Reported COVID-19 deaths in the United States have topped one million, according to tallies compiled by Reuters and NBC News.
Figures from the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention vary slightly, but the country is on course to hit one million coronavirus deaths overnight.
President Joe Biden marked the solemn milestone with a statement Thursday, expressing his condolences to the bereaved.
“A million empty chairs around the dinner table. Each one is an irreplaceable loss. Each one leaving behind a family, a community and a nation forever changed because of this pandemic,” Biden said.
Just over two years into the pandemic, the United States has the highest official total of COVID-19 deaths in the world, although excess death modeling released by the World Health Organization and in medical journals and other publications indicated that other countries may have suffered higher levels of mortality, but do not have reporting mechanisms as robust as the Americans.
The United States has seen 302.93 deaths per 100,000 population, by Johns Hopkins, a rate significantly higher than in Canada, with 104.30 deaths per 100,000 people. Nearly 39,000 people have died in Canada.
But large differences between countries can be observed in most age cohorts.
Mortality due to COVID-19 in the working-age population
Although the two countries do not break down demographic and age data in exactly the same way, some comparisons are instructive.
Of the one million deaths in the United States, 75% have occurred in people 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In Canada, 92.7% of deaths tracked by Health Canada occurred in people aged 60 and over.
The difference in the oldest cohort is significant. Some 60.5% of COVID-19 deaths in Canada are in people 80 and older, while Americans 85 and older account for 26% of total COVID-19 deaths in the United States. But given America’s population of 329 million, that overall number is still huge, amounting to more than 224,000 people.
As one moves into the younger age cohorts – particularly the middle-aged population and the working-age population – the differences are even more shocking.
Both countries break down COVID-19 mortality into the age brackets 30-39 and 40-49. According to Statistics Canada, Canadians aged 40 to 49 represent 12.8% of the population and 1.6% of all deaths from COVID-19. A similar percentage of the US population is that age — 12.3% — but the cohort accounts for 4.4% of known COVID-19-related deaths.
Just over 14% of the Canadian population is between the ages of 30 and 39, a cohort that has experienced 0.7 of all deaths from COVID-19. The age cohort accounts for 13.5% of all Americans, but 1.8 of all coronavirus deaths there.
A one percent difference might not seem like a lot, but the numbers are distinct. Canada, with about a ninth of the US population, has lost 285 people between the ages of 30 and 39 to COVID-19, while the US has lost more than 15,000 people in that age bracket.
Taking into account the 50 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and other US territories, there has arguably been greater variation in US efforts to combat the virus compared to Canada, with its smaller number of provinces and territories.
But generally speaking, the United States has had lower vaccination rates, fewer long-lasting public health restrictions on mobility and trade, and more vocal opposition and resistance to vaccines and efforts to attenuation such as masking.
The United States also ranks higher per capita for rates of obesity and diabetes, which may be comorbidities of COVID-19.
Children suffer a loss
Where the pandemic has perhaps resonated most is in the experience of tens of thousands of American children.
According to tracking by the COVID Collaborative, an effort by a team of leading health, education, and economic experts, an estimated 203,649 U.S. children under age 18 lost a parent or other home caregiver because of COVID-19.
This impact was not evenly shared across demographic groups, according to COVID Collaborative.
Native American children lost caregivers at a rate about 3.5 times that of white children, while black and Hispanic children lost caregivers at a rate nearly twice that of white children.
By the numbers
Organizations and professional associations have followed the loss of certain professional categories, social groups and geographical data. Here are some of those numbers:
- 150,000 death of nursing home residentsas well as 2,300 nursing home staff.
- 90,882 deaths in California, the highest number of any state. (It’s also the most populous state. On a per capita death basis, California tied for 19th out of 50.)
- 2,881 death of incarcerated persons in prisons, along with 277 other prison staff.
- 523 death of law enforcement officers in 2020 and 2021.
- 296 deaths of pregnant women linked to the virus, according to the CDC.
- 269 workers in the meatpacking industry died at the end of 2021, by a congressional committee.
- 53 Kentucky deaths per million people, the highest per capita rate of any state.
What’s next for the United States
Despite the fact that the United States has reached this grim milestone, the death rate is slowing. The Omicron variant hit the United States significantly – the country went from 800,000 deaths to 900,000 in about 51 days, one of the shortest intervals of 100,000 deaths in the entire pandemic.
This last interval began around early February, a period of about 97 days, beginning on May 12.
Public health officials are concerned about the nation’s recall rate — 47.8% of Americans over age 12 are considered fully vaccinated plus one vaccine, about seven percentage points behind Canada’s pace.
But it is hoped that the increased use of antivirals such as Paxlovid and the approval of vaccines for children under five will add additional layers of protection against serious illness and death for the general public.
The country also has high levels of acquired immunity, which can sometimes confer a degree of protection. the The CDC published a study last month estimating that 58% of the population had contracted a COVID-19 infection at some point, with around three-quarters of young children likely to have contracted COVID in the past two years or more.
In his statement Thursday, Biden urged Americans “not to be numb in the face of such grief,” and his administration is lobbying Congress for more funding to detect and treat COVID-19, so the country does not recede as the virus evolves.