In 2020, the coronavirus pandemic killed 345,737 people in the United States — and tens of thousands more in just the first week of January.
But focusing just on 2020, that means that the coronavirus killed considerably more people in the U.S. than several other leading causes of death including guns, the flu, and car crashes combined.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, 43,441 people died from willful or accidental shootings in the U.S. last year. That is, unambiguously, a national tragedy — and yet it's only about one eighth the death toll of the COVID-19 pandemic the same year. That's even more striking when you consider that guns were killing Americans all year, but the coronavirus didn't claim its first victim until February.
And yet, in spite of all that, we still hear anti-maskers, online trolls, and even the President of the United States downplay the dangers of the pandemic. So it felt appropriate to put the virus's unfathomable death toll in context by comparing it to other major causes of death in America.
Take, for instance, the flu. Throughout the pandemic, especially in its early months, it was common yet wildly incorrect to hear that COVID-19 was "just" a mild flu or that the seasonal flu routinely kills more people than the coronavirus. In retrospect, though, the numbers tell a drastically different story.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the 2019-2020 flu season killed about 22,000 Americans. Just as with gun violence, that's horrible. But in 2020, the numbers show, the ongoing pandemic killed an order of magnitude more Americans.
In fact, you could add together deaths from the flu, gun violence, and the 38,800 deaths caused by car crashes in 2019 — the National Safety Council hasn't released 2020 numbers yet — and you're still only at 30.2 percent of the deaths caused by COVID-19.
Case and fatality numbers are still rising at an increasing rate, in part due to increased transmission from holiday travel.
So please, we urge you, keep taking this thing seriously.