COVID-19 Has Killed More Americans than 9/11

We're passing grim milestones on a daily basis.

March 26, 2020, New York City, New York, USA: 3/26/20.New Yorkers cope with the Coronavirus Pandemic where stores are shuttered, make shift morgues are set up by hospitals and The Army Corp of Engineers lends a helping hand. Some New Yorkers, tired of sheltering in place, defied social distancing by excercising out doors in close proximity (Credit Image: © Starmax/Newscom via ZUMA Press)

A Newsweek report Sunday night noted that more Americans had already died from the novel coronavirus than in the eighteen-plus-year war in Afghanistan. As of this morning, we’ve passed the fatalities from the terrorist attacks that begat that war.


The U.S. covid-19 death toll reached over 3,000 on Monday night, surpassing the number of people who died in the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when 2,977 people were killed. The grim milestone comes from the latest figures updated by Johns Hopkins University, which has maintained an online tracker for the new coronavirus since January. At least 163,429 people in the U.S. have been infected.

The state of New York has the highest number of cases in the country, where over 67,300 have been infected and 1,228 have died. New York City, America’s most populous metro area, has been the hardest hit, with at least 914 deaths attributed to covid-19. New York was also the site of the worst terrorist-related death toll in U.S. history on September 11, 2001.

The 9-11 attacks took place at three locations, including the World Trade Center in New York, where 2,753 people died after terrorists hijacked American Airlines Flight 11 and United Airlines Flight 175, flying them into the two towers of the World Trade Center. The Pentagon in Washington, D.C. was also attacked, killing 184 people after terrorists flew American Airlines Flight 77 into that building. And 40 passengers and crew died in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, where United Airlines Flight 93 crashed.

Today, the coronavirus pandemic is officially more deadly than 9-11, and if the current projections from the White House Coronavirus Task Force are accurate, the U.S. will suffer many more 9-11’s worth of dead Americans in the coming weeks and months.

Back on March 12—less than three weeks ago, though it feels like three months—I mused that we were entering “The greatest crisis the nation has faced in my lifetime” and warned that it was likely to be “Worse Than 9/11 and the Great Recession Combined.” I may have seriously undershot the severity.

When I wrote that, my kids’ public schools were open and I was still teaching classes. Their schools are now shut down through the end of the school year and we’re in a state-wide shelter-in-place through at least mid-June. I’m tentatively scheduled to go back to the office May 11 but would be shocked were that to happen.

When I wrote that, the President was still downplaying the disease, comparing it to the seasonal flu. Now, he says he’ll be doing a “very good job” if less than 200,000 die.

FILED UNDER: *FEATURED, Afghanistan War, Health, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    There was a headline yesterday that the Fed expects the high range of unemployment to be 32%, that’s a Great Depression number and the number of deaths will soon exceed the number of serviceman/women killed in the Iraq war and Afghanistan, with the likelihood that the numbers of deaths will exceed the number killed in all wars since the Korean conflict by late spring.

    9/11 was a local event, where the populace could return to their lives within a week, while the rest of us observed the tragedy. Covid-19 will go on for months. This is the biggest public trauma since the Great Depression and like the depression it will change the way we live.

  2. steve says:

    Ok, now that we have them good and scared, time to reveal it really is a Democratic hoax. I am going next door to the ICU and we will start extubating the lefty, SJW volunteers who helped us pull this off. Do feel kind of sorry for the volunteers we had to knock off, but it is all for the cause!


  3. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    As of this morning there are 3,175 dead, from this virus, in the US.
    If we are looking at >100,000 dead…maybe 200,000?…this is going to be a long hard slog.

  4. Kylopod says:

    I live in NYC and was taking the subway to work for months, until about two weeks ago when we were all sent home to work remotely.

    I’ve been sick since early last week. I had a fever that went away, but the congestion remained. I spoke with several doctors over the phone, and the upshot was that I was not eligible to take the test, I likely was not going to be seeing anyone in person unless I went to an ER, and since my symptoms were relatively mild I was advised just to treat whatever I had like a regular cold or flu.

    Starting this Sunday night I began to feel it had reached a point that I was no longer breathing comfortably; it was like my airway was stuffed. This was at about the same time it was reported that a Michigan lawmaker just a year older than me (43) had died from the virus after neglecting to seek medical treatment; the same was true of that guy from the Arrows, though he was much older. These stories scared the hell out of me, as I had this image my mind of my breathing problems just getting progressively worse until I would finally go to the emergency room, but only after it was too late. But I wasn’t sure I should rush to the ER immediately.

    Yesterday I was on the phone with various urgent care facilities in the neighborhood, and I finally got into a video-conference with a doctor. He said that it does indeed sound like I have the virus, he said I was relatively low-risk given my age and lack of serious health problems, but that if my breathing worsens in the next few days, then I should go to the ER.

