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U.S. reaches 500,000 deaths from the coronavirus

The number of dead rivals the populations of Atlanta or Sacramento, California.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 500,000 on Sunday, according to an NBC News tally — a milestone that underscores the grave threat the virus still poses even as more people are vaccinated.

The coronavirus has killed more than 2,462,000 people worldwide, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. More than a fifth of all deaths worldwide have occurred in the the U.S., which has less than 5 percent of the global population.

NBC News' tally showed that about 500,700 people had died of Covid-19 as of midnight Sunday ET. The number rivals the populations of Atlanta and Sacramento, California.

Full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak

More than 28,206,600 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., according to the NBC News tally. The average number of daily new cases has declined in recent days, however. The number fell below 100,000 on Feb. 12 for the first time in months.

Family and friends attend the funeral of Humberto Rosales, who died from Covid-19 complications, at Memorial Pines Cemetery in Santa Teresa, N.M., on Dec. 3.Paul Ratje / AFP via Getty Images

Public health experts and top government officials have said precautions must remain in place to slow the spread of the virus.

"We are still at about 100,000 cases a day. We are still at around 1,500 to 3,500 deaths per day. The cases are more 2½-fold times what we saw over the summer," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Sunday on NBC News' "Meet the Press."

"It's encouraging to see these trends coming down, but they're coming down from an extraordinarily high place," Walensky added.

CORRECTION (Feb. 21, 2021, 3:50 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated that the U.S. coronavirus death toll of roughly 500,001 more than doubled the number of Americans who died in battle during World War II. The Department of Veterans Affairs says there were 291,557 battle deaths in World War II, a figure that would exceed 500,001 if doubled.