America this week passed another sad milestone in the COVID pandemic — now one in every 500 Americans has died of COVID-19 since the country’s first reported infection last year.

As of Tuesday night, nearly 664,000 people in the United States have died due to the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. In April 2020, the U.S. population was 331.4 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That means 0.2% of the U.S. population has died of COVID-19. Half of those deaths have occurred since Christmas 2020. COVID-19 deaths have increased due to the contagious Delta variant, with the number of average daily deaths nearly tripling during the past month. As of last week, the U.S. has also reported more COVID-19 cases in 2021 than in 2020. During the past month alone, the country has recorded 4.3 million new cases and more than 40,000 deaths.

The news prompted health officials to continue their call for all Americans to get vaccinated against the virus. About 75 million Americans remain unvaccinated. Unvaccinated people are 11 times more likely to die from COVID-19 compared to those who are fully vaccinated, according to a new CDC study.

Dr. Ajay Kumar, HHC’s chief clinical officer, noted that vaccines are the right strategy to prevent severe illness and death. While infection rates have been climbing, 90 percent of those infected came to hospitals with other medical concerns only to find out they had COVID because they were tested for the virus as part of protocol, Kumar added.

Dr. Ulysses Wu, HHC director of infectious disease, said vaccines are important because “It’s about protecting those who get the disease to make the illness less severe.”