US-HEALTH-VIRUS
Volunteers plot geotagged flags on December 1, 2020, at the “IN AMERICA How Could This Happen...,” an outdoor public art installation in Washington, DC. - Led by artist Suzanne Firstenberg, volunteers planted white flags in a field as a reminder of each life lost to Covid-19 in the US. The number of white flags displayed increased each day as pandemic death toll mounted. Dozens of volunteers helped geotag and collect flags, some of which had been personalized with inscriptions by family members or friends of those who have died. The art installation finished on November 30 and the last count on the display was 276,080 flags. (Photo by Roberto SCHMIDT / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by ROBERTO SCHMIDT/AFP via Getty Images)

300,000 Americans have died from Covid-19. This is the tragic story in numbers

Here’s what you need to know as nation struggles under the weight of the pandemic

The global pandemic has brought an unfathomable count of deaths to the United States – more than 300,000 Americans have perished. In recent weeks, the number of deaths on a single day have been comparable to the most tragic days in national memory. Despite the promise of an FDA approved vaccine, experts fear that the winter will be worse.

These statistics tell the story of a nation struggling under the weight of the pandemic, with the most vulnerability communities hit the hardest.

The victims

  • 300,267 Americans have been killed by Covid-19, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins University.

  • There have been over 16m confirmed cases in the US.

  • Men are dying at slightly higher rates: though women represent a slightly higher proportion of confirmed Covid-19 cases, men represent a higher proportion of ICU admissions (61.7%) and deaths (54.1%), according to the Sex, Gender and Covid-19 Project.

  • 80% of deaths are represented by those who are 65 years or older, according to most recent CDC data.

Line charts showing the 7-day average of Covid-19 deaths and cases in the US.

Racial disparities

  • The latest analysis from the APM Research Lab has found that death rates among Indigenous people have accelerated the fastest in the past four weeks. Though the methods and underlying data varies, the finding is supported by a recent latest CDC report that stated that indigenous Americans experience mortality rates 1.8 times that of non-Hispanic white Americans. The disparity is particularly pronounced among people between 20 and 49 years of age.

  • Throughout the pandemic, Black Americans have experienced 3.7 times more hospitalizations and 2.8 times more fatalities than their white, non-Hispanic counterparts.

  • Recent reporting by the New York Times on a number of scientific studies have shown that the disparities in incidence and mortality among racial groups can be explained by social and environmental factors, such as job exposure.

Bar chart showing the highest rates of fatalities per 100,000 people, by race or ethnicity.

Location and occupations

  • Though only 5% of cases occur in nursing homes or other long-term care facilities, they represent over 100,000 deaths, or approximately, 38% of the total US deaths according to the New York Times.

  • An investigation by Guardian and Kaiser Health News has counted 1,445 healthcare worker deaths, as of 9 December.

  • According to the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW), over 29,000 food production workers have been infected or exposed in grocery stores, meatpacking plants, and food processing facilities; 175 of those workers have died as of September 2020.

  • There are currently almost 7,000 federal inmates who have tested positive for Covid-19. 20,000 more are said to have recovered, according to the data from the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). 155 inmates and 2 BOP staff members have died.

Testing and the response

  • The US has performed over 200m tests to date, according to the Covid Tracking Project, with positivity rates growing.

  • Positivity rates are the highest they’ve been since early summer, when testing rates were much lower. The current seven-day average positivity rate is over 10%.

  • According to the same data, there are over 100,000 people hospitalized. As the New York Times reported earlier, many ICUs across the country are near capacity.

  • States have begun to reimplement stricter restrictions as cases continue to climb. In early December, Los Angeles mayor Eric Garcetti ordered a lockdown that prohibited travel except for essential purposes and private and public gatherings of more than one household. Based on climbing rates of hospitalization, New York governor Andrew Cuomo issued a ban on indoor dining in New York City.

Line chart of daily tests.

Vaccination plans

  • The US Food and Drug administration announced their approval of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine on 12 December. An initial allotment of doses began leaving Pfizer facilities on Sunday.

  • The US has reserved enough vaccines for 139% of its population across a number of agreements with vaccine-makers, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. While this number might seem high, it is worth noting that countries such as Canada and the United Kingdom have reserved enough to cover 410% and 295% percent of the population, respectively.

  • The US ordered 100m doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines each. Pfizer and a former Food and Drug Administration commissioner have said that Pfizer offered the Trump administration an additional allotment of 100m doses for the spring, though the offer was declined.

  • A study in American Journal of Preventive Medicine has noted that 75% of US residents would need to immunity “extinguish the epidemic”. Guardian health reporter Jessica Glenza notes, “The vaccines are untested in children, which means 70 million Americans under age 16 will not be eligible to receive the vaccine, underscoring the need for high adult uptake.”

Economic fallout

  • Economic recovery has slowed down in November, as the US added just 245,000 jobs after more robust gains of 638,000 and 672,000 jobs in October and September, respectively. Though unemployment fell to 6.7%, over a third of this group has been unemployed for 27 weeks or longer.

  • 12 million Americans are set to lose their unemployment benefits by the end of the month, as the Cares Act expires and Congress stalls on passing another relief bill.

  • The US GDP increased at an annual rate of 33.1% in the third quarter of this year, a notable improvement from the previous quarter.

  • According to the most recent data from the Bureau of Economic Analysis, personal income decreased by 0.7% while consumer spending rose by 0.5%.

Dual line charts: one showing monthly unemployment rates, another showing weekly unemployment claims. Both are trending down.

Businesses

  • The National Restaurant Association sent a letter to Congress on 7 December that warned that 50,000 restaurants are in “an economic freefall”. In addition, over 110,000 restaurants are closed permanently, or for the long-term.

  • In early December, Southwest Airlines warned that as many as 7,000 employees may be furloughed in the spring.

  • While retail industry has been reeling even in ordinary years recently, the past few months have prompted iconic brands, such as Brooks Brothers, JC Penney and J Crew, to declare bankruptcy.

Health insurance

  • A new analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation has found that approximately 2 to 3 million people lost their employer-based coverage between March and September. This loss in coverage may have been partially offset strong enrollment in Medicaid and marketplace offerings.

  • On 10 November, the supreme court heard arguments to overturn the Affordable Care Act in California v Texas. Though early speculation suggests that the act will be kept largely in place, overturning the act would leave over 21 million people uninsured.

Food supply

  • Food prices have gone up by 3.7% in the past year, according to the latest figures from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. While there were increases across the board, meats, poultry, fish and eggs saw the largest increase (5.9%), with beef leading the way at 7.5%.

  • Local outlets around the nation have noted that food banks and neighborhood pantries are seeing unprecedented demand. The manager of the Bay Area Martha’s Kitchen in the Bay Area has noted that they are serving 40,000 more meals per month.

This piece was initially published to mark the date that the US reached 250,000 deaths on 18 November 2020.