A pandemic milestone and what might come next

Bryan Alexander
7 min readDec 16, 2021

Der Tod eines Menschen: das ist eine Katastrophe. Hunderttausend Tote: das ist eine Statistik!
(The death of one man: that is a catastrophe. A hundred thousand deaths: that is a statistic!)

-Kurt Tucholsky, 1925

It looks like COVID-19 has now killed about 800,000 Americans.

Here’s the latest dashboard result from Johns Hopkins University:

800,945 dead. I wrote “about” because American COVID data is so varied and unreliable. On the lower side the CDC currently posts 796,010. COVID Act Now estimates 797,000. On the other side Worldometers thinks 821,444 while the World Bank has 800,043.

I also hedged my language because enough sources argue that published stats undercount COVID deaths worldwide, including in America. The usual way for determining this is to track total deaths over recent, pre-pandemic years, then project them into our COVID time, checking to see how many more deaths occurred than expected. Some researchers see the real number at 20% higher, and higher still in black and Hispanic populations. IHME calculated that actual world deaths are around double the official number, and that American deaths are more than 50% higher than the CDC’s figures.

And so many of those deaths were preventable. Stupidly, infuriatingly preventable, because vaccines are safe, provide protection, are free, are widely available, and have been so for a while. According to the Kaiser Family Foundation:

We also estimate that 163,000 COVID-19 deaths could have been prevented by vaccination since June 2021, when safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines were widely available to all adults in the U.S.

Only around 60% of the population is fully vaccinated, according to Mayo, and that includes people whose last shot was long enough ago that its protections have weakened to some degree. Maybe 20% have received a booster, according to CDC.

So now: at least 800,000 dead in the United States. COVID-19 has probably killed a million.

It’s a terrifying number to grasp. I suspect many people shy away from it. Statistics are unintuitive for some. Others may avoid the fact for political reasons: Republicans, embarrassed that Trump didn’t scotch the thing…

Bryan Alexander

Futurist, speaker, writer, educator. Author of the FTTE report, UNIVERSITIES ON FIRE, and ACADEMIA NEXT. Creator of The Future Trends Forum.