The Slatest

100,000 Americans Have Died of COVID-19

The true number is probably higher. There is no end in sight.

Funeral Director Omar Rodriguez looks over caskets of bodies at the Gerard J. Neufeld funeral home during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Queens, New York on April 26.
Funeral director Omar Rodriguez looks over caskets of bodies at the Gerard J. Neufeld funeral home during the outbreak of the coronavirus in Queens, New York, on April 26. Bryan R. Smith/Reuters

One hundred thousand Americans have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus. That official number almost certainly does not account for everyone who has died in America from the coronavirus. You can read some of the stories of people who have died here, or here, or here, and you can try to absorb the enormity of that number here. Here is one story of how one person died from the coronavirus.

Death and devastation on this scale might have been avoidable, but the country failed to avoid them. The federal government, following the president’s example, ignored and deflected news of the danger until the virus was already spreading unchecked, and then abdicated its responsibility to lead the response. State and local officials wasted time and spread confusion on their own. The public health apparatus couldn’t effectively mobilize for testing, tracing, or isolation. To try to contain the spread, the country went into a lockdown, creating mass unemployment with no comprehensive relief for the economic damage and no workable plan for how to safely restart things.

The coronavirus is killing black Americans at a disproportionally high rate. It’s killing many, many people in nursing homes, both the people who live in them and the people who work in them. The coronavirus also kills poor people more in America.

When people die of COVID-19 in hospitals, they die alone. They say goodbye over FaceTime and Zoom. Dying at home from this disease is not much better.

Doctors inside of hospitals have worked to save people’s lives as refrigerated trucks fill up with bodies outside. Hospital chaplains and palliative care doctors whose jobs are to help people die say they have never experienced anything like this before.

One of the cruelest things about the coronavirus is that because it spreads as it does, it has had an outsize effect on individual families. It can swiftly kill multiple members of a single family. This woman lost her husband and her only son to the virus in a matter of three days.*

Flags will be lowered to commemorate the dead, now that (at least) 100,000 people have died of the coronavirus. There has not been much more in terms of national mourning, even though the coronavirus has killed more Americans than were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War (combined, actually).

The rate at which people are dying has slowed, but there is still no real end in sight.

Correction, May 27, 2020: This article originally misstated that a woman had lost two sons to the coronavirus. The woman only had one son.