The pandemic’s reported death toll has surpassed 1 million people in the United States.

Behind each number, one of us.

One million of us

The pandemic’s death toll in the United States has surpassed 1 million people. Conveying the meaning or the magnitude of this number is impossible. But 1 million deaths is the benchmark of an unprecedented American tragedy.

Consider this comparison: The population of D.C. is about 670,000 people. Try to imagine life without every person, in every building, on every street, in the nation’s capital. And then imagine another 330,000 people are gone.

To attempt to put the 1 million deaths in context, we plotted its damage over more than two years and compared the continuing death toll with the tolls from previous catastrophes in our history.

… plus Miami condo collapse taking 98 people
… plus 294 American deaths from Gulf War
A million deaths -1099
Feb. 29, 2020

First death reported

The first confirmed covid-19 death was announced in late February 2020: a man in his 50s from Washington state.

March 1, 2020

But testing wasn’t widely available in the early days of the pandemic, and information was sketchy. The death toll was actually much higher around that time.

March 23, 2020

Within weeks, covid had killed more people than all of the plane crashes in the United States in the previous two decades.

March 27, 2020

The toll grew exponentially. By late March, the pandemic’s death toll surpassed Hurricane Katrina’s, which hit New Orleans in 2005.

April 2, 2020

By early April 2020, covid had already killed more Americans than all the service members killed in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined.

April 16, 2020

By mid-April, the death toll was growing at an inconceivable speed — worse than being hit by a 9/11-size terrorist attack every other day.

May 28, 2020

After three months, the death toll had surpassed 100,000 people.

Dec. 14, 2020

Vaccination campaign begins

Despite nationwide lockdowns, the deaths continued. By the time the first vaccine shots were distributed in December 2020, more than 300,000 Americans had died.

Jan. 31, 2021

The monthly death toll peaked in January 2021, when nearly 96,000 people died — more than the number of Americans who died in the Vietnam and Korea wars.

March 20, 2021

On average, about 2,500 people died from covid daily during the winter of 2021. This would be like the Japanese attack in Pearl Harbor every day, for three consecutive months.

July 31, 2021

As vaccinations increased, the number of deaths fell. In July 2021, the nation registered 8,600 covid deaths, the lowest monthly toll in more than a year.

Oct. 31, 2021

Delta variant surge

Still, millions resisted the vaccine, and as the delta variant took over the country, the virus regained strength. In September and October, covid killed more than 100,000 people. At this point, covid’s overall death toll had surpassed the number who died in the 1918 influenza pandemic in the United States.

Dec. 31, 2021

In 2021, the pandemic killed nearly 476,000 people. More deaths than from strokes and Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia combined in 2020.

Feb. 28, 2022

As the omicron variant took over, covid killed on average more than 2,000 people each day in January and February of this year — a total of more than 125,000 deaths in two months.

May 2022

Historians estimate the death toll for the American Civil War to be about 750,000 military and 50,000 civilian deaths. Covid killed tens of thousands more people, in about half the time.

As we pass this grim milestone, it’s important to pause and consider what we’ve been through. And to remind ourselves that behind each number was a person — and that each of these people was someone’s friend, someone’s love, someone’s family.

About this story

Sources: Washington Post reporting (data on covid deaths); Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1918 influenza pandemic death toll and deaths from stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes, influenza and pneumonia in 2020); Watson Institute at Brown University Costs of War project (death toll on post-9/11 wars); Defense Department (American death tolls in Vietnam and Korea). Civil War death toll from J. David Hacker, Binghamton University, and James McPherson, Princeton University. Numbers higher than 100 are rounded.

Credits: Design editing by Chris Rukan