One American now dies from COVID-19 every minute

One American now dies from COVID-19 every minute
Lt. Cmdr. Michael Heimes, assigned to Expeditionary Medical Facility-M, checks on a patient connected to a ventilator during an ICU night shift at Baton Rouge General Mid City campus, April 28, 2020. The 100 EMF-M personnel, part of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response, work to ease the strain of the significant patient care surge as part of the BRG Mid City family. U.S. Northern Command, through U.S. Army North, is providing military support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help communities in need. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Daniel R. Betancourt Jr./Released)200428-M-WU117-1661

For those keeping track of the many accomplishments of the Trump administration, we reached a milestone of sorts that received little attention this week: The U.S. daily total of officially recorded deaths due to the SARS-CoV2 virus is now averaging one death per every minute, nearly every day.


The United States recorded 1,456 new deaths on Wednesday, the highest one-day increase since 1,484 on May 27, according to a Reuters tally, bringing total deaths to 151,229.

That was Wednesday. We’re actually closer to 156,000 (official) deaths as of this writing. While tallies vary slightly depending on the specific database, the one death per minute “official death” figure has been roughly consistent over the last three days.

Of course, these are only deaths verified and recorded as caused by the COVID-19 virus. Deaths from pneumonia, heart attacks, stroke or other causes brought on by COVID-19  but occurring before the decedent was actually tested are assumed to drastically increase the death total. It is not possible to determine the total number of excess COVID-19 deaths because the COVID-19 tests actually available to medical providers and hospitals in this country are almost entirely reserved for people still alive. One JAMA Internal Medicine study published in July found that an additional 28% of the total “official” deaths could be so attributed.

For comparison purposes, approximately 1,660 Americans per day die from all forms of cancer, annually, while 1,772 succumb daily from heart disease, including coronary artery disease and stroke. With or without the additional 28% of “excess deaths” as a benchmark, COVID-19 has been a leading cause of daily deaths in this country on and off since Apri, with various reported daily totals regularly exceeding the deaths from heart disease or cancer, particularly during New York City’s initial outbreak.

So while the “one death per minute” figure is not unique since the start of the pandemic, it does provide a reference point for people to wrap their minds around.

Various statistical analyses have been developed that explain how Americans spend their time daily. For example, Americans spend (on average) eight hours and 48 minutes per day sleeping. Assuming you are an “average American,” then while you sleep tonight, approximately 528 Americans will die of the COVID-19 virus.

In the time you spend showering, bathing, brushing your teeth and combing/brushing your hair on any given day, an estimated 47 Americans will die of the virus.

In the time you spend eating breakfast, lunch and dinner each day, 77 Americans will die of COVID-19.

Assuming you are an “average American,” today you will spend two hours and 46 minutes watching television. During your TV time, 166 Americans will have died from the virus.

Americans typically spend two hours and 51 minutes on their smartphones daily, with most of that time spent on social media. So while you looked at your phone today, another 171 Americans died from the virus.

And during the rest of the day, another 451 Americans will have died. This is happening every day.

For a bit of perspective on what 1500 people looks like, here’s a crowd of hundreds of workers in Brussels, protesting layoffs at their Volkswagen factory.

Brussels, BELGIUM:  Hundreds of workers attend the general assembly Wednesday 22 November 2006 to hear from unions the decision of Volkswagen to fire around 3500 workers of their factory in Vorst / Forest, near Brussels. VW will only keep 1500 people working in their Belgian plant. AFP PHOTO DIRK WAEM  (Photo credit should read DIRK WAEM/AFP via Getty Images)

In three months, based on the current death rates, this group of Zapatista marchers in Zocalo Square illustrates how many more people (about 150,000 more) will have died.

MEXICO CITY, MEXICO:  A crowd of more than 150,000 people gather at the central Zocalo square 11 March 2001 before the Presidential Palace (BACKGROUND) in the Mexican capital at the conclusion of a two-week 3,000-kilometer (1,900-mile) Zapatista march to promote indigenous rights legislation. Subcomandante

But death rates are not staying the same. In July, they increased as the disastrous effects of Trump and the Republican Party’s reopening policies became manifest. As schools reopen, even partially, they will likely spike again, with children as the primary carriers, if not the primary victims. Just two weeks ago Alexis Madrigal, writing for the Atlantic, could state that the deaths of 300,000-800,000 people, based on the infection-fatality rate scenarios projected by the CDC, was still “unlikely.” Now, with a death toll approaching 160,000 in those two weeks, it doesn’t seem unlikely at all.

The lack of containment by American authorities has resulted in not only lost lives, but also lost businesses, savings accounts, school years, dreams, public trust, friendships. The country cannot get back to normal with a highly transmissible, deadly virus spreading in our communities. There will be no way to just “live with it.” There will only be dying from it for the unlucky, and barely surviving it for the rest of us.

Assuming Joe Biden wins the election, he will not be able to exercise any power until nearly the end of January. In the dead of winter, viruses typically thrive as people stay indoors. Does anyone believe that the Trump administration is going to magically change course, implementing a national lockdown and a massive ramped up testing effort out of some sense of duty to the American people? Does anyone expect anything fundamentally different on a national level from this administration between now and January, particularly if and when Donald Trump loses the election in November? We’ve already seen the results of the administration’s policy of dumping all responsibility onto the states.

Right now, it looks as if we’re still hurtling headlong into the darkest winter in this country’s history.

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