The deadly reality of Covid-19 - corrected version

Dear readers

My American readers who are clearly much more informed about American history than I am noted that my death tolls for the wars have been very high. As it turns out I took the data from the wrong column in a table. I took deaths plus wounded, which means I made the Covid-19 pandemic LESS deadly. I apologise to all readers and have corrected the data and the charts below. I have clearly been too busy and stressed this week and start to make stupid mistakes.


I usually write about entertaining and funny things on Fridays, but this time, I feel obliged to address my American readers many of whom apparently still take the current epidemic not seriously enough. Donald Trump by now styles himself as a war president and while I disagree with Trump on just about everything, I must admit he is right. By the government’s own admission, the likely death toll of the Covid-19 pandemic will reach 200,000, but there is a large uncertainty around that number. Reasonable estimates for the total death toll range from 40,000 to more than 1 million, so from about a fifth of that number to five times that number.

But somehow, this number doesn’t seem to sink in with some people, particularly on the conservative side of the political spectrum. So. let me compare this number with the death tolls of past wars.

Below is a simple chart with the official White House estimate of Covid-19 victims compared to previous wars the US fought. It doesn’t look too bad. Covid-19 is expected to kill about four times the number of Americans as the Vietnam War and almost twice as many as World War I. But of course, the Second World War as well as the US Civil War cost many more Americans their lives. No contest there.

Total deaths of US wars and Covid-19

Source: Wikipedia, Washington Post.

It’s a bit unfair, though, to compare 200,000 dead people in 2020 with 200,000 dead people in the 1950s and 1960s because the population of the United States was much smaller back then. So, here is a chart of the number of Covid-19 victims as a share of the total population. Covid-19 looks like a relatively benign episode in this chart.

Deaths of US wars and Covid-19 as share of total population

Source: Wikipedia, Washington Post.

But that is not what Covid-19 will feel like on a daily basis. The death toll from the pandemic will accumulate over roughly five months from March till the end of July. So, let us calculate the average number of people killed per day.

Average deaths per day of US wars and Covid-19

Source: Wikipedia, Washington Post.

During the World Wars and the Civil War, the American public had to digest on average about 200 to 400 deaths per day. The current pandemic will likely kill almost four times as many people per day – every day – for five months. If you are shocked by the fact that this week the number of deaths in the United States surpassed the number of people killed in 9/11, are you prepared for the days in April when on a single day, more people will die than on 9/11? And then the next day, even more people will die? Are you prepared for the footage of the coffins and body bags that make Vietnam look like a picnic in the park? Are you prepared for the number of funerals that will take place on any given day? Are you prepared for the number of funerals you will have to attend, either in person or remotely?

So, once more with feeling: Stay. At. Home! 

Take this pandemic seriously, because it is deadly serious.