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Putting 1,000,000 COVID deaths in perspective

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Medical staff tend to a COVID-19 patient. (Photo Credit: University Hospitals)

Last week, the United States registered the one millionth person dying from the COVID-19 pandemic. Johns Hopkins University’s coronavirus research center put passing that historic mark on May 19, 2022 with 1,001,606 official deaths counted. About 83 million confirmed cases have been registered with the American public, with 337 new deaths on that day, and about 12,000 deaths in the past month.

To put that into context, that is 1 million dead Americans in about 800 days, or about 1,250 dying from this pandemic every day. On Jan. 20, 2021, there were 4,411 dead, the most recorded for a single day, or about 3 deaths every minute.

Ohio is at 38,590 deaths, according to the New York Times COVID tracker. That is about 50 Ohioans dying every day from COVID-19 since the first one in March of 2020. The state’s top five most populous counties – Franklin, Cuyahoga, Hamilton, Summit, and Montgomery — have accounted for about 12,000 of those deaths.

COVID-19 infections have not gone away in Ohio. Just last week, two Ohio counties — Ashtabula and Lorain — went from low to high designation of COVID-19 community transmission rates, and residents there are advised to wear masks indoors, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Fifteen other Ohio counties — including Cuyahoga County — have gone from low to medium community levels of transmission.

For context, in 2021, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol, there were 1,048 motor vehicle fatalities in the state. In Franklin County, close to 2,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the past two years. In that same time period, about 300 have died from breast cancer and 200 from prostate cancer.

“It’s just sobering that in a country with remarkable resources like ours that we are seeing deaths like this,” said Dr. Lisa Cooper, director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Equity.

Hospitalizations right now are increasing in all but five states and territories. Though the number of COVID-19 patients hospitalized nationwide remains far below peak levels, it has increased by 29% in recent weeks, to an average of more than 23,000 per day.

According to CDC data, COVID-19 was the third leading cause of death in the U.S. in 2021, following heart disease and cancer; nevertheless much of the conversation around the pandemic has not been focused on the large numbers of people dying but false controversies over the efficacy of masks or the accuracy of the death rates.

“You can’t separate our failure in the pandemic from conflicts over ideology and politics,” said Dr. David Blumenthal, president of the Commonwealth Fund, a longtime health care research institute, in a recent interview with The Guardian. “The approach to the pandemic became enmeshed in people’s party affiliation and in their views towards government.”


This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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