    I spoke with my boss and took off the rest of the day, and then I took some Day-Quil and slept. I was also having a horrible headache. When I woke up later, I found I felt much better. My headache is mostly gone, and my breathing has improved considerably.

  5. Kari Q says:


    Best wishes for a speedy and complete recovery.

  6. wr says:

    I remember there has been one regular poster here who has repeatedly said that as bad as Trump is, Bush was worse, because Bush was responsible for many more deaths.

    I can’t remember which poster this was… but I’m wondering if he might be willing to reconsider…

  7. Kylopod says:


    I remember there has been one regular poster here who has repeatedly said that as bad as Trump is, Bush was worse, because Bush was responsible for many more deaths.

    I’ve made that point before (I’m not the only one here who has, though), but I made it clear that this evaluation was subject to change, depending on what happened going forward. I said early on that the country would be in serious peril if Trump had to confront a real national crisis.

  8. Teve says:

    @wr: That could’ve been other people you’re thinking of, but it could’ve been me too, because I do believe that Bush was the worst president in my lifetime because he is responsible for getting many hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis killed. We are early in this pandemic and we don’t know what the body count is going to be, but absolutely it’s going to be worse than it would have been because of Trump. Let’s all cross our fingers and pray to whatever deity you have that the eventual numbers don’t cause me to reconsider.

  9. Teve says:

    Creationists are entertainingly stupid to me, so I check their websites on a daily basis. Here’s a nice one.

    March 31, 2020 at 2:26 am
    Influenza kills an average of 500,000 people every year. Are we to shut down the global economy every flu season? There is no quick recovery from the economic hit this has already taken. We are headed into a depression and jobs will not be available. This is the destruction of the middle class the socialists have been salivating over in the United States.
    Socialists see people as nothing more than animals to be controlled and slaughtered as necessary. They have a love affair with mass murderers, like Che Guevara and Mao. The only thing that matters is they helped to reduce the global population. This is why they salivate like Pavlov’s dogs over the number of children murdered through abortions.
    China lies about everything. They are not allowing any independent verification. They can claim anything they wish, but will not allow the WHO to do any testing in any city. Lying is a socialist value, since the ends justify the means.


  10. @Kylopod: So sorry to hear this. I hope you get well soon.

  11. mattbernius says:

    I wish you the speediest of recoveries. Here’s to you continuing to feel better.

  12. Neil Hudelson says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    There was a headline yesterday that the Fed expects the high range of unemployment /to be 32%, that’s a Great Depression number

    UE hit a peak of 25% during the Great Depression, so this would be about 30% worse. On the flip side, the Great Depression lasted around a decade; let’s hope 18 months is the worst case scenario for us.

  13. OzarkHillbilly says:


    When I woke up later, I found I felt much better. My headache is mostly gone, and my breathing has improved considerably.

    Fingers crossed that you continue to improve.

  14. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Lying is a socialist value, since the ends justify the means.

    Huh. trump is a socialist. The things I learn here.

  15. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: May you continue to get better! Hope you have sufficient chicken soup available….

  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve: Glimpses into the hard core RW mind are frightening. And a lot, maybe most, of Republicans at least halfway belief this stuff.

  17. Kathy says:


    I believe quite firmly on not irritating myself, so I stay away from such media 🙂

    As to the content you posted, in physics terms it’s not even wrong. Warnings are issued for every flu season, vaccines are distributed and applied, drugs have been developed to treat the flu, and the reason social distancing and lock downs are not used for flu season is there are other means of dealing with it.

    Hopefully we’ll get a vaccine for the novel coronavirus soon. More hopefully, we’ll find a good treatment. Then when it hits again, and it will, we may deal with it without shutting down the world’s economy.

  18. grumpy realist says:

    @Kylopod: You may want to quarantine yourself for a longer period of time to make sure your viral load drops. There’s a report out indicating that the virus lingers around longer than expected even after your symptoms go away and they’re not sure whether people are still contagious during that period.

  19. grumpy realist says:

    (This explains why this virus is so contagious–if it spreads even before the symptoms show up and sticks around after you “get over it.”)

    P.S. I also read an article where they’re zeroing in on exactly what the virus is looking for (that dratted protein spike fits into certain human body receptors). One suggestion has been a medication which “fills all the seats first” so the virus is blocked. I don’t know how this would work with the rest of the body’s processes (presumably we have the receptors for some good reason) but if this could work out we would simply continually dose ourselves with a blocker. Probably not a good long term strategy, but could be used as a stop-gap until a vaccine is developed.

  20. grumpy realist says:

    Huh. At least one group has found an anti-body that works against COVID-19 and binds tightly. Looks like if we can tamp down on the spreading of the virus for a while that there will be a passel of treatments available this September…..hold on, guys….

