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U.S. fatalities from COVID-19 surpassed 700,000 on Friday, according to figures from Johns Hopkins University, a toll roughly equivalent to the population of the nation’s capital Washington.

The grim threshold comes with an average of well over 1,000 dying each day, in a country where 55.7% of the population is now fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

After a heavily criticized early response to the pandemic, the United States has since organized among the world’s most effective vaccine rollouts.

But it nonetheless finds itself having notched the most fatalities in the world, far exceeding other front-runners such as Brazil and India, and facing a resurgence in cases due to the prominence of the highly contagious delta variant.

While the latest global coronavirus wave peaked in late August, the virus continues to spread rapidly, particularly in the United States.

The vaccination campaign launched by U.S. authorities in December — which had reached a peak in April, with sometimes more than 4 million injections per day — has meanwhile slowed considerably.

Masking remains a political issue in much of the country, dividing many Americans. Some Republican governors, such as those in Texas and Florida, have sought to ban mandatory masking in their states, citing individual freedoms.

The Democratic state of California on the other hand announced on Friday that COVID-19 vaccinations will be compulsory for all students.

In Washington, hundreds of thousands of white flags fluttered on the grass on the National Mall, not far from the White House, as somber reminders of those who have died of COVID-19 in the United States.

Nearly 4.8 million people worldwide have died since the outbreak began in China in December 2019, according to an AFP tally from official sources.

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