(HealthDay News) — As the highly contagious delta variant has swept across the United States, the country has reached a tragic milestone. COVID-19 has now killed more Americans than the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic did, when roughly 675,000 people died.

This happened despite vast gains in scientific knowledge during the past century, including the development of 3 powerful vaccines approved in the United States to fight the new coronavirus.

There was 1 important caveat to the latest milestone: The US population was one-third of the size it is today, so the 675,000 who died were a much bigger portion of the population, the Associated Press reported.

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By Tuesday, the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States had passed 676,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. About 1900 Americans are now dying in the United States every day, on average — the highest level since last March. A simulation model designed by researchers at the University of Washington predicts an additional 100,000 Americans will die of COVID-19 by Jan. 1, 2022, which would bring the total death toll to 776,000, the AP reported.

Vaccines could have made a difference. Sixty-four percent of eligible Americans are vaccinated, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that varies widely, depending on the state: Between 46 and 49% have been vaccinated in Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Mississippi, while 77% have gotten their shots in Vermont and Massachusetts.

Worldwide, COVID-19 has killed 4.6 million people. About 43% of the global population has received at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, according to Our World in Data.

Associated Press Article