“We hold these truths to be self-evident,” Thomas Jefferson wrote 244 years ago, when a brand-new nation found itself already a year into war with the most powerful empire on the planet. Two and a half centuries later, the innately flawed country that was born out of the declaration Jefferson penned is fighting one of the deadliest battles in its history.
Except this time around, it remains deeply split about the very nature of a horrifically fatal enemy.
While leaders in some nations around the world have in many cases used a combination of aggressive lockdowns and mass testing to get a handle on COVID-19, the United States is another story. Some 25 percent—a full quarter—of documented global infections and deaths have come inside U.S. borders, according to the Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) at Johns Hopkins University. This despite the U.S. only having 4.25 percent of the global population.
President Donald Trump’s administration continues to underplay the seriousness of the novel coronavirus, with many governors following his lead despite major spikes in both cases and deaths. While simple facts and safety precautions seem impossible for Americans to agree upon, one statistic should be impossible to deny: 129,432 people have died in the United States since January 20, 2020 of COVID-19, and according to experts, that tally is likely a dramatic undercount.
Remarkably, even as he has been loathe to attack it the way many public-health experts might wish, Trump has taken to touting himself as a wartime president. He has framed the struggle to contain the virus as a “war” against an “invisible enemy.” If Americans accept his premise that the past five months have been their newest war, they must then consider the deaths to be wartime deaths. And when comparing the 129,432 deaths to those during every other major American war and conflict, COVID-19 comes out the deadliest besides two: the Civil War and World War II.
Below, a dizzying array of 129,432 dots, each representing the death of a single person due to COVID-19 in the United States. They are broken up only by the comparable death toll of every major American war and conflict that preceded this one.
Editor's Note: For the wars and conflicts beginning with the Spanish-American War, the total death toll, tabulated from data made available by the Department of Veterans Affairs, includes battle deaths, other deaths (in theater), and other deaths in service (non-theater).