  21. Gustopher says:

    @wr: Also might have been me. Bush killed about a million Iraqis, when all is said and done, and utterly destabilized the region.

    So far, Trump is doing less worse than that. It’s subject to change, and he might surpass those numbers, but not yet.

    We also don’t know how hard it will be to contain this virus indefinitely while it rages in the rest of the world. Let’s see how South Korea, the current gold-standard, holds up — although there they have the advantage of no active borders.

  22. Gustopher says:

    We’re at about 800 Benghazis right now.

  23. Blue Galangal says:

    @Kylopod: I hope you continue to improve. That sounds scary as fk.

    @Gustopher: In just a few short Scaramuccis, too.

  24. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    Chalk me up as another poster who has made the Bush/Trump comparison. And I always included non-US deaths in that total.

    For the US itself, this will cause more casualties than Bush’s wars combined, so Trump is rising fast. I’m sure he’ll be happy to be #1.

    I foresee a period in the near-ish future (before end of April) where EVERY DAY is a 9/11 casualty count or worse. And even then I’m not sure how many people have grasped that even if we successfully flatten the curve (as MAY have happened in my home state of Washington), that doesn’t mean things are going to immediately get better. It means ultimately fewer deaths, but they get spread out over months. We are still far closer to the beginning of this than the end.

    This epidemic would have been a disaster even to better men and more effective governments-but it didn’t have to be this bad. Trump will own that historically, even if he manages to avoid much blame now. It baffles me how his support has risen these days–even with a rally around the flag factor, the mis-steps have been so big and glaring.

    Scary times.

  25. Monala says:

    @Kylopod: thinking of you, and hoping you recover soon.

  26. Joe says:

    I wish you a speedy and complete recover, Kylopod, and I wonder whether we will soon get a good test to confirm whether people have been exposed to or had the virus, just so you know for sure how to comport yourself going forward. I think that will become more important as we determine there have been more exposures or asymptomatic victims who will be in a different risk group going forward.

  27. grumpy realist says:

    @Joe: Germany is working with that policy. Will be interesting to see how it gets implemented.

    (And then of course all our resident libertarians will scream bloody murder about people having to “show their papers” and insist their constitutional rights are being infringed. Sometimes I think we are a species too stupid to continue existing.)

  28. EddieInCA says:


    I emailed you a bit ago.

  29. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Best wishes for continued recovery…

  30. Michael Reynolds says:

    Bush was never even close to being as bad as Trump. Yes, Bush managed to kill a bunch of people unnecessarily, but Bush was never a danger to the constitution and the rule of law. Job one, it’s right in the oath: preserve, protect and defend the constitution. Bush was a fool, a dupe, a reckless clown, but he was not striking at the foundation of this country.

    Morality aside for the moment, in terms of the job of POTUS, the wrongful deaths of foreigners is not the equivalent of an attack on our own country.

  31. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:


    We’re at about 800 Benghazis right now.

    How many “but-her-emails” is a Benghazi?

  32. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Sure. There are lots of “standards/measures” that can be used when judging someone. If you want to look at it from a pure America-First position then obviously Trump is worse than Bush, for the reasons you stated. More dead Americans and significant–possibly fatal–damage to the Constitution and our political infrastructure. It’s just that the “standard” being referred to when you talk about how many deaths in the world can be traced back to US Presidential policies includes non-US deaths and does not allow just setting morality aside, even temporarily.

  33. DrDaveT says:

    As things stand now, it will be a miracle if we never reach a period where more people are dying every day than died in 9/11, including deaths from debris-induced illness.

  34. Mu Yixiao says:

    @grumpy realist:

    And then of course all our resident libertarians will scream bloody murder about people having to “show their papers” and insist their constitutional rights are being infringed.

    If I had to align myself with any political philosophy it would be libertarianism. And I have no fracking clue what you’re talking about.

    Why do you think libertarians would object to everyone having access to a test that will let them know if they have or had COVID-19? Access to information that provides individuals with information and lets them make their own choices based on that information is fairly central to libertarian philosophy.

    If that test is mandatory (which then means government records), it starts becoming more of an issue. And not just for libertarians. There are a lot of people across the political spectrum who would have issues with that.

  35. Jen says:

    @grumpy realist:

    (And then of course all our resident libertarians will scream bloody murder about people having to “show their papers” and insist their constitutional rights are being infringed. Sometimes I think we are a species too stupid to continue existing.)

    One of my friends, very liberal and pretty much as far as one can get from being a libertarian, has already posted about Germany’s considered policy and said something along the lines of “hell no, this is a license to discriminate.”

    This is going to be really tricky territory, but I would think it falls along the lines of foregoing a right for the common good (such as denying exemptions to vaccinations).

