US hitting encouraging milestones with virus deaths and shots
In this June 5, 2021, file photo, two men talk as crowds gather on L Street Beach in the South Boston neighbourhood of Boston (Photo: AP)

COVID-19 deaths in the United States have dipped below 300 a day for the first time since the early days of the disaster in March 2020, while the drive to put shots in arms approached another encouraging milestone Monday: 150 million Americans fully vaccinated.

The coronavirus was the third leading cause of death in the US in 2020, behind heart disease and cancer, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). But now, as the outbreak loosens its grip, it has fallen down the list of the biggest killers.

CDC data suggest that more Americans are dying every day from accidents, chronic lower-respiratory diseases, strokes or Alzheimer's disease than from COVID-19.

The US death toll stands at more than 600,000 while the worldwide count is close to 3.9 million, though the real figures in both cases are believed to be markedly higher.

About 45 per cent of the US population have been fully vaccinated, according to the CDC, and over 53 per cent of Americans have received at least one dose of vaccine. But US demand for shots has slumped, to the disappointment of public health experts.

New cases are running at about 11,400 a day on average, down from over a quarter-million per day in early January. Average deaths per day are down to about 293, according to Johns Hopkins University, after topping out at over 3,400 in mid-January.

In New York, which suffered mightily in the spring of 2020, Governor Andrew Cuomo tweeted on Monday that the state had 10 new deaths. At the height of the outbreak in the state nearly 800 people a day were dying from the coronavirus.

Some states are faring worse than others. Missouri leads the nation in per-capita COVID-19 cases and is fourth behind California, Florida and Texas in the number of new cases per day over the past week despite its significantly smaller population.

Meanwhile, because of regulatory hurdles and other factors, President Joe Biden is expected to fall short of his commitment to share 80 million vaccine doses with the rest of the world by the end of June, officials said Monday.

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