Over Half a Million

The death toll is staggering.

Today we passed the half-million mark in deaths from Covid-19. We are just over a year away from the first known case in the United States. and likewise a little over a year since the first death.

The good news is that the death rate has fallen recently, although the seven-day rolling average is still over 2,000/day.

To put this in perspective, in raw numbers this is more than died in WWII and is approaching the death toll from the Civil War (granted, not as a function of population size).

Regardless, as has been said on many occasions: this was not just a flu.

Thankfully vaccines are in progress.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Health
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. DrDaveT says:

    I’m bracing for a fourth national wave of infections and deaths as partially- and recently-vaccinated people (and non-vaccinated people relying on others to be vaccinated) start behaving as if this thing were already over.

    4
  2. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Anywhere from 40-70% of these deaths were avoidable, if not for Trump’s incompetence. In other words Trump is personally responsible for >200,000 deaths.
    https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/health/2021/02/11/lancet-commission-donald-trump-covid-19-health-medicare-for-all/4453762001/
    https://www.statnews.com/2020/06/19/faster-response-prevented-most-us-covid-19-deaths/
    Only Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee have been responsible for killing more of their own countrymen.

    7
  3. Kylopod says:

    I don’t think it will be long before people start saying the obvious: the Covid-19 pandemic is the deadliest crisis in American history.

    1
  4. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Kylopod:
    And Republicans will start blaming Biden.

    4
  5. DrDaveT says:

    @Kylopod:

    I don’t think it will be long before people start saying the obvious: the Covid-19 pandemic is the deadliest crisis in American history.

    The record nobody wants to break is 670,000 Americans dead of influenza in 1918-1919.

    Of course, it’s hard to compare a one-time pandemic with the cost of endemic killers like tuberculosis or “ordinary” flu. I guess it’s not a crisis if you’ve been living with it forever. That said, tuberculosis mortality death totals and mortality rates are today a small fraction of what they were in 1900, or 1950 for that matter.

    1
  6. Gustopher says:

    To put this in perspective, in raw numbers this is more than died in WWII and is approaching the death toll from the Civil War (granted, not as a function of population size).

    I think the raw numbers of deaths are a poor metric — estimated years lost is a better metric. It would still be horrific, but it would better match what people are experiencing. We consider the death of a 20 year old as much worse than the death of a 70 year old (for better or worse), and our metrics should match that, or they seem “fake”.

    And when the metrics seem fake, when it doesn’t match what they see on the ground, people dismiss them.

    Not that I think that the insane culture war over wearing masks would change if the metrics were better, since you can’t fix stupid. But, it would mean that the people who aren’t stupid could have more informed discussions of risks and consequences.

    (I would also like a decent metric for how much the virtual schooling is hurting kids at different ages — I think we are focused too much on saving the very elderly, and too little on getting the most vulnerable kids into schools. But, we don’t really have the data readily available to show that (or disprove that).

    I would want to focus on opening schools, at least up to the 4th grade — vaccinate the teachers and their families first, and then go from there to other populations. I don’t think America needs an ignorant generation who haven’t learned how to learn. Real America is bad enough)

    —-
    I also think that we would abandon our elderly on ice flows, if there were enough ice flows left. So maybe using metrics that don’t account for the age of the deaths is a good thing…

    2
  7. @Gustopher:

    I also think that we would abandon our elderly on ice flows, if there were enough ice flows left. So maybe using metrics that don’t account for the age of the deaths is a good thing…

    This problem is what immediately struck me when I read your idea about years lost. Another way Covid’s death toll is different than war losses is that the overwhelming majority of the deaths are of the elderly. This fact causes some people to discount the significance of the death toll (that they might be the same class of persons who once fretted about “death panels,” I shall not speculate).

    3
  8. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:
    We just got our second round of Moderna at Dodge Stadium. Way, way faster than round one. Expecting some side effects tomorrow, so we’ve stocked crackers and chicken soup, as well as an excellent anti-nausea drug. I forget what it’s called. Oh, here it is: Sativa.

    5
  9. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Gustopher:
    Or we could put a positive spin on it and calculate savings to Social Security and Medicare.

    2
  10. gVOR08 says:

    I happened to just read a FL state Rep saying thank God for Governor (sic) DeSantis for getting us through this without shutdowns. I wonder how the 29,000 dead feel about it.

    1
  11. Scott says:

    @Michael Reynolds: That’s what crossed my mind as one of the positives of Rush kicking off at 70.

  12. DrDaveT says:

    @Gustopher:

    I think the raw numbers of deaths are a poor metric — estimated years lost is a better metric.

