like weve ever been through in the last 102 years since the 1918 influenza pandemic, Anthony Fauci, the nations top infectious disease expert, told CNN over the weekend.
People decades from now are going to be talking about this as a terribly historic milestone in the history of this country.
But while it marked a moment of sorrow, the death toll arrived amid a growing belief that Americas worst coronavirus days may be behind it.
We are seeing the recovery from explosive spread over the holidays, Tom Frieden, the former head of the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age.
Its encouraging to see cases really plummeting, and with that were seeing a plummeting in hospitalisations and eventually in deaths.
The US is now recording around 60,000 new cases a day, significantly down from a peak of 280,000 in early January. The seven-day rolling average is at its lowest since the start of the northern winter wave in October.
Importantly, all 50 states have been recording plummeting infection rates. Thats a big change from earlier stages in the pandemic where good news in some regions was offset by soaring cases elsewhere in the country.
On Monday (AEDT) the US recorded 40 straight days of falling hospitalisations. Deaths have fallen from almost 3500 a day in early January to 1900 a day – a figure expected to keep declining.
The vaccine rollout, which was plagued by early glitches, has also been showing signs of progress. Around two million Americans are now being vaccinated every day, up from around 900,000 a day a month ago, as state governments smooth out kinks in their distribution systems.
So far, 44 million Americans – around 13 per cent of the total population – have received one vaccine dose.
Vaccines already appear to be having a dramatic impact in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities, which are home to some of the countrys oldest and most vulnerable populations.
The COVID Tracking Project this week released data showing that new cases in long-term-care facilities (LTCs) have fallen by 87 per cent in the US, with most of the drop occurring in the last three weeks. Deaths have fallen by around 70 per cent.
The decline in cases and deaths in long-term-care facilities has outpaced the country at large, suggesting the vaccine rollout was having a rapid, positive impact at preventing infections and deaths, the project said.
There are also promising signs that, while vaccine hesitancy remains disturbingly high, Americans are becoming more comfortable with the idea of getting the jab.
In December Alston Green, a retired graphic designer from New York told The Herald and The Age, that he was wary of getting the vaccine because of the history of medical experimentation on African Americans.
We have historically been used as guinea pigs, the 69-year-old said. That has created a sense of distrust.
After initially being sceptical of the COVID-19 vaccine, Alston Green has had two shots and feels optimistic about the future.
But after consulting with his doctor, he was convinced of its safety and effectiveness. Last week he became one of the 19 million Americans to have received a second COVID vaccination shot. According to medical experts, he is now at little risk of dying or becoming seriously ill from the virus.
It gives you a sense of confidence and comfort, Green said after getting the shot. Im beginning to feel more optimistic already.
While honouring the half-million Americans who have died from COVID, Biden offered hope that the pandemic could soon be brought under control.
This nation will smile again, he said. This nation will know sunny days again.