Depressing milestones in coronavirus deaths

The number of pandemic-related deaths worldwide is now close to 2.5 million.

The US has now around 500,000 deaths due to covid-19. I remember when the figure reached around 200,000 and experts warned us that it would go over 300,000 and I thought, “Wow, that’a lot. Surely it won’t reach such a high figure?” Then it was repeated when the toll reached 300,000 and then 400,000, and now here we are.

Even though infection, hospitalization, and death rates are falling and people are getting vaccinated, it seems likely that the ultimate toll will reach over 600,000 and maybe even 700,000. And that is assuming that there are no fresh outbreaks due to a combination of new, more contagious variants taking hold and careless behavior on the part of people not taking basic precautions.

We are a far cry from the beginning of the pandemic when Trump predicted back in February of last year that we would have 15 deaths, tops, and that the virus would disappear when spring arrived.


  1. sonofrojblake says

    infection, hospitalization, and death rates are falling

    Well, yes, but from a VERY high peak. Months ago, when they reached the current level on the way UP, there was panic. We can afford to be optimistic when levels are back where they were this time last year.

    Also, there’s a vaccine, so there’d be something very, very wrong if they weren’t falling at least a bit by now.

    And finally: even with the vaccine, expect another spike next winter.

    As an epidemiology/virology lecturer friend of mine said, about a year ago now: there are two things I know -- first, this will NOT be over quickly, not in 2020 and probably not in 2021, and second, ANYONE who pretends at this point (spring 2020) to know ANYTHING more than that fact is a liar. (He didn’t bother to even characterise anyone who would argue with said fact.) His point, expanded: epidemiology is history. It is impossible, even in principle, to understand what’s happening in a pandemic while it’s still going on. You don’t (at first) even understand how the infectious agent works, how it’s transmitted, what it does to people etc. We know a lot more of that now. But you also have no idea how it’s really spreading, between whom and where. And while we do know a bit more about that now, a year on, it seems we’re still learning new stuff -- not least having variants arise.

    The true scale of all this won’t be known for years. I’ve joked with my friends’ kids that this is the thing they’ll be boring their grandkids about. Our grandparents used to say “ooh, during the war…”, millenials will be telling tedious pandemic stories to baffled and uncomprehending youths in the 2070s.

  2. rich rutishauser says

    I had an economics teacher in high school who said that it takes 2 generations or about 50 years to start to understand a historic event which falls right in line with what your friend said. We discussed it in class but it was hard for my 13 year old mind to grasp at the time.

  3. another stewart says

    The US has probably had considerably more than 500,000 deaths from COVID-19. About six months back the excess deaths figure was running about 50% above the official numbers*. One can hope that reporting has got better in the intervening period, but I estimate the current death toll as being in the region of 700,000. Vaccination seems to be pretty effective at preventing severe disease, so I think that 1,000,000 would be a generous upper bound on the eventual outcome -- I’d currently predict 800,000-850,000.

    *Belgium has essentially managed to count all COVID-19 deaths. At the other end of the scale, there are reports that Russia and South Africa have missed 2/3rds of theirs, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Mexico is doing worse.

  4. machintelligence says

    I saw a statistic that the average life expectancy in the USA had fallen by one year over the last year, due to the pandemic.

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