Covid-19 protesters display fake body bags in front of the White House on May 20, 2020. (AFP photo)
The United States has hit the grim milestone of 200,000 coronavirus deaths, with health officials saying that what is happening is just "the tip of the iceberg."
The US, which confirmed the first case of the disease about eight months ago, had reported at least 200,005 confirmed Covid-19 deaths as of mid-day Tuesday, more than any other country in the world, show data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Fatalities in the country have doubled during the past four months, after the virus claimed the lives of 100,000 people in the first four months of the outbreak.
The infectious disease has disproportionately killed people with underlying health conditions like obesity and asthma as well as people who are older, according to data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC also says that Black and Hispanic people, as well as Native Americans were disproportionately infected and killed by the virus.
"The idea of 200,000 deaths is really very sobering and in some respects stunning," Dr. Anthony Fauci, the top US infectious diseases expert, told CNN.
In addition, Dr. Syra Madad, senior director of the systemwide special pathogens program at New York City Health + Hospitals said, "Weíre only seeing the tip of the iceberg. Weíre only nine months into this pandemic."
Madad added, "I do believe that the true number of deaths associated with Covid-19 is much, much higher."
Earlier this month, Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said, "The worst is yet to come. I donít think perhaps thatís a surprise, although I think thereís a natural tendency as weíre a little bit in the Northern hemisphere summer, to think maybe the epidemic is going away."
Meanwhile, US President Donald Trump, who has been under harsh criticism for downplaying the virus, told reporters on Tuesday, when asked about the 200,000 deaths, that it is "a shame."
Leaving the White House for a rally in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the Republican president first ignored a question by a female reporter about why he had not commented on the high number of deaths.
However, when another reporter asked the same question, Trump said, "I think itís a shame." He added, "If we didnít do it properly and didnít do it right, youíd have two and a half million deaths."
He then blamed China again for the outbreak, saying, "They should never let this spread all over the world and itís a terrible thing."
In a video address to the annual United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday, Trump said, "We must hold accountable the nation which unleashed this plague onto the world - China."
Meanwhile, Democrat Joe Biden, Trumpís rival in the upcoming presidential election, criticized the president for mishandling the crisis.
Speaking at an aluminum plant in Manitowoc, Wisconsin, he said Trumpís "lies and incompetence" since the start of the pandemic have resulted in the "one of the greatest losses in American history."
He also tweeted out a large image of the number 200,000 with white on black, writing, "It didnít have to be this bad."
It didnít have to be this bad. pic.twitter.com/R2WqNeauiu
- Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 22, 2020
200,000 Americans have died from this virus.
Itís a staggering number thatís hard to wrap your head around. But behind every COVID-19 death is a family and community that will never again be the same.
Thereís a devastating human toll to this pandemic - and we canít forget that.
- Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) September 22, 2020
Trump has frequently questioned scientific experts - even those in his own administration - on things varying from the timing of a vaccine to reopening schools and businesses as well as the importance of wearing face masks.
Also on Tuesday, Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, one of the fierce critics of Trumpís handling of the pandemic, called on Americans to embrace science, saying, "This was preventable - not all of it, but much of it."
She was speaking in front of the thousands of tiny US flags that covered part of the National Mall in the nationís capital to commemorate the lives lost.