The US has passed more than one million COVID-related deaths, says the White House.
President Joe Biden said the country was marking “a tragic milestone” and each death was “an irreplaceable loss”.
It’s the highest official total in the world – although the World Health Organization believes the true death toll may be much higher elsewhere.
The US has also recorded more than 80 million COVID cases, out of a 330 million population.
The first confirmed case was reported on January 20, 2020, when a man flew home to Seattle from Wuhan in China.
The 35-year-old survived, after 10 days of pneumonia, coughs, fever, nausea and vomiting. But deaths began to be reported just a few weeks later.
In the two years since, death rates have ebbed and flowed as waves of the virus swept across the country – reaching highs of more than 4 000 a day in early 2021.
Public health experts give several reasons for the high US death toll – including high rates of obesity and hypertension, overworked hospital systems, some vaccine hesitancy and a large older population.
Each US state may have a slightly different way to define a COVID death, and such deaths are often not solely because of the virus.
“One million COVID deaths, one million empty chairs around the family dinner table, each irreplaceable losses,” said President Biden in a televised statement on Thursday morning.
“Our heart goes out to all those who are struggling, asking themselves, how do we go on without him, how do we go on without her?”
The president ordered the White House flags to be lowered to half mast to mark the milestone. (BBC)