WHO: Almost 15M people worldwide have died from COVID-19 or health care impacted by pandemic

We are inching closer to a grim milestone. The World Health Organization said that almost 15 million people have died directly from COVID-19 or due to overwhelmed health care systems.

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When the two causes of death are combined, it’s double the official death toll of 6 million people, The Associated Press reported.

The United Nations agency released its latest report, calling the data “sobering.”

The head of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said the report should make countries invest more in their health care capacity so they don’t see the same issues during future health emergencies, the AP reported.

The group tracked the actual number of deaths caused by COVID-19 or deaths from people who had conditions that were left untreated because of the burden the coronavirus put on health care systems because they were full of COVID-19 patients. The group estimated that between 13.3 million and 16.6 million deaths were caused by the virus or related to it from January 2020 through December 2021.

The scientists used country-reported data and statistical modeling but didn’t break down those numbers into deaths from the virus and other causes, the AP reported.

Most of the deaths came from Southeast Asia, Europe and the Americas.

“This may seem like just a bean-counting exercise, but having these WHO numbers is so critical to understanding how we should combat future pandemics and continue to respond to this one,” Albert Ko told the AP.

Ko is an infectious diseases specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. He was not part of the WHO research.

Johns Hopkins said that there have been a total of 81,620,403 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in the U.S., with 996,705 deaths as of Thursday morning.