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Covid-19: A look at hardest hit states as nation mourns 500,000 lives lost

The U.S hit an expected but still grim milestone Monday afternoon as the Covid-19 death toll exceeded 500,000. 

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris planned a Monday evening moment of silence and candle lighting ceremony to honor the lives lost.

C-SPAN Candles were lit along the steps at the White House on Monday, February 22, 2021 as a memorial for the more than 500,000 lives lost in the U.S. to Covid-19.

Five hundred flickering candles flanked the South Portico steps up to the White House, marking just the second time the nation collectively memorialized those who have died as a result of the pandemic.

In an emotional speech before the ceremony, the president, who has mourned the deaths of a wife and two children, said:

“We have to resist becoming numb to the sorrow. … I promise you the day will come when the memory of the loved one you lost will bring a smile to your lips before a tear to your eye.” 

In terms of deaths per million people, New Jersey has by far been the hardest hit by Covid-19 fatalities, recording 2,568 deaths per million residents since the pandemic began, according to SFBay tracking. Despite California leading the nation in total deaths, the state’s per capita rate is less than half of that in New Jersey. 

The California death toll is nearing the 50,000 mark. 

Jesse Garnier/SFBay Heat map reflecting U.S. Covid-19 deaths per capita with data through Sunday, February 21, 2021. States with the highest death rates per million people are shaded in the brightest blue.

While most of the country has recently seen a decline in community spread, some are instead experiencing small spikes in daily new cases and test positivity rates. Alaska, Iowa, Kansas, North Dakota, Washington and Wyoming are reporting an increase in new cases as compared with the past week, Johns Hopkins reports. Test positivity rates are up in Arkansas, Kentucky, New Jersey, South Dakota, Tennessee, as well as in North Dakota and Wyoming.

The situation in North Dakota is particularly alarming given that the state maintains the nation’s highest per capita infection rate with 130,660 confirmed cases per million residents. California holds the solemn record for the highest number of total cases — more than 3.5 million — but its case rate of 89,323 per million residents is substantially lower than in North Dakota. 

In the Bay Area, Alameda County hit its own sad milestone with Monday’s health department update reflecting a total of 1,200 deaths. 

Here are the latest Covid-19 statistics from around the nine-county region:

Nik Wojcik/SFBay Covid-19 cases and deaths in each of the nine Bay Area counties as of Monday, February 22, 2021.
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