  36. Jen says:

    @Mu Yixiao: This is what is being discussed/considered by Germany. Papers to prove you’re recovered.

  37. Mu Yixiao says:


    Thank you for the link. The link in Joe’s post wasn’t obvious.

    I’ve had a couple drinks, so I won’t be commenting anymore tonight, but… Yes. I can see quite a few problems with that type of program being instituted in the US. The biggest is that (if I read the article correctly) the government controls the certificates. Therefore the government decides who is allowed to move about and who is restricted.

    At the risk of invoking Godwin… I’d rather not take the lead from Germany on that topic.

  38. senyordave says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: How many “but-her-emails” is a Benghazi?
    Not sure on that one, but I believe that
    1 but her emails = 10 you can keep your own doctor

  39. senyordave says:

    It doesn’t matter how many people die from coronavirus, because if you add up all the Americans who died from the flu during Obama’s two terms the number is far higher. At least that would be Trump’s argument.

  40. DrDaveT says:

    Some really excellent graphics at the Financial Times website, comparing various countries and localities as time series for confirmed cases and deaths.

  41. Kathy says:

    @Just Another Ex-Republican:

    One big difference I see between Bush and Trump, is that Bush was defensive of his record when confronted with failure, while Trump either ignores failure, blames others for it, refuses to admit he failed, and on top of that demands to be recognized as the bestest ever.

    Trump also has a very annoying, damaging trait. He rails about how people or organizations should do things, when he has it in his power to compel them to do so, or to fire them for refusing. He spent several days last week, for example railing against GM about ventilators, when he could invoke the defense production act to compel GM, or any other company. Or when he said, repeatedly, that Sessions ought not to have recused himself from the Russia investigation, long before Mueller was appointed. He could have ordered Sessions to rescind his decision, or replaced him with someone else.

  42. CSK says:

    Trump has said that one of his best techniques for doing a deal is whining. That’s how he gets what he wants. “I whine and I whine…”

  43. Monala says:

    @senyordave: So we don’t include all the people who got the flu during Trump’s term?

  44. Gustopher says:

    @Monala: I think they count as part of Obama’s legacy of the flu…

  45. Joe says:

    @Kathy: As a corollary to your point about things in Trump’s control, whenever he says he doesn’t believe someone or think that something is true, I think, “don’t you have some agency whose actual job is to go and find out whether it’s true?”

  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:


    About 10% of U.S. residents get influenza each year. About 100,000 are hospitalized and 36,000 Americans die each year from the complications of the flu.

    Good luck on Trump trying to make the argument you suggested. The MAGAots will buy it, but they’ll buy anything.

  47. Just Another Ex-Republican says:

    @Kathy: The list of Trump’s damaging traits and flaws fills textbooks.

    Specifically in regards to his habit of railing about rather than doing, it’s because he’s basically a troll. A combination of coward and bully. Even when he fires people he almost always has someone else actually deliver the news, or he sends off a tweet. Actually calling someone in and saying You’re Fired? Literally only happened on his TV show–he is far too cowardly and simply irresponsible to actually do that himself. He’s a keyboard bully. I’ve seen variations on the “He’s a poor man’s idea of a rich man, a dumb man’s idea of a smart man” etc multiple times here. Among those variations is he is a cowardly mans idea of a strong man. It’s EASY to pontificate on how easy things would be if people did what you wanted or desired (see, for example, this post of mine and most online comments actually), but actually doing is considerably harder.

    Unfortunately you don’t confront a pandemic with the President you want, just the President you have. We are paying the price of decades of propaganda dumbing down the American voter and glorifying an Imperial President who will Save (or Damn) Us All (depending on party).

  48. grumpy realist says:

    @Mu Yixiao: The German idea is that you get tested to show that you are immune and have a passport showing such. Then, if the police ask you why you are out of your house, you show them the passport. If you can’t show one, then I assume you are carefully escorted back to your house and warned to remain there under the existing quarantine rules.

    Considering the complaints that libertarians have made about much minor regulatory requirements (regulation of workers’s rights in business, anyone?) I have no doubt but that the noisier libertarians will be blowing their tops.

  49. An Interested Party says:

    This is the destruction of the middle class the socialists have been salivating over in the United States.

    Much like their fearful leader, leave it to somebody in this crowd to project EVERYTHING…the decimation of unions has led to a decline in the middle class, and the last time I checked, it wasn’t socialists who helped to destroy unions …this person probably thinks s0-called “right to work” laws are great…

  50. Teve says:

    @An Interested Party: i’ve had several retail jobs in my life, absolutely every one of them awful compared to my current job. Why? Because now I’m in a union. I make enough to live now.

  51. Han says:

    And two days later, we’re at two 9/11’s.