Home Life In one year, COVID-19 kills enough Americans to fill a city

In one year, COVID-19 kills enough Americans to fill a city

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In one year, COVID-19 has left more than 500,000 dead in the United States.

It’s a milestone so large that the number of Americans who have died compare to just two other events in U.S. history: the 1918 Spanish influenza pandemic (675,000 lives lost) and the Civil War (between 618,000 – 750,000 lives).

Half a million also approaches those who died in 2019 of the first- and second-leading causes: heart disease (659,041) and cancer (559,601).

The first reported death in the U.S. was a Washington state man in his 50s on Feb. 29, 2020, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In the year since, the number of deaths in the U.S. is equal to two-thirds the population of Seattle, the country’s 18th-largest city, with 753,675.

At such scale, the profiles of people who have died in the past year begin to disappear — much like the red figure in the center of the chart above.

So who have we lost?

If we were to bring them together, the resulting community would be filled with grandparents, great-uncles and aunts, making it the oldest large city in America.

Early in the pandemic, the virus flourished in cities with higher percentages of people of color. For example, New York, the initial epicenter of the virus, is 55.3% white, 19.3% Latino and 17.6% Black, according to Census Bureau estimates.

As the virus spread across the nation in the intervening months, the deaths and infections have more closely mirrored U.S. demographics. 

But gaps remain between white Americans and people of color.

When adjusted for age, Black Americans are hospitalized with COVID-19 at 2.9 times the rate of white Americans, and die at 1.9 times the rate, according to CDC data. Latinos are hospitalized at more than three times the rate and die at more than twice the rate of white Americans.

Taken all together, here’s what the community of Americans who have died in the past year looks like:

With such large losses in the past year, actual communities throughout the U.S. have been ravaged by the pandemic.

In Jerauld County, South Dakota, one of in every 126 people has reportedly died of COVID-19. It’s one in 139 people in Gove County, Kansas, and one in 514 in Los Angeles County.

Of the 30 largest counties, 15 account for nearly 20% of all the deaths in the U.S. while they comprise just 15% of the country’s 328 million residents.

In smaller counties across the U.S., the numbers are not nearly as large, but the impact has been just as significant.

When USA TODAY visited Gove in December, the county was the deadliest place in America — coronavirus had killed a higher percentage of the county’s residents than any other. Jerauld has since surpassed it.

The 10 counties with the highest COVID-19 death rates all have populations under 10,000 residents.

These losses have also reduced the country’s life expectancy to levels not seen in 15 years. 

Data through June show life expectancy at birth for the total U.S. population fell from 2019 by a year to 77.8 years, the lowest since 2006, according to researchers at the CDC and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics. Life expectancy for the entire year could fall further following the fall and winter surges of COVID-19 deaths.

The outlook for 2021 is improving though.

Throughout February, COVID-19 cases and deaths have declined rapidly. Also, there are now more Americans with a dose of the COVID-19 vaccine in their arms than those who have officially contracted the virus. 

Contributing: Mike Stucka, Adrianna Rodriguez

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