BOSTON (AP) — Massachusetts' COVID-19 death total climbed past 20,000 on Wednesday.
There were 54 deaths reported on the day, bringing the total number to 20,008 since the start of the pandemic.
The state also reported another 27,600 confirmed new cases of the disease as the highly contagious omicron variant spreads, pushing the total number of cases in Massachusetts to more than 1.1 million since the pandemic's beginning.
The average age of patients who died of COVID-19 in Massachusetts was 73.
Hospitals are feeling the strain.
There were more than 2,400 individuals hospitalized with the disease Wednesday with more than 425 in intensive care units. The surge has prompted state officials to call on hospitals to postpone or cancel nonessential elective procedures.
Gov. Charlie Baker has also deployed hundreds of Massachusetts National Guard members to help at understaffed hospitals.
Wednesday's sobering marker comes less than two years after the state recorded its first COVID-19 related death on March 20, 2020.
At the time, state health officials had recorded more than 3,100 confirmed cases. Just last month, on Dec. 29, the state broke more than 1 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with many more likely not reported.
The number of deaths quickly began to rise, with the state breaking 1,000 deaths just a month later on April 15.
It took just eight months, until Nov. 12, for the state to record 10,000 COVID-19 related deaths, and another 14 months to cross the 20,000 death threshold. Massachusetts is one of the more vaccinated states in the nation. Vaccines have been shown to reduce hospitalizations and deaths from the disease.
By comparison, for the five-year period from 2015-2019, Massachusetts recorded an average of 1,370 deaths annually from influenza and pneumonia combined, according to statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The 20,000 deaths in less than two years puts COVID-19 closer to the top two leading causes of death in Massachusetts — cancer (13,182 in 2019) and heart disease (13,280 in 2019).
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