EASTON — The Talbot County Health Department reported the 28th local death attributed to the coronavirus on Monday, Feb. 22.

The latest fatality comes as the U.S. surpassed 500,000 deaths linked to COVID during the course of the pandemic.

President Joe Biden marked the 500,000 deaths during a speech and moment of silence at the White House on Monday.

Biden called the number of virus deaths a “truly grim, heartbreaking milestone.”

“500,000 lives lost to COVID-19. It’s an unfathomable number, but each one represents a family that will never again be whole. To those who have lost loved ones: I know no words can numb the pain, but I hope you find some solace in knowing the nation grieves with you,” Biden said.

He has also ordered U.S. flags to be flown at half-staff until sunset Feb. 26.

Locally, Talbot County reported its 28th COVID death since the beginning of the year. The county — which has seen a comparatively low number of coronavirus deaths compared to other parts of the state and country — saw ten deaths from the virus in 2020.

The county health department has not disclosed details on the latest virus death. The Maryland Department of Health reports 17 of Talbot County’s coronavirus deaths have been among nursing home residents.

Of the total U.S. COVID deaths, 7,550 have occurred in Maryland, according to state health department. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports California and New York have had the most COVID deaths, with 49,105 and 46,600, respectively.

Biden also continues to push Americans to get COVID vaccinations.

“The vaccines are safe. For yourself, your family, your community, our country — take the vaccine when it’s your turn and available. That’s how we’ll beat this pandemic,” Biden said Monday.

Vaccination efforts have been challenged by supply and logistical challenges, technical snafus, including for signups at a new mass COVID vaccination center opening at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on Thursday, and “anti-vax” hesitation and skepticism toward the quickly developed vaccines.

Biden is deploying federal resources and U.S. military troops as part of mass vaccination efforts. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan also plans on opening a new COVID mass vaccination center on the Eastern Shore. That center is expected to open in March, according to state officials.

COVID metrics in Maryland and the U.S. have been improving with case rates, hospitalizations and the number of new deaths declining.

Hogan reported Monday that the positivity rate for COVID tests in Maryland dropped below 4% for the first time since Nov. 2. That is down 58% from a peak level of 9.43% in January.

The Maryland governor also marked the 500,000-death milestone. “Of the 500,000 lives lost to COVID-19, more than 7,500 are Marylanders. We mourn each and every one of them, and pray for their families,” Hogan said.

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