The death toll from Covid-19 in the US has exceeded 500,000


The body of a patient who died is seen as healthcare workers treat people infected with the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, USA, December 30, 2020.

Callaghan O’Hare | Reuters

At 5 a.m. on July 11, Tara Krebbs received a call at her home in Phoenix. His mother was on the other side, crying hysterically. Tara’s father had woken up unable to breathe and was on his way to the hospital.

Charles Krebbs, 75, began showing symptoms of Covid-19 shortly after Father’s Day in June, first running a fever and then losing his sense of taste and smell. With local hospitals overwhelmed, he had been trying to recover at home, still awaiting the results of a Covid-19 test that had taken him weeks to schedule. His results were not yet available, even as EMTs rushed him to the ER.

Just a few weeks earlier, Tara had left a Father’s Day gift at her parents’ house with a card that said “next year will be better.” It was the last time he would see his dad until the night he died, when he was given an hour to say goodbye in person at the ICU. After nearly four weeks in the hospital, he lost his battle with the coronavirus in early August.

Charles Krebbs is one of more than 500,000 Americans who have died from Covid-19, a staggering number that comes about a year after the virus was first detected in the United States. based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. And for every one of those lives lost, there are children, spouses, siblings, and friends who have been left behind.

“I look at old photographs of him hugging me and you can see how much he loved me,Tara said of her father, who worked as a real estate broker and appraiser in Maricopa County. He was a music lover and history buff who enjoyed living close to his daughter and family. take your grandson to his first day of kindergarten and coach his minor league teams.

“He was just a loving, down-to-earth guy who loved his family more than anything else,” Krebbs said.

Tara Krebbs and her father, Charles Krebbs

Tara krebbs

Today’s sad milestone comes on the heels of some of the deadliest months of the pandemic. After a sudden spike in Covid-19 cases in the fall and winter, there were 81,000 deaths reported in December and 95,000 in January, both far exceeding the April peak of just over 60,000. At the same time, U.S. health officials are rushing to accelerate the of Covid-19 vaccines across the country.

Horrible milestone

Although the virus has been with us for more than a year, the scale of the death toll is difficult to understand.

When US health officials gave initial estimates of hundreds of thousands of deaths last spring, “people thought we were being hyperbolic about it, and that was clearly not the case. This is a horrible milestone to which we have come now, “Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House’s top medical adviser, told CBS News on Monday.

Almost as many Americans have died from Covid-19 as they were in WWI and WWII combined. The death toll in the United States represents a population roughly the size of Atlanta or Kansas City, Missouri.

“Even when you hear the death of half a million people, it seems like a very large number, but it’s hard to put it into perspective,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit organization focused on national health issues. . “It’s hard for people to hear these big numbers and put a face on them.”

One of the reasons is the nature of how these deaths have occurred often, in isolation and away from loved ones.

“What has been different from Covid from other mass casualty events is the lack of video or personal connection at the time of death,” Cox said. “Covid districts are so sealed off for security reasons that we don’t have news cameras there to show us what it really looks like. We hear a lot of important numbers, but we don’t have that personal connection unless we know someone.”

David Kessler, a Los Angeles-based author and grief expert who has been running an online support group for those who have lost someone to Covid, said 500,000 deaths is a number “the mind doesn’t want to understand. “.

“A number like that makes the world dangerous and we would rather not live in a dangerous world,” he said.

Looking for a benchmark, Kessler compared the Covid death toll to the two Boeing 737 Max aircraft crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed a total of 346 people.

“Think about how many 737 Maxs went down, how much news we had and the images we had,” he said. “You don’t realize that 500,000 people is the equivalent of almost 3,000 planes crashing. Eight would have crashed yesterday. Can you imagine if eight planes crashed every day?”

One of the leading causes of death in the US.

The death toll from Covid-19 places the disease among the leading causes of death in the United States. According to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease and cancer alone killed more than 500,000 people in one year in 2019, the most recent annual figures available. When the daily death toll peaked in January, Cox found in an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation that Covid was killing more people per day than any other cause.

Covid-19, however, is a single disease and not a group of diseases that make up the CDC’s broader categories of cause of death, such as heart disease and cancer. The Covid-19 numbers are even more severe compared to other specific diseases like lung cancer, which killed 140,000 Americans in 2019, Alzheimer’s disease, which killed 121,000, or breast cancer, which killed 43,000. .

In this way, Cox said, the death toll from Covid “really far exceeds any other disease.”


How the death toll from Covid-19

compares to other USA

Causes of death

35,000 Americans died of

Parkinson’s disease in 2019

43,000 died of breast cancer

50,000 died of the flu and

pneumonia

104,000 died of heart attacks

121,000 died of Alzheimer’s

disease

140,000 died of lung cancer

500,000 died of Covid-19

During the past year

Iconography courtesy of ProPublica

WeePeople project

How the death toll from Covid-19 compares to other US

Causes of death

35,000 Americans died of Parkinson’s disease in 2019

43,000 died of breast cancer

50,000 died of flu and pneumonia

104,000 died of heart attacks

121,000 died of Alzheimer’s disease

140,000 died of lung cancer

500,000 died of Covid-19 during the past year

Iconography courtesy of ProPublica’s WeePeople project

The effect of the disease is so radical that in the first half of 2020, it reduced life expectancy in the US by one year – a staggering drop, according to the latest CDC analysis.

The United States has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, with more deaths reported than anywhere else in the world. When adjusting for population, the United States is behind only the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Italy and Portugal in deaths per capita, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins University.

‘She meant a lot to a lot of people’

Isabelle Odette Papadimitriou was a respiratory therapist in Dallas, who spent the spring and summer caring for Covid patients at the hospital where she worked. In late June, she contracted the virus herself and died shortly after July 4, her favorite holiday. She was 64 years old.

Her daughter, Fiana Tulip, remembers her mother as someone who was “strong as an ox” and had weathered countless outbreaks of the flu in her 30-year career. A fan of the British royal family who treated her two dogs “like little humans,” Tulip said she was the kind of mother who would send packages to her daughter on Amazon as soon as she thought she needed something. After his death, Tulip received a pair of pink ruffled shoes that Papadimitriou had sent for Tulip’s daughter, his first grandson.

Over the summer, Tulip received calls from former colleagues and friends of her mother, from an employee at the local Papadimitriou doggie daycare to the owner of a storage unit he rented in Texas.

“The people who loved my mom were coming out of the closet,” Tulip said. “She meant a lot to a lot of people.”

The pandemic is not over yet

Coronavirus cases in the U.S. have plummeted in recent weeks and the pace of reported deaths is also slowing. The country is experiencing just under 1,900 Covid-19 deaths a day, based on a weekly average, up from more than 3,300 a day in mid-January, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

However, the death toll will continue to rise. Projections from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show a range of 571,000 to 616,000 total deaths from Covid-19 in the US by June 1, depending on various scenarios.

Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, on Sunday warned Americans to avoid a sense of complacency in Covid-19 despite declining cases, saying that “the basis for daily infections remains very, very high. “

The CDC has also identified at least three mutant virus strains in the US, some of which have been shown to be more transmissible than the dominant strain, although experts have largely said they hope that current vaccines provide some protection against these variants.

So far, approximately 44 million people, about 13% of the population, have received at least one injection of two-shot vaccines from Pfizer or Moderna, and President Joe Biden suggested during a CNN town hall last week that the country could return to something close to normal by Christmas.

But for those who have lost a loved one to Covid-19, Kessler, the grief expert, said things won’t be the same.

“If you talk about family members, we don’t recover from the loss,” he said. “We have to learn to live with loss.”

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