COVID-19 has now killed just as many Americans as the 1918-19 Spanish Flu -- approximately 675,000 people, the Associated Press reported Monday

Scientists are hoping COVID-19 can become a mild flu bug with enough people getting vaccinated but it would take "a few years," according to Emory University biologist Rustom Anita.

“We hope it will be like getting a cold, but there is no guarantee,” Anita said. 

As the Delta variant continues to spread, the seven-day moving average of infections is now 146,182, marking a 6.1% increase from the previous week with a total of nearly 41.6 million total cases in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

According to data released Monday by Johns Hopkins University, the overall U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is 674,000. Winter may bring a new surge in cases and deaths as the University of Washington projects an additional 100,000 Americans will die of COVID-19 by Jan 1.

The Spanish Flu killed 675,000 Americans and a minimum of 50 million people worldwide. The CDC estimates that 500 million people became infected, accounting for a third of the world’s population at the time. The Spanish Flu records are rough estimates given the lack of modern medicine and a limited amount of scientific understanding as to what caused the illness. The Spanish Flu mostly killed babies and young adults in large numbers with no vaccine or antibiotics to treat it. The global population was also much smaller a century ago than it is today.

Global deaths from COVID-19 stand at 4.6 million, according to the CDC.

COVID-19 could potentially weaken as it mutates as more people get vaccinated and their immune systems attack the virus. Under an optimistic scenario, children who contract the virus will get a mild illness that will train their immune system, making them less vulnerable when they are older. 

“We will all get infected,” Antia predicted. “What’s important is whether the infections are severe.”

Just 64% of the U.S population has received one dose of the vaccine, with 54% being fully vaccinated.