COVID-19 By the Numbers

Total USA Deaths Source JHU

Just because a number is assigned to a thing does not mean that it is a perfect, accurate or durable representation of that thing.

John henry thompson

The COVID-19 Data from John Hopkins University CSSE is the best information available on COVID-19 statistics at any given moment in time. In an effort to present data with the highest integrity possible the figures are revised as new information becomes available. A good example is the reporting on the USA crossing the threshold of 1,000,000 COVID-19 deaths. The date when we passed this grim milestone was widely reported in the media as May 17, 2022. As of Friday August 19, 2022, We (COVID-19 Impact Project) also reported this date at the “accurate” date. However as I prepare this BLOG 3 days later, I went back to look at the figures and the date when the USA crossed this threshold is now reported as May 9, 2022 and the figure on that date is 1,000,203 vs 1,000,189 on May 17.

Originally reported date when over 1,000,000 COVID deaths were recorded
COVID-19 Memorial Ticker Sample August 2022. Source, JHU

50,323 April 23, 2020

100,624 May 27, 2020

150,546 June 29, 2020

200,826 September 23, 2020

250,489 November 18, 2020

300,092 December 12, 2020

352,185 January 1, 2021

400,576 January 16, 2021

451,567 February 2, 2021

501,204 February 23, 2021

550,265 April 2, 2021

600,054 June 28, 2021

650,583 September 8, 2021

700,008 October 3, 2021

750,007 November 4, 2021

801,773 December 15, 2021

850,796 January 14, 2022

901,602 February 4, 2022

951,598 March 1, 2022

1,000,203 May 9, 2022

[A Grim Design Challenge]

COVID-19 Memorial Ticker (Preview) 01/22/2022

It’s 2022 and It’s Not Over

As I looked at our COVID-19 Memorial Ticker I came to the realization that we faced a grim design challenge: How to modify the interface to accommodate a pair of statistics that approach 8,000 deaths

We might think we are “done” with the pandemic but the pandemic is certainly not “done” with us.  As the developers of the COVID-19 Impact Project, John Henry and I look at the numbers a lot. Late at night on January 22, 2022, while working on materials for the “Extracting Stories from Data” course at New York University, I noticed something peculiar… As the ticker trudged backwards from the statistics of 01/21/2022 to 01/20/2022 and then on to 01/19/2022… we ran out of space in the ticker window. The number of pixels that we use to represent each life for the two days: 01/21/22 and 01/19/22 COULD NOT ALL FIT in our ticker window.

JanSnapshot Memorial Ticker
January 17-21 Snapshot Memorial Ticker Web Preview

Just about a month or so shy of the first reported CDC COVID-19 death in the United States (according to data retrieved from Johns Hopkins University), and more than 1 year since vaccines have been available to Americans, it has been one of the most grim weeks of COVID-19 deaths.

COVID-19 Memorial Ticker at NYU Tisch/ITP
COVID-19 Memorial Ticker at NYU Tisch/ITP Snapshot on January 26, 2022 1:31PM. Photo taken as we were arriving at ITP

USA Deaths 01/17/2022 – 01/21/2022

The numbers below represent reported COVID-19 deaths across the country.  You can explore the data further by visiting our COVID-19 Impact Dashboard.

  • Friday 01/21/22:  3,567 – 35% of the worldwide deaths
  • Thursday 01/20/22:  2,479 – 27% of worldwide deaths
  • Wednesday 01/19/22:  3,810 – 36% of worldwide deaths
  • Tuesday 01/18/22:  1,898 – 22% of worldwide deaths
  • Monday 01/17/22: 1,147 – 18% of worldwide deaths
  • Total: 12,901

The US population is not 18% or 36% of the global population. We are less than 5% (approximately 4.4%) of the world’s people. These statistics for a disease whose fatality can be mitigated by widely available effective vaccines, should alarm us.

Even considering the flaws in the data (ex underreporting by some countries) this is concerning. Reports about the”mildness” of the Omicron variant should not lull us into a feeling of complacency. There are still many daily deaths – many of them preventable. We should stay vigilant, get vaccinated and get booster shots if eligible.

USA Total Deaths to Date Shown Above. Source, JHU
USA Experiencing an outsized share of global deaths on many days. COVID-19 Impact Dashboard

[Curating COVID-19 Memorials]

Total USA COVID-19 Deaths to Date Above: Source, JHU

As the conversation shifts to vaccines and variants, we want to be sure that the most vulnerable among us whose lives were lost during the darkest days of the pandemic and those who died despite their best efforts at protecting themselves due to underlying medical vulnerabilities are not forgotten.

Several people and organizations across the United States have created digital and physical memorials, giving grieving loved ones a space to recognize that their deceased relatives and friends have not been forgotten in the noise of the ongoing pandemic. Yet, each attempt at memorialization captures but a sliver of the victims of this mass death event. Here we attempt to curate some of the touching memorials we have discovered. If there is a memorial that you would like us to feature, please contact us.

The New York Times

100,000 Coronavirus Deaths Commemorative Issue

When the USA passed the grim marker of 100,000 reported COVID-19 deaths, The New York Times produced print and digital commemorative issues.

Screen recording of NYT commemorative digital issue
“Those We’ve Lost”

New York Times collection of obituaries of coronavirus victims in 2020 on a more global scale. As of January 2022, the series is no longer being updated.

Snapshot from NYT Series “Those We’ve Lost.”

The City News Organization

Remembering the New Yorkers We’ve Lost to‌ COVID‑19

This ongoing crowdsourced journalism project aims to collect and memorialize the stories of the tens of thousands of New Yorkers who succumbed to the coronavirus. The project is a collaboration between THE CITY, Columbia Journalism School, Brown Institute for Media Innovation and the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY. Read more.

NYC Metropolitan Transit Authority

Travels Far: A Memorial Honoring MTA Workers Lost to COVID-19

Early on in the pandemic we were very concerned about the vulnerability of essential workers in NYC as the virus tore through our communities. We noticed that it tooks weeks for the MTA to implement measures to protect workers like sealing off the bus driver’s from the general public. We are so devastated to learn that over 100 MTA workers lost their lives to the coronavirus and wish to amplify this memorial honoring their service. Learn more about the memorial.

The Poor People’s Campaign

Memorial Wall

The Poor People’s Campaign (PPC), led by Reverend Barber advocates for meaningful policy shifts at the federal and state levels to recognize and ameliorate the condition of the millions among us who live in crushing poverty. The PPC Memorial Wall remembers those who died at the intersection of COVID-19 and poverty. Ream more about poverty and the pandemic

Snapshot of the PPC Memorial Wall


Enduring Loss

Another memorial by a news organization, National Public Radio in collaboration with its member stations and New York Public Radio presents vignettes of a few bright lights that were prematurely snuffed out due to the pandemic. This project is not ongoing. Learn more about the “Enduring Loss” project.

The Washington Post

The Pandemic’s First Wave

The Washington Post combines statistics with real, human stories of some of the early victims of the coronavirus pandemic as it tore through communities at a time when there were no treatments and no vaccines. This piece both humanizes the data and highlights major gaps in data on the victims. For example the race and gender of the first 1000 victims were discernible for less that 50% of those identified. However the paper takes time with some of the victims to truly humanize the data. Their disaggregation of the data into compelling visualizations also enhances the storytelling in this article.

Washington Post Article on First 1000 Victims of COVID-19
Other Washington Post Memorials
A token of our love: A memorial for those lost to covid-19

This is an interesting concept in the realm of crowdsourcing COVID-19 memorials. Users of the site were invited to leave “tokens” identified by culturally typical symbols of grief and comfort. Learn more here.