FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Two years ago, Alfred Payne thought the life he lived was over. His traumatic encounter with COVID-19 left him with heart failure, kidney failure, pneumonia and 100 pounds in weight loss.
"My family was told by the doctors it is probably time to prepare. They didn't know what else they could do for me," said Payne. "Sometimes I just don't know how I'm here right now."
The U.S. COVID-19 death toll has now surpassed 1 million with more than 300 people dying each day.
In North Carolina, numbers show there have been 24, 588 COVID-related deaths since the start of the pandemic
READ MORE: Growing proportion of COVID deaths occurring among vaccinated: ABC News analysis
Data from the CDC shows ethnic minorities experience higher rates of COVID-related hospitalizations and death, but the demographics across the state show more white residents dying at higher rates.
"We're actually worse off than we were in the early stages of the pandemic. A lot of people aren't testing at a test site. They're testing at home. There's not any kind of way to record positive test results," said Jessica Dixon, a WakeMed Infection Prevention specialist.
According to Dixon, the public is significantly underreporting the virus burden in the community. Medical professionals believe COVID-19 is still a threat and your best line of defense is mask-wearing in public places.
As we surpass the 1 million milestone, officials are asking residents to remember the many lives COVID-19 took.
"I was supposed to be in that number and I guess there's something else here for me to do and that's why I'm still here, but for those who are not my heart breaks for them and their families," Payne said.