The numbers seem catastrophic, overwhelming, beyond a magnitude that the human mind or heart can grasp: What do 60,000 — or even 240,000 — deaths look like?

Those are roughly the lower and upper limits of projected fatalities in the U.S. from Covid-19 in models that have been informing U.S. policy. Last month, when the lower estimate was 100,000, the White House recommended nationwide countermeasures. Those started with a ban on gatherings and quickly escalated to closing schools and businesses, advising people to wear face masks, and reminding them to stay physically apart. This week, when the lower estimate (from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation) dropped to 60,000, reflecting how well those measures are working, it stoked optimism that the epidemic might soon end with less loss of life.

The lower number, 60,000, is a little more than the capacity of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. It is the number of passengers in 180 full jumbo jets. It is more than the number of U.S. combat deaths in the Vietnam War.

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And 240,000, of course, is four times any of the above.

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But are these large numbers or small numbers? At the beginning of the pandemic’s spread in the U.S., President Trump dismissed early projections of thousands, even tens of thousands, of U.S. deaths as no worse than the lives lost in an average influenza year. So far this season, flu deaths total 24,000 to 63,000 (data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are estimates with wide uncertainties).

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Whether you think a multiple of up to 10 on top of that is a tragedy or merely unfortunate is a personal call. For what it’s worth, about 8,000 Americans die every day from, almost overwhelmingly, diseases and other natural causes. Those, of course, haven’t stopped; Covid-19 deaths are in addition to those (with a caveat noted below).

To make these numbers easier to grasp, we show how 60,000 to 240,000 compares to some of the leading causes of death and to previous pandemics.

Epidemic Graph 4
Hyacinth Empinado/STAT

One note about methodology: The projected Covid-19 deaths come from models that see the number of cases and deaths plateauing nationally in the next few weeks, as they have already done in Seattle, San Francisco, and other places that were hit first. If stay-at-home orders and other countermeasures keep working, there should be few deaths after July. We therefore treated the 60,000 to 240,000 deaths as occurring over five months, from March to July, as the IHME researchers do, and therefore calculated five months worth of cancer, heart disease, and other deaths. Of course, as Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House Covid-19 task force, told a JAMA webcast this week, the new coronavirus “is not going to disappear from the planet, for sure,” after July.

But the concentration of deaths is “truncated into weeks,” said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. That is what captures our attention and overwhelms hospitals.

Disease Graph
Hyacinth Empinado/STAT

Covid-19 is particularly severe in — and more likely to kill — the elderly and people with existing illnesses, including heart disease. Some people taken by Covid-19 would likely have died from these diseases even in the five-month time frame. We do not try to calculate how many of the Covid-19 deaths “substitute” for other deaths; that is an important calculation that researchers will be eager to do once the crisis passes.

You may believe a different methodology paints a truer picture of how Covid-19 deaths compare to others. As we said, how to think about deaths is deeply personal.

  • It’s completely disheartening. Covid is contagious, capable of causing death, you may be susceptible, no one really knows. It has completely stressed the capacity of our health care system, and we’re still stuck in the stupid Democrat versus Trumpers mentality? When will this end?
    It must end in November. All of us must restore the soul of this country. We must unite and never again divide.

    • Right on! Cuomo for President. At least he knows how to handle this virus without bringing politics in to it.

  • Very true that some with heart conditions for example, may have died in the 5 month period anyway, but COVID-19 also more aggressively affects those with Type 2 Diabetes and other metabolic/autoimmune disorders which can worsen and go on for years..COVID-19 may greatly speed up those deaths. Just saying..

  • Not all covid deaths are additive. As Dr. Brix told the country, if someone dies WITH covid, it is listed as a covid death. So if any of the people who die from “diseases or natural causes” test positive they are attributed to covid. There are also reports that some doctors are told to list it as covid without confirmation if they even suspect it.

    • The reports about “suspected” Covid deaths being reported as Covid deaths are absolutely true. You can actually go to the CDC website and find their guidelines for doctors and coroners that tell them specifically to code a death as Covid if it is known or even suspected to have contributed to the death of a patient. With that said, they do want doctors to be as detailed as possible regarding underlying conditions.

  • You’re so full of hatred and vitriol, you wouldn’t know a fact if it kicked you in your, what was your name again? Nad?
    Illegals? What’s an illegal, exactly? Is an illegal a person, a human being? Possibly one who’s been affected by our wreckless foreign policy? A victim of our irresponsibility? How do you sleep at night? Do you keep your gun close by, fearful that a human being, displaced by us in effect, may need help? Out of 75,000 homicides between 2014-2018, approximately 2.3% of them were committed by illegal aliens. Around 250/year. Compare that to the Coronavirus. We had 2000 deaths just yesterday. Yesterday. But at least it wasn’t that brown person hiding in your wife’s bushes, right? The Coronavirus isn’t about you, go Nad, it’s about all of us, and honestly, we’re not doing the world any favors with our white Americans first policy of shipping unaccompanied minors back from whence they came. We’re only compounding, creating more of the same problems in their countries that they further risked their lives to escape. So I guess you guys are right. If we’re going to be so irresponsible as to ship gang members, created in US prisons, down to Central America en masse, sweeping them under the carpet if you will, then I guess you do want a wall. I think not for hiding the humans on the other side, but for shielding us from acknowledging the part we played in creating their hell, God forbid we ever have to face the hell they are forced to call home. My heart bleeds? For who, you? You who sits in fear of retaliation from those we’ve sent away? We’re not the victims here. No one pities you except regarding the filth that lies between your ears preventing you from seeing past your own pallid nose. You are the enemy of man, man created in the image of God, man who you call illegal, fueled by hatred. You are the enemy.

