As of August 18, 169,870 people in the United States have died of COVID-19. There have been 5.4 million cases. And these numbers are only continuing to rise. It can be difficult to grasp just what these numbers mean and actually look like.
Sure, it was bad when it was 50,000 deaths, worse when it hit 100,000, and devastating when it hit 150,000. But a potential part of the reason the country isn't banding together to do more about this pandemic crisis is that without context, those numbers can be hard to visualize and understand.
For some, it's not enough to say that these numbers are extreme and horrifying and wildly out of the ordinary, that we should be up in arms about nearly 170,000 people dying within six months. One viral Facebook post intends to clarify what these numbers really mean, to put them in a context that most people can understand.
Back toward the end of July, Joanne Faulkner Pasmore shared on Facebook a post adding perspective to the number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. At the time, 137,000 people had died.
"I was listening to the news this week when one of the anchors said that we needed to put the 137,000 people dead in four months with COVID-19 into context so people can understand," her post reads. "He said to imagine those 137,000 dead people were airline passengers, all dying from airplane crashes.
"Losing 137,000 people in four months could be equivalent to 50 planes a week crashing, for four months, with all on board dying. 50 PLANE CRASHES A WEEK. For four months. All on board, DEAD.
"He said if planes were falling out of the sky at a rate of 50 per week, not only would people be horrified, but they would expect something to be done. The government wouldn't be shrugging their shoulders and acting like it was no big deal."
Her post continues, "I thought this was a great way to put it. No one would or could ignore that. No one would call it a hoax. No one would question the 'science.' No one would ignore it for four months. People would want answers, and they would be afraid to get on a plane until something was done.
"People would say, 'Planes are crashing around us and no one is taking it seriously.' This is 171 people per plane, 50 times a week. Let that sink in."
Has it sunk in yet? This is not normal. This is the equivalent of 50 plane crashes a week. Holly Yan puts it another way in an article for CNN: "If the U.S. suffered a loss of life on the scale of the 9/11 attacks — 50 times over — the tragedy would be incomprehensible. But that's how many lives coronavirus has claimed in the U.S. since the pandemic started just six months ago."
She writes that every day, "an average of more than 850 Americans have died from COVID-19." She reiterates that it can be easy to turn a blind eye or simply not realize how staggering those numbers are.
But it's imperative that we don't lose sight of what these numbers actually mean. As Yan, points out, we still have a long way to go before achieving herd immunity, and it might be months and months before a vaccine is available.
Some estimates put us at 300,000 deaths before the end of the year, deaths that could have been prevented had the U.S. stepped up and taken the necessary steps to stop the spread of the virus.