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2 Years of COVID-19 by the Numbers

A new virus hit the U.S. in 2020 ­— and has altered millions of lives since

COVID's effects on the US since 2020
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Two years ago, on March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and life as we knew it changed in an instant. Countries locked down, schools met online, movie theaters went dark, workplaces shuttered, and hospitals became overrun with illness.

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​​We now know a lot more about the virus that causes COVID-19 and how to protect ourselves from the worst of it: We have lifesaving vaccines and disease-defeating treatments, and we know that good ventilation, high-quality masks and several feet of distance can help minimize its spread. ​

Still, COVID-19 continues to play a role in the everyday lives of many — especially those who have lost loved ones or continue to battle the pandemic’s physical and mental toll. ​

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Here’s a by-the-numbers look at the impact the coronavirus has had on Americans over the past two years, based on data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other experts.

78,855,000 cases of COVID-19 have been recorded in the U.S. CDC data as of March 1, 2022
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​In the early days of the pandemic, it was rare for daily new cases in the U.S. to top 25,000. Since then, we’ve seen more infectious versions of the virus emerge, including the delta variant, which drove daily case counts past 175,000, and the omicron variant, which shattered records when it infected more than 1.3 million people on a single day in January 2022. Globally, more than 441 million cases of COVID-19 have been reported, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center.

947,882 Americans have died of COVID-19; 93 percent were age 50 and older. CDC data as of March 1, 2022
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​Nearly 1 million Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic — the vast majority have been among people 50 and older. What’s more, 200,000-plus residents and staff in long-term care facilities have died from COVID-19, federal data shows. ​Globally, nearly 6 million people have died from COVID-19.

553,378,046 doses of COVID-19 vaccines have been administered. CDC data as of March 1, 2022
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By mid-December 2020, the U.S. had access to its first COVID-19 vaccine from Pfizer-BioNTech. Vaccines from Moderna and Johnson & Johnson (J&J) followed, and by April of 2021, Americans 16 and older were eligible for the shots. Younger children became eligible months later, though kids under 5 still don't have access to the vaccines today. As of March 1, 2022, more than 80 percent of the eligible population (Americans 5 and older) have had at least one vaccine dose, and nearly 90 percent of adults 65 and older are fully vaccinated with two shots of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine or one dose of the J&J vaccine. Booster shots, which experts say reinforce protection, especially against the highly contagious omicron variant, have been administered to 66 percent of the 65-plus population.

4,529,153 U.S. COVID-19 hospital admissions since Aug. 2020 and 69.9% (70%) were age 50 and up.CDC data as of March 1, 2022
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​Many people who get sick with COVID-19 are able to manage their symptoms at home, but not all. Roughly 4.5 million Americans have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since August 2020. ​​

Hospitals have borne a heavy burden these past two years with the influx of illness, and the toll has been especially great on health care workers, who have been overwhelmed and personally affected by the virus. Nearly 1 million of them have been infected, and more than 3,600 have died from COVID-19, according to the CDC.

American Indian or Alaska Native individuals are 2.2 times more likely. Hispanic and Latinos are 1.9 more likely, and Blacks are 1.7 times more likely to die from COVID-19, compared with their white peers. CDC data as of March 1, 2022
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COVID-19 has highlighted health inequities that have long persisted in the U.S. by disproportionately affecting racial and ethnic minority groups. American Indian and Alaska Native individuals, for example, are 3.2 times more likely to be hospitalized with COVID-19 than their white peers. That figure for Black Americans is 2.5, while Hispanic or Latino individuals are 2.4 times more likely to be hospitalized for COVID-19 than white individuals. Asian Americans are also more likely to get severely ill from COVID-19 and succumb to the disease than their white peers. Several factors influence health equity, the CDC says, including discrimination, access to health care, income gaps and housing.

814.9 million COVID-19 tests performed in the U.S. Source: Our World in Data, as of Feb. 22, 2022
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Testing turned a corner in the spring of 2021 when rapid at-home tests first hit store shelves. And it turned again in January of 2022, when the government said it would require private insurance and Medicare to pick up the tab for the over-the-counter kits (Medicare’s program is expected to start in early spring) and that all Americans could get four free tests from the federal government (four more will be available beginning the week of March 7). Experts say accessible, convenient testing is key to helping slow the spread of the virus. It’s also critical when it comes to treating COVID-19, since the new antiviral pills that can keep the disease from progressing work best when taken soon after symptoms start.

400 million masks to be distributed to Americans from the U.S. national stockpile Source: White House
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Love them or hate them, masks have been a major part of the pandemic since the spring of 2020. They could play a less prominent role this spring in many areas of the country, based on the latest guidance from the CDC, but don’t expect them to go away completely. Some experts predict they’ll come in handy during seasonal illnesses, like the flu. Plus, many people who are immunocompromised or otherwise at high risk for severe illness will opt to keep them on. Consult with your doctor if you have questions about your risk and the dangers in your community.

38 percent of people 50+ who left or considered leaving a job wouldn't have were it not for the pandemic. Source: AARP
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​Work culture has changed drastically since March 2020. Many employees have voluntarily resigned from their jobs or have switched careers completely. And lots of older adults have retired — in the past two years, the population of retirees 55 and older grew by 3.5 million, according to Pew Research Center — even if they had planned to work a few years longer. A recent AARP survey found that among those who had left the workforce, 1 in 5 retired earlier than planned because of the pandemic. Millions of U.S. adults have also lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Rachel Nania writes about health care and health policy for AARP. Previously she was a reporter and editor for WTOP Radio in Washington, D.C. A recipient of a Gracie Award and a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, she also participated in a dementia fellowship with the National Press Foundation.​

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