Less than three weeks later, that number quadrupled, with more than 2,250 people dying of covid-19 each day. This was probably an undercount, given what we now know about excess mortality numbers, but it was nonetheless a rate of death that was nearly as high each day as on 9/11.
On Wednesday, nearly six months after the April peak in daily deaths, the country had more deaths in one day than in those attacks. After six months of warnings about washing hands, maintaining distance and covering mouths and noses — and with the imminent release of a vaccine — more people died of covid-19 than were killed on that day.
What’s more, the number of people dying of covid-19 on average at this point is higher than it has been at any other time during the pandemic.
One out of every 20 covid-19 deaths in the country has been recorded in the past week. More than 1 percent of the recorded deaths globally since the pandemic began occurred in the United States in the past seven days.
We saw this coming, as one sees signs that a tsunami is approaching. Yet, for months, we’ve heard elected leaders dismiss rising case counts as insignificant — or even beneficial, as President Trump suggested earlier this week, given that it meant that more people probably are immune to the virus. But even setting aside what we know about the long-term effects of even fairly mild coronavirus cases and setting aside the enormous risk posed by filling hospitals with covid-19 patients, there is a consistent link between the number of cases and new deaths.
Since the beginning of August, the average number of deaths on a given day has been about 1.7 percent of the average new cases 22 days prior. That ratio has slipped a bit lately, perhaps as a function of reduced reporting during the Thanksgiving holiday. But the number of deaths seen each day (the solid line on the graph at right below) has tracked with that 1.7 percent figure (the dotted line).
What that means is that, having passed 208,000 new cases each day on average at this point, we may expect to see more than 3,500 new deaths each day by the end of the month. One month ago, we looked at this ratio, predicting that by Nov. 24, the country would be have 1,300 to 1,900 deaths each day. On Nov. 24, the average was just over 1,600 deaths.
This. Is. Predictable.
But even though it’s predictable, even though we know what’s looming, it’s important to note how severe the pandemic has already been.
In 12 states and D.C., more than 1 out of every 1,000 residents have died of covid-19. The hardest-hit state was New Jersey, which was slammed in the spring and saw deaths spike in April. But states such as North and South Dakota have had cases explode more recently and now have lost 1 out of every 700 and 1 out of every 759 residents to the disease, respectively.
In North Dakota, 1 out of every 9 residents has contracted the virus. Nearly all of them have contracted it since the summer.
Nationally, 1 out of every 21 Americans has contracted the virus and 1 out of every 1,130 Americans has died of it. In 18 states, a greater percentage of the population has died. In nearly 1,300 counties, the relative number of deaths has similarly been higher.
We can argue about how this could have been prevented and how it can be tamped down moving forward, although there are obvious steps that can and should be taken. But that the virus is devastating the country and will undoubtedly kill more than 300,000 people by the end of the year — by the beginning of next week — is something that can’t and shouldn’t be swept under the rug.
The day after the election, Scott Atlas, then still an adviser to President Trump, tweeted this.
It was grotesque in a number of ways, as we noted at the time, but in no way more than that any honest observer knew that the death toll would soon surge in relation to the number of cases. It did.
Since then, more than 55,000 Americans have died of the virus Atlas advocated letting spread.