    The medical literature uses QALYs — “quality-adjusted life years”.

    Even that is problematic, though. (Caution: dispassionate language impending that should not be interpreted as making any particular recommendation or expressing my personal values.)

    From a societal point of view, a newborn is much more easily replaceable than a 20-year-old — we haven’t yet invested a ton in care, feeding, and education that won’t pay anything back. Also, the parents are only slightly older than they were, so approximately equally able to produce and care for a replacement child. So the fact that the death of a newborn boy loses ~75 years versus only ~57 for the 20-year-old boy might not accurately capture the relative costs to society.

    3
  13. Lynn says:

    @Kylopod: “I don’t think it will be long before people start saying the obvious: the Covid-19 pandemic is the deadliest crisis in American history.”

    But, but … don’t you know? Haven’t you heard? The numbers are bogus!! Somebody has Covid, but dies in a car accident and it’s another Covid death! And MDs are being bribed to up the numbers, those ICUs are really empty, that’s why they won’t let us in.

    I’ve seen many too many comments to that effect to beleive that the reality will ever sink through some of the thick skulls out there.

    1
  14. R. Dave says:

    @Gustopher: I think the raw numbers of deaths are a poor metric — estimated years lost is a better metric.

    I strongly disagree. I despise the moral inversion of QALY metrics and mass casualty triage guidelines. The honorable, moral thing has always been for strong, able-bodied adults to risk and sacrifice themselves to protect the weak and vulnerable (i.e., children and the elderly, setting aside the sexism that traditionally put women in that category too). I think it’s a genuine moral tragedy for society that we’re allowing a technocratic euphemism to literally reverse that moral calculus in the wake of COVID.

    1
  15. Kathy says:

    I see it as a hopeful sign that in many places people are complaining about the lack of vaccines, and not agitating stupidly against vaccination.

    The usual caveat applies: there may be limits to human intelligence, but human stupidity knows no bounds.

    1
  16. Gustopher says:

    @R. Dave: It is better or worse that I want to also use the metrics on years of life to calculate that if you steal someone’s retirement, you’re cutting their lifespan by N years, and if you do it to enough we should charge you with murder?

    I think one count per 50 years of lost QALY. And folks who lost their life savings to ENRON or Bernie Maddoff would at least get to see the perpetrators on death row.

    But, anyway, how else are you going to compare the harm done to children through a screwed up education to the harm done to the elderly through –um– death? They’re both vulnerable populations, and you need some way to compare the harm to know what to prioritize when. Do you have any better measurements of harm to society for a given individual to have vaccination delayed?

    Or we can give up the pretense of trying to make an informed decision and just go with our gut assumptions for what is least worse? I think a lot of the problems right now are that different people’s gut assumptions are different.

    (For the record, while I would prioritize early education over the elderly, I have no personal stake in the matter — I have no kids, and am firmly middle aged. I would just be adjusting which groups go ahead of me. I’m also willing to believe that I am wrong, and that the damage to the kids of a lost 18 months or two years of early education is no worse that a lost year.*)

    *: And I would be sad to learn it was because the kids are completely screwed already, but what can you do?

  17. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Expecting some side effects tomorrow, so we’ve stocked crackers and chicken soup,…

    The frequency of mild side-effects is something in the 3-5% range.
    But having chix soup and crackers on hand is always a good practice.

    link

  18. flat earth luddite says:

    @gVOR08:

    I wonder how the 29,000 dead feel about it.

    Doesn’t matter to him, as they won’t vote for him (or Gov. D). C’mon, you knew the answer before you asked the question, didn’t you?

    1
  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:
    Both of us have arms significantly more sore than dose 1. And last night I had a low grade fever, like not even 100. Worth it.

  20. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: I got my second dose on Sunday, and midafternoon Monday it hit me like a bus. Terrible night, but by mid-Tuesday it was all over and done with…

  21. Monala says:

    I’m starting to get a bit anxious about when if ever I will be eligible for a Covid vaccine. Medical professionals, nursing home staff, first responders, the elderly: all prioritized in the first wave of Covid shots, which I get. But now we are on the second wave of priorities, and I’m not part of it. People over age 50 caring for grandchildren are part of the second wave. People over age 50 caring for children, like I am, are not. People working in the public sector with vulnerable populations like the homeless are part of the second wave. People like me working in the private (nonprofit) sector with vulnerable populations like the homeless are not. People with health conditions such as heart disease, cancer, obesity or diabetes are part of the second wave. People with high blood pressure and asthma, like me, are not.

    When someone like me will be eligible for a Covid shot has not yet been determined in my state.

    1