The Slatest

What Do 200,000 Deaths Add Up To?

To kill as many Americans as the coronavirus, the war in Afghanistan would need to last 17 centuries.

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Photo illustration by Slate. Image by pixelalex/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

This week, by the official count, 200,000 Americans will have died due to COVID-19. As the pandemic stretches out through the months, and other disasters and political events cycle through the news, the mass death has become a background fact to our current life. The coronavirus is now the third-leading cause of death in the United States in 2020, behind the familiar and perennial No.1 and No. 2 of heart disease and cancer.

While human life is always precious and immeasurable, different ways of dying tend to weigh differently on the public consciousness. How do 200,000 lives compare with other loss of life in this country, expected and unexpected?


Two hundred thousand deaths is, roughly:

• The number of people who would have died from heart disease over the course of 16 weeks.


Estimated cancer deaths in the United States over 17 weeks.

• Twelve years’ worth of United States homicide deaths, based on the rate in 2018, the most recent year where complete data is available.

• How many Americans would have died if gun violence deaths were 6.5 times higher this far into 2020.

• The number of deaths from car accidents in the United States over 2,000 days.

• Fifty-five years’ worth of deaths in fires, at the current United States rate.

• Six hundred years’ worth of drownings in United States boating accidents.

• Twenty-eight months’ worth of United States deaths from diabetes.

• American military fatalities if the war in Afghanistan were to last for 1,700 years.

• The number of people who have died from the novel coronavirus since January.