  • Almost 2 million Coronavirus Cases. People should wear a mask when they go out in public during the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended. The only problem is where do I get it?

    • You made my day Debra, I’ve been looking for this for weeks! Appreciate that so much! We hear about the rising number of deaths, the increasing rate of infections, the mental anguish, the shortages of critical supplies in hospitals, the people struggling to pay bills and survive, the long lines at food banks and so much more.

    • I made my own mask, using a folded cloth napkin and 2 hair bands to loop around the ears. Works perfectly. You can find how-to videos online. The N95 masks are still in short supply for the front line nurses and doctors.

  • Some of you are using circular logic. The numbers are lower because of the “overreaction” … if steps weren’t taken this thing would have been 6 figure deaths and still could be through stupidity in the coming months. I live in an area where hospitals are full and it is having a drastic impact. Won’t happen elsewhere? Sure, that’s the way infectious disease works lol. It’s just the bad people in a few north east states I guess…

    • They aren’t over capacity anywhere. What news outlet told you that? may I suggest Questioning everything? and search for local news from your area does it match with national reported numbers? Yes bad people who vote democrat tend to live in large dense cities. What’s the drastic impact? Oh you mean the shutdown? Well between the forced job loss and the resulting deaths from recession or depression, compared to the real data we have now (even though deaths attributed to corona is inflated)…that still puts us where already, the cure is worse than the disease.

    • That number is the upper estimate of US deaths caused by the Spanish Flu. She’s comparing apples to apples. Try to keep up…

  • Nacho Libre
    If your math is correct, this is blown out of proportion by the media. BUT do not, nor should anyone else, take this lightly by not following guidelines.

    • I agree Carol. But, here’s my plan for rebooting the country. The 32 states with less than 100 deaths should have all restrictions on going to work for a living lifted immediately. The 5 with less than 300 deaths should be opened up for biz in 1 week. The rest of the country in 2 weeks except for the 7 states i stated earlier. Maybe 3 to 4 more weeks for them. Sound like a plan??? Whatcha think?

    • if anything quarentine only old people and people with preexisting conditions. maybe set them up in the casinos and let them play golf or bingo for a month. then let it do its thing. we would then have everyone else be ammune and it die out probably in a month. if 3to4% of people die and 93% are old people we are looking at .15% or less that would die which is an acceptable loss although it would suck for .15%. but compared to destroying the stock market, ending any business that has been struggling to keep up with the min wage increases, which is horrible and stupid since they raise rent Everytime it goes up by more than anybody gets and raise the price of everything we buy, draining lifes savings to very little, taking work away from the same people that are already trying to get by daily, then throw away 3 trillion dollars which will need to be followed by another 3 to 6 to fix everything after this mess. roughly 2 people die every second. over 150k a day die so while sad its a reality that people will die from something always. plus we have way too many people on the planet.

  • I hope these stats help ease some the negatively implanted minds on here. As of yesterday, April 10th, 32 US states have less then 100 deaths from this thing. 5 more states have less then 300 deaths. So, 37 states out of 50 if my math is correct(lol), have had less than 300 deaths from this in the last 2 months. That’s 74% of the entire country have less than 300 deaths as of yesterday. Yet, you’re all losing your minds because the MEDIA won’t report this. 60% of all deaths(11,057 out of the 18,300 deaths) have come from 3 states(NY, NJ, and Mich). THREE STATES!!!!! 4 other states have the next highest totals of 2464 deaths combined(that’s Cali, Illinois,Mass, and Lousiana). So, 7 states account for 13,521 deaths out of 18,300. So to reiterate, SEVEN states account for 74% of all deaths. PLEASE stop watching the media! You’ll lose ur mind with this nonsense but, fortunately, out of 350 million Americans and only 18,300 deaths so far, you’re NOT going to lose ur life. Trust me! I did the math! AND don’t listen to celebrities! “MILLIONS ARE GOING TO DIE!!!!” LOL!!! It would take 30 years for millions to die from this at this rate. PEACE and LOVE to u all.

    • If we all keep our distance, wash our hands, wear our masks, it won’t spread as bad as it has here in Massachusetts.

    • Great observations NL! Glad I am in Florida with a low death toll. Our Governor needs to OPEN beaches and parks for Florida residents. Even NEW YORK has their state parks open. Fresh air and sunshine is healthy and being cooped up is not.

      Schools all over the country should re-open ASAP. Kids are not a vulnerable population and should freely pass this around and clear it for herd immunity.

      Old teachers and staff can get a Work Waiver from their doctor and stay home for awhile. And kids should stay away from their grandparents and great grandparents for awhile.

    • Thank you so much for you this comment! I have been saying this for 2 months now. My boyfriend is recovering from the virus and I had very mild symptoms. I told him ( and most of my family), to stop listening to the darn media! Fear will stress you out and kill you also. I’m more afraid for the economic future more than anything. BTW, I’m in Michigan one of the worst states.

    • Cole — so glad you made it out alive. Too many Americans are dead from this. Let’s hope your boyfriend does too. Your social responsibility now, is to take all preventative precautions to keep others from catching the virus. For instance, if you shake hands with a carrier, then shake hands with someone who has escape the virus thus far, you could cross-contaminate and get others sick, even kill them. Also, just because you’re not wearing a mask or worrying about keeping your distance, you will freak people out who are doing all they can not to get contaminated, those who want to survive this pandemic like you have. Maybe wear a badge saying that you recovered. This way, you will not be instilling fear in others.

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