1 Million Deaths and Counting: COVID-19 Has Now Claimed the Lives of 1 Million Americans

One million Americans have now died from the coronavirus, according to data from NBC News. We visualize the true scope of the loss here

During the first few bewildering weeks of 2020, as medical workers and public health officials grappled with a devastating novel coronavirus that swept small towns and large cities alike, the White House predicted that at least 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die of the virus in the best-case scenario.

The first reported U.S. COVID-19 death was on February 29, 2020. A month later, the day Dr. Deborah Birx announced the sobering prediction, the death toll had already surpassed 5,000 dead Americans. 

The best-case scenario collapsed by mid-November of that same year. By the time the first major holiday season had passed, over half a million Americans had died of COVID by February 2021.

Each Data Point Below Represents an American Who Has Died From COVID-19

Deaths that happened during COVID surges are represented in red

Deaths outside of surges are blue

The first COVID death was originally thought to be a man in his 50s out of Washington state on Feb. 29, 2020. However, an investigation by Mercury News found that doctors amended Lovell "Cookie" Brown's death certificate nearly a year and a half after her Jan. 9, 2020, death in Leavenworth, Kansas, to say she died of the novel virus. In 2021, coroners would eventually find earlier instances of deaths caused by COVID-19.

Several U.S. cities banned large gatherings. Major American sports leagues such as the NBA suspended season games to try and prevent the spread of the virus. The Trump administration restricted flights from Europe as countries like Italy became overwhelmed with COVID cases.

The COVID death toll stateside also surpassed 2,000 one month after its first discovered death. Governors and mayors start to enact state and city-wide lockdowns to prevent the spread. White House coronavirus coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 even with "perfect" containment measures like masking, social distancing and lockdowns.

President Donald Trump was flown to the hospital after he caught COVID-19 in early October. He was treated with the experimental drug Remdesivir. First lady Melania Trump and several White House staffers had been infected by the virus as well. 

Daily case counts would break consecutive records leading into winter 2021 as the FDA authorized the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use.

Sandra Lindsay, a New York nurse, became one of the first Americans to be vaccinated against COVID-19. The Pfizer and the Moderna vaccines were added to the medical arsenal as both prepared for a nationwide rollout. The rollout was made available first to people aged 65 and older and healthcare workers.

Incoming President Joe Biden received his first dose of the coronavirus vaccine on live television in a bid to persuade all Americans to receive the shot as the first coronavirus variant, the alpha strain (B.1.1.7), is discovered in the U.S. days after the UK announced its discovery.

Cases surged so quickly during the winter of 2021 that an additional 100,000 COVID deaths were recorded in just one month.

The CDC reported that communities of color, low-income neighborhoods and disabled communities have received fewer vaccines in proportion to whiter, wealthier groups. The CDC also confirmed racial and ethnic disparities in hospitalizations and emergency room visits.

Meanwhile, the delta variant, first identified in India, becomes the newest variant of concern stateside. It would soon become the predominant variant in the U.S., overtaking the alpha, beta and gamma strains.

Nearly all hospitalizations and deaths from COVID come from unvaccinated patients turning the coronavirus into a "pandemic of the unvaccinated." Booster shots start to roll out for elderly and at-risk Americans.

Children ages 5 to 11 become the newest group authorized for an emergency dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Babies, toddlers and children under 5 remain ineligible for the vaccine.

The Pfizer pill, Paxlovid, was authorized as the first at-home treatment for COVID as the omicron strain spiked cases dramatically. An antiviral pill from Merck is also expected to be authorized for at-home treatment.

Note: Data gathered between April and May 2022. Dates and milestones may vary as states correct historical data if they had previously under or overestimated the number of deaths.
Data: Johns Hopkins University; NBC News
Graphic: Andrew Williams and