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Understanding the magnitude of the U.S. coronavirus death toll

The United States is approaching another tragic marker of the coronavirus pandemic, with nearly 200,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 and related complications. The magnitude of the loss is difficult to comprehend. We examine how the virus has spread across the country, deeply affecting communities of all kinds, and evaluate this somber occasion in historical context. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    As the country approaches yet another tragic marker of the pandemic tonight, close to 200,000 Americans dead from COVID and related complications, we're going to widen our lens to look at how the virus has cut across so many communities in the U.S. and to remember the lives being lost.

    William Brangham begins with what we know about the growing toll.

  • William Brangham:

    The slow beat of bells at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on Sunday, 200 tolls as the nation approached 200,000 American lives lost to the coronavirus.

    It's a daunting number, one that's hard to fully grasp. It's nearly twice as many Americans who've been killed in every major conflict since the Korean War combined.

    So, as the country marks this solemn occasion, we felt it important to take a moment to lay out what the numbers tell us so far. It's been 242 days since the first reported case of this novel coronavirus in the United States. Since then, there have been nearly seven million more reported across all 50 states.

    Daily cases have fallen from a peak of more than 70,000 in July to under 40,000 today. All told, Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, Alabama, and Arizona have seen the most cases per capita so far. But over the last week, the Dakotas, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Utah have seen the most cases per capita.

    New York, which suffered the worst outbreak early on, accounts for more than 16 percent of all COVID deaths, with roughly 33,000. In New York City, one in every 360 residents died. New Jersey, California, Texas, and Florida each have seen at least 10,000 people die.

    But the five states with the highest death rates in the last week are Arkansas, Mississippi, Virginia, Florida, and North Dakota. So far in the U.S., the virus has a nearly 3 percent case fatality rate. More than 90 percent of deaths involving COVID-19 were people over the age of 55. And more than 40 percent of deaths occurred in nursing homes or assisted living facilities.

    We also know this virus has taken a disproportionate toll on communities of color in this country. Blacks, Hispanics and Latinos, and Native Americans are more than two-and-a-half times more likely to get virus than whites. Those same groups are roughly five times more likely to be hospitalized. And Black Americans are twice as likely to die.

    Globally, among these major developed nations, the U.S. has, by far the highest number of daily deaths. It's a number that will likely to continue to grow as we wrestle with our national response to this global tragedy.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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