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Speaking on the one-year anniversary of the pandemic declaration, White House chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci said Thursday he would have been "shocked" to hear a year ago that the U.S. coronavirus death toll would surpass 500,000.

Why it matters: It's a higher death toll than the number of U.S. soldiers killed in action in World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War combined. The White House projected on March 31 that the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans — even with strict social distancing guidelines in place.

What they're saying: "It would have shocked me completely. I mean, I knew we were in for trouble," Fauci told NBC's "Today" when asked if he would have been surprised a year ago by the eventual death toll.

  • "In fact that day, at a congressional hearing I made the statement, 'Things are going to get much worse before they get better.' ... But I did not in my mind think that 'much worse' was going to be 525,000 deaths."
  • Fauci reiterated that a significant factor in world-leading U.S. death toll was the politicization of the virus in the pandemic's early days: "Even simple common sense public health measures took on a political connotation. ... It wasn't a pure public health approach, it was very much influenced by the divisiveness we have in this country."

What's next: “There is light at the end of the tunnel," Fauci said, though he warned that Americans must continue to wear masks "at a minimum."

Go deeper: Many vulnerable Americans have received the coronavirus vaccine

Go deeper

Miriam Kramer, author of Space
1 hour ago - Science

China makes history with successful Mars landing

A model of the Tianwen-1 Mars rover is displayed during an exhibition at the National Museum of China in Beijing. Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP via Getty Images

A Chinese lander carrying a rover successfully touched down on Mars for the first time, state media reports.

Why it matters: This is the first time China has landed a spacecraft on another planet, and it launches the nation into an elite club of only a few space agencies to successfully make it to the Martian surface.

2 hours ago - World

UN: 10,000 Palestinians displaced in Gaza as Israel-Hamas fighting escalates

A Palestinian woman walks after she collects her belongings inside her damaged house following an Israeli air in the northern Gaza Strip. Photo: Ahmed Zakot/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The United Nations warned Friday that ongoing fighting between Israel and Hamas "has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis," in not only the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel, but "the region as a whole."

The big picture: More than 125 Palestinians, including 31 children have been killed in Gaza since fighting began Monday, per the Palestinian Ministry of Health. Eight people, including two children, have been killed in Israel, Reuters reported, citing Israeli authorities.