What’s remarkable about this wave, of course, is that it has already killed so many Americans despite the broad availability of tools both to effectively prevent and to treat the disease. Since the low in daily deaths July 7 — 213 — more than 77,500 more people have died. Of that total, more than 14,000 have died in Florida, nearly 1 out of every 8 who have succumbed to the disease.
It’s a remarkable figure, certainly, but one that becomes more remarkable when considering the broader context of the pandemic. From the first emergence of the virus in early 2020 until deaths peaked in mid-April of that year, New York was the state where the most people died of covid-19. During that period, 17,131 people in the state succumbed to the disease, according to data collected by The Washington Post. Through Wednesday’s peak (excluding more than 1,200 deaths reported by Florida on Thursday), Florida had seen 3 deaths for every 4 New York experienced before that first peak.
That is three-quarters of the toll, even after better treatment options and the rollout of the vaccine.
When adjusting for population, we see that the worst-hit states before the peak of each of the country’s four waves were the Dakotas, where more than twice as many people were dying relative to population than died in Florida during this wave. But the toll in Florida has been worse in recent months than it was in any of the other hard-hit states before the peak at the outset of the pandemic, including New Jersey.
We can look at this another way. Here, the number of deaths in each state is represented by a circle. The circle for Florida in the fourth wave is the fourth-largest you’ll see; its death toll until the peak of the wave of new cases was exceeded only by New York’s initial toll and the number of deaths in Texas and California during last winter’s brutal surge in deaths.
We’re comparing cases to peak because that’s (hopefully) where we are in this current wave of new deaths. If we look at the waves in their entirety, the number of total deaths of course continues to increase even as the number of daily deaths descends.
If we look at the map using population-adjusted numbers per peak, we again see how the Gulf Coast has been disproportionately affected during the current surge.
It’s unquestionably grim and certainly tragic. But it’s also hard not to remember that so much of it was avoidable. Had more Floridians been vaccinated against the virus, they would have had much more protection against infection and hospitalization, much less death. Yes, the state’s population skews older, which plays some role. But it would nonetheless have been hard to imagine in June, as the country continued to add to its vaccination totals, that we would soon see a state that was ravaged by covid-19 deaths to the extent that a comparison to New York in the spring of 2020 even was relevant.
Sadly, it does.