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A devastating milestone looms: 1 million US deaths from COVID-19

A person walked among flags near the Washington Monument in Washington in remembrance of Americans who have died of COVID-19.KENNY HOLSTON/NYT/file

It’s officially on the horizon: 1 million deaths in the US from COVID-19.

The United States will reach that heartbreaking milestone next month, according to the latest forecast from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC now predicts that the death toll from the pandemic that has wracked the country for more than two years will be 1,000,344 by May 21, up from 997,688 the week before.

It’s the first time the four-week forecast has reached that level. (Forecasters note that the number is an estimate and could turn out higher or lower.)

The number of COVID-19 deaths had been skyrocketing toward the million mark during the Omicron surge earlier this year, but the weekly pace of deaths slowed as the Omicron surge waned.

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The milestone arrives as public health restrictions are being eased and many Americans are trying to put the grim, harrowing days of the pandemic behind them.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, said this week the country has moved “out of the full-blown, explosive pandemic phase” into a “deceleration” phase, but experts have warned it’s not time to declare victory yet.

Cases and hospitalizations have started to gradually rise again, and the CDC is forecasting an uptick in deaths in coming weeks, as experts have sounded concerns about the arrival of the Omicron subvariants BA.2 and BA.2.12.1, and other subvariants.

A recent study estimated that if it weren’t for the highly effective vaccines, the situation could have been far worse. The study estimated that vaccinations by the end of last month had averted more than 2.2 million US deaths.

The CDC forecast is an ensemble forecast that combines multiple other models to gain the “wisdom of the crowd.” It is created by the lab of Nicholas Reich at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

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More than 6.2 million people have died from COVID-19 worldwide, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.



Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.