Just how big a number is 200,000?
Pretty big, when you’re counting human lives.
On Tuesday, as U.S. death toll from the Covid-19 coronavirus topped 200,000, the Daily Beast took a closer look — and to put things in perspective, it makes a few comparisons:
With 9/11. With Hurricane Katrina. With Gettysburg.
There’s a good reason for doing so: we’ve gotten too used to seeing that tally of American dead rise. And rise. Every single day since early in 2020.
“What began as a trickle of misery … transformed into a flood of hundreds and in some cases thousands of lives lost per day,” the Beast says. “Suddenly, what would otherwise be canonized as national days of mourning in tribute to those lost were just another day in a horrible year.”
Then the website offers “a disturbing look at the human destruction already wrought by Covid-19 compared to some of the most trying moments in American history.”
It begins with the Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, fought over three days in July 1863 between Americans on both sides; 7,038 were killed. And here’s where the Daily Beast puts that in perspective: it would take more than 28 Gettysburg battles to equal what Covid-19 has done so far.
Another death-dealing catastrophe was the Great San Francisco Earthquake of April 1906, which killed an estimated 3,000 people; more than 66 such quakes would be needed to reach 200,000.
The 9/11 terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 killed 2,977; it would take 67 of them to equal the current pandemic, at least so far.
How about World War II D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, the largest amphibious assault in history? It left 2,499 Americans dead, meaning 80 such invasions would be needed to kill 200,000.
Then consider Hurricane Katrina, which raged for 11 days in 2005, one of the deadliest storms in history: 1,833 Americans died. It would take 109 Katrinas to reach 200,000.
Now, to put all that in perspective, consider the 1918 influenza pandemic — the so-called “Spanish flu” — which arrived on the heels of World War I and dragged on in the U.S. for more than two years.
That pandemic left an estimated 675,000 Americans dead — well over three times as many as Covid-19 has caused.
But keep in mind that the Spanish flu was finished more than a century ago, and vaccines have mostly prevented it from recurring.
Yet right now, right here, the coronavirus is still going strong, with no end in sight. The Washington Post reports that an average of 800 people are dying each day.