New cases inexorably lead to new deaths, so the downward trend in new infections seems, at last, to be bringing down the number of people who succumb to covid-19, the disease caused by the virus. As of writing, the seven-day average of new deaths is a bit over 3,000, a figure that will likely increase as the day’s death toll is tallied. But, still, a downward turn.
Despite that, Thursday marked a milestone in the fight against the virus. At some point today, the country saw its 450,000th covid death. By now, 1 out of every 733 people alive last year has died of the disease.
The toll has been particularly horrific of late. It took more than 12 weeks between the first known infection from the virus last year and the 25,000th death. The most recent 25,000 deaths came over the past eight days — as did the 25,000 deaths that preceded them. The 25,000 deaths before that came more rapidly than at any other point in the pandemic: seven days from one milestone to the next.
On every day since Jan. 9, the average number of deaths from covid-19 has exceeded the death toll from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Every day, more than 3,000 deaths.
Another way to look at that: It has been nearly a month, 27 days, since the rate at which Americans were dying of covid was slower than one every 30 seconds.
That’s two deaths every minute. More, really, since the average after Wednesday had a death every 28 seconds. But no slower than every 30 seconds. Every day since early January.
Vaccines are being injected, and case numbers are coming down. There are more contagious variants out there, which experts fear will lead to a new surge in cases. But for now, things appear to be improving, and, it seems likely, the rate at which people are dying is slowing. Thursday may be the day in which the average rate at which those deaths occur finally gets back over the 30-second mark.
Let’s hope it does. Let’s hope the pace keeps slowing. Let’s hope it’s never again as bad as it recently was. Let’s hope it’s never again as bad as it is right this minute.