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Visualizing 500,000 Deaths From COVID-19 in the US
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=58433"><span class="small">Eve Conant, Kelsey Nowakowski and Oscar A. Santamarina, National Geographic</span></a>   
Tuesday, 23 February 2021 09:12

Excerpt: "Research into our evolution shows that the human brain is not inherently wired to make sense of large numbers."

A patient hospitalized with COVID-19. (photo: Belga)
A patient hospitalized with COVID-19. (photo: Belga)

Visualizing 500,000 Deaths From COVID-19 in the US

By Eve Conant, Kelsey Nowakowski and Oscar A. Santamarina, National Geographic

23 February 21


he United States has reached a grim milestone—the moment when half a million Americans have lost their lives to the coronavirus. It’s a staggering number that’s painful to think about, and even harder to picture. Research into our evolution shows that the human brain is not inherently wired to make sense of large numbers; other studies show that people also have become adept at suppressing trauma to cope with grief. In 2020, the U.S. saw a more than 15 percent increase in deaths over the prior year, the highest year-on-year rise in deaths across the U.S. since 1918, which experienced both a global flu epidemic and the First World War.

The colossal death toll forces us to confront a distressing number that has affected some groups more than others. Most of the dead have been Americans 65 and over. People of color are also dying at disproportionate rates: Deaths among Black Americans are 1.9 times higher than among non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics and Latinos 2.3 times higher, and Native Americans 2.4 times higher. The deadly sum of it all is hard to fathom.

What does the loss of so many lives look like? Here are some ways to envision what 500,000 really means.

There are 525,600 minutes in a year. That’s one COVID-19 death per minute, for almost an entire year.

A line of 500,000 caskets, laid end to end, would stretch for 645 miles. Those coffins would reach from New York City to Indianapolis.

It would take a wall almost nine times the length of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C., to list the names of every American who died from COVID-19. The 58,318 names of those who perished in the Vietnam War are etched in the monument’s black granite.

It would equal nearly all the fast-food cooks in the country. In 2019, a year before the pandemic led to massive unemployment, there were 527,220 cooks in the industry.

Roughly the same number of Americans flocked to the Woodstock music festival in New York in 1969 as have died of COVID-19. Newspapers estimated that half a million came to celebrate “three days of peace and music.”

Losses to COVID-19 are about 25 percent greater than the U.S. military death toll in World War II. The official count of service members lost in that war is 405,399.

It would be like losing all the inhabitants of Atlanta, Georgia. In 2019 the city had a population of 488,800.

It might look like losing all the school bus drivers in the U.S. In 2018, there were 504,150 drivers transporting students and special clients, including the elderly and people with disabilities.

It would be as if we lost all U.S. Postal Service workers. The postal service had 496,934 career employees in 2019.

It would equal all the public-school teachers in Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oregon. Those states combined had 499,196 teachers in 2017.

If each death were marked with the blink of an eye, it would take 14 hours of rapid blinking to count off all the victims.

If measured in the skies, 500,000 is a hundred times more than all the stars visible to the naked eye.

These figures do not include tens of thousands of deaths that may have been related to the virus but were not recorded as COVID-19 deaths, such as deaths before testing became more widely available. your social media marketing partner
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 February 2021 09:43