WATTS, LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- The United States is nearing one million COVID-19-related deaths -- a grim and once unthinkable milestone -- and the battle isn't over.
Hospitalizations and deaths are down significantly from a year ago, but with COVID-19 cases rising again, health officials are closely monitoring the situation.
On the eve of Inauguration Day, there was a somber ceremony in the Nation's Capital where 400 lights were placed around the Lincoln Memorial reflecting pool.
Then President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris attended the memorial in memory of 400,000 Americans who died of COVID-19.
Now, the administration is preparing to mark another grim milestone, one million deaths.
"Now the World Health Organization is saying globally more than 15 million, not the 5 million we had thought, so a lot of lives lost to COVID-19," said Dr. Jerry Abraham, director and chief vaccinologist of Kedren Vaccines.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky visited a vaccine clinic Thursday in Watts, joined by Los Angeles County Public Health Director Dr. Barbara Ferrer.
"It's a scary number and in fact, it's not just a number," Walensky said. "There are people that are missing 11 family members and so I think we have to remember, as we see the ticker go up and up and up and nearing that one million mark, that these are souls, lives lost, family members lost, mothers, daughters, brothers, sisters and so yes -- a tragic toll on this pandemic."
Walensky spent time with health care providers working to get residents out of underserved communities vaccinated.
"The work that's being done in centers like this and communities like this is truly extraordinary because everybody who really wanted a vaccine rolled up their sleeves, got it early," Walensky said. "But the hard work that is happening at centers like this is talking to people, understanding that hesitancy, going back for a second, third, fourth conversation and then they come forward and get their vaccine. It's trust."
Dr. Abraham was pleased to be able to talk to Dr. Walensky and tell her about their boots on the ground efforts in L.A.
"All sorts of groups came together to make sure vaccines were equitably available throughout the county of Los Angeles. It was great to be able to tell her that story," Dr. Abraham said.
COVID-19 infections are ticking up in L.A. County and across the country. Medical experts in Southern California say they're working to get more residents protected from severe illness, taking vaccines out of clinics and hospitals and bringing them to where people live.
"We want to strongly recommend and tell the public, get whatever vaccine is available to you now or whatever booster you're eligible for," Dr. Abraham said.