Comprehending the 300,000 people killed by coronavirus in America

It’s easy to become numb to the unrelenting deaths — the scale of our losses to the coronavirus is overwhelming.

But let us please take a moment to remember.

Patricia Dowd, the first person known to have died from COVID-19, passed in her home outside San Francisco on Feb. 6.

Since then, the pandemic has ripped through this country at a terrible speed, and we have passed yet another grim milestone: 300,000 deaths.

Imagine what it would be like lighting a candle for every American killed by this virus, and placing it in on the ground, each candle a foot apart.

We first saw more than 3,000 deaths from COVID-19 in a single day on Wednesday, Dec. 9.

To capture the scale of all coronavirus deaths this year, we will need a much bigger surface.

Our imaginary candles honoring the victims of COVID-19 would nearly cover the reflecting pool at the National Mall.

Coronavirus toll rivals wars with most deaths in American history

As the novel coronavirus continues to spread, Americans are struggling to comprehend the mounting deaths from the disease.

In less than a year, COVID-19 has taken more of our family members, friends and loved ones than some of the most painful events in our history, including major, years-long wars.

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Soon, each new day will be among our deadliest of all time.

Loss on an exponential scale

Since that first recorded death in early February, the virus has continued claiming American lives. At the start of the pandemic, we lost 100,000 lives every 110 days.

But in autumn and the first weeks of winter, the pace of casualties quickened: It took only 89 days to reach our last 100,000 deaths.

How the death toll compares with other years

One way to estimate the true cost of the pandemic is comparing the number deaths from all causes in 2020 to that of previous years.

The impact of COVID-19 is clear — this year was far deadlier than the ones before it.

American deaths first started rising above historical levels in March, and haven’t fallen back to those levels since.

Vaccines are coming, and there is hope that soon the this disaster will be under control and the daily toll will shrink.

But authorities warn of the terrible cost of the hard winter ahead. And let us not forget that the virus is still raging out of control.

In the 38 seconds it takes this video to loop, 94 Americans tested positive.

One more American died.

Mike Stucka and Shawn Sullivan contributed to this report.

Published 2:11 pm UTC Dec. 14, 2020 Updated 12:23 am UTC Dec. 15, 2020.

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