500,000 American lives lost to COVID-19. What does that even look like?

As the United States passes a heartbreaking milestone, we're visualizing the high cost paid in American lives.

As the United States passes a heartbreaking milestone, we're visualizing the high cost paid in American lives.
@rohane/Twenty20

This week, the United States passed a heartbreaking milestone that was once thought unimaginable: over 500,000 Americans have died from COVID-19.

In the year since the pandemic began, we've lost over half a million mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, friends and neighbors.

Last year, half a million Americans were in our lives, vibrant and healthy. Today, they're gone.

It's difficult to grasp the enormity of what we've lost.

This graph shows the rate at which we lost our loved ones in the past year. Motherly/Source: Johns Hopkins University & Medicine

It took just over a year for the United States to reach this unfathomable milestone.

It took about three months for the pandemic death toll to reach 100,000 lives lost. The second 100,000 deaths took an additional four months. We hit 300,000 lives lost just three months later.

From there, the deaths escalated. The fourth and fifth groups of 100,000 took about one month each.

We have lost enough American lives to fill another cemetery the size of Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery Samuel Corum/Getty Images

Approximately 400,000 veterans and loved ones are currently resting in the storied grounds of the cemetery, which dates to the Civil War. Officials estimate there's room for another 95,000 burials.

COVID-19 has already claimed more lives than can fit in Arlington National Cemetery.

We've lost more American lives to COVID-19 than to any single war.

We examined statistics provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs. To build the next graph, we counted every life lost in the Civil War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. We included both Union and Confederate soldiers, as well as all deaths that occurred both in battle and in service to our nation. You can find more on these statistics here.

FEATURED VIDEO

No war has claimed more lives than the one against COVID-19. Motherly/Source: Department of Veterans Affairs

No war has claimed more lives than the one against COVID-19.

We wanted to give you another way to visualize the massive toll this virus has taken.

Losing over half a million people to this pandemic is akin to losing a major city's population. It's like losing every person who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, or Raleigh, North Carolina. Actually, it's worse—because the COVID-19 death toll is still higher than these cities' populations.

Motherly/Source: US Census Bureau

If you're interested in how we found these comparisons, we used the most recent Census Data. You can learn more here.

Here's another way to visualize it: we've lost more American lives to COVID-19 than people who live in countries like Belize, Iceland and Barbados. We got these statistics from World Population Review.

Motherly/Source: World Population Review

How did we get to this point, where we've lost 1 in every 658 Americans since the first reported death just last year?

How did we get to this point, where COVID-19 has caused the average life expectancy in the U.S. to drop by a full year?

Where do we go from here?

We're still in a pandemic. We're not just looking back at data collected during a historical event that's over. We're still living in a pandemic—one that claims thousands of lives each day.

Where do we go from here?

There is hope, of course. There's always hope.

We're seeing fewer daily cases and deaths related to the pandemic. COVID-19 cases have dropped 77% in six weeks.

The pandemic is heading in the right direction, though there's an incredible amount of work to be done before it's over.

Pfizer and Moderna have pledged to make a combined total of 220 million doses available to the American public by the end of March.

That's enough to vaccinate 110 million Americans since the vaccines require two doses each.

Johnson & Johnson, which has yet to receive approval for its COVID-19 vaccine, has pledged to make 20 million single doses available by the end of March.

Experts believe we'll reach herd immunity by April, too.

The combination of Americans building some natural immunity to COVID-19, as well as getting vaccinated against it, will help ease the death toll and bring us closer to an end to the pandemic.

Hang in there, mama.

Continue practicing social distancing. Wear your masks and wash your hands. Consider getting vaccinated.

This has been an unimaginable year, with unfathomable loss.

We pored over the statistics and built all these graphs to help you visualize just how many lives have been lost to COVID-19.

We're looking forward to visualizing an end to this pandemic.

Jamie Orsini is an Emmy Award-winning journalist, military spouse, and a mom to two busy toddlers. In her spare time, Jamie volunteers with the Solar System Ambassador program with NASA/JPL and reads anything she can get her hands on. She’s currently working on her first novel.

In This Article