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California becomes first state to surpass 50,000 COVID-19 deaths

New variants threaten progress on combating COVID
New variants threaten progress on combating coronavirus 03:41

California has become the first state to surpass 50,000 COVID-19 deaths. The state reached 50,972 coronavirus-related fatalities on Thursday.

New York is close behind, with more than 47,000 deaths, followed by Texas, with more than 42,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. No other country has lost more lives to the yearlong pandemic than the U.S.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County announced 806 backlogged deaths, which had initially not been properly counted during the surge between December 3 and February 3, pushing the state past the grim milestone. During the surge, officials said, many deaths were not reported due to the sheer volume of records. 

"It is heartbreaking to report on this large number of additional deaths associated with COVID-19 and a devastating reminder of the terrible toll the winter surge has taken on so many families across the county," said Barbara Ferrer, director of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health. 

"Improving vaccine access to areas of the county that have been hard hit is our priority, and these tend to be areas where many Black and Latinx residents live," Ferrer added. "We have opened additional sites in these areas and are working with community groups who are assisting with registering people in these communities for vaccination." 

Biden orders flags lowered to commemorate 500,000 U.S. COVID deaths 15:27

More than 3.5 million people have been infected by COVID-19 in California alone, according to Johns Hopkins. The state leads the country in coronavirus infections, followed by Texas, Florida and New York.

California Governor Gavin Newsom plans to reopen schools soon — despite facing criticism from teachers' unions. The effort to recall Newsom has been growing in recent weeks.

The new figures out of California come just days after the U.S. reached 500,000 total deaths from the virus. It has been more than one year since the U.S. confirmed its first case of the virus, but the death toll has only intensified in recent months.

"That's how you heal — you have to remember," President Joe Biden said Monday night, surrounded by candles at the White House, as the flag was lowered to half-staff. "And it's also important to do that as a nation. Those who have lost loved ones, here's what I know: They're never truly gone. They'll always be part of your heart."

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