Statement: Nearing 500,000 American deaths from COVID-19

Media Contacts
Matt Wellington

Former Director, Public Health Campaigns, PIRG

It’s time to put public health first


WASHINGTON  — The number of U.S. deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, which now stands at around 490,000, will soon surpass half a million people. The milestone will come a little more than a year after the first American death attributed to the virus.

In response, Matthew Wellington, U.S. PIRG’s public health campaigns director, released the following statement:

“This ‘milestone’ of 500,000 deaths is one of the most dubious in U.S. history — and one we didn’t need to achieve but for the failures of our elected officials. Yet somehow, even after COVID-19 has killed about one out of every 660 Americans, we still haven’t learned. 

“While it’s good news that the trends of cases and hospitalizations appear to be improving, and mass vaccination is on the horizon, many of the people who are supposed to protect us are still failing at that bedrock government responsibility. At the slightest sign of improved statistics, governors across the country have been rushing to ease or lift coronavirus restrictions, even though those restrictions helped curb the spread of COVID-19. We know from sad experience that this mad dash to reopen, without fully tamping down the virus, will lead to more unnecessary death. Now is not the time to let our guard down.

“We can choose to change the pandemic’s trajectory. To do so, we have to put public health before economic recovery. Before reopening. Before ‘getting back to normal.’ If we want to save our grandparents, our parents, ourselves, we must put public health first. In fact, the only way to repair the economy and return to normal at all is to put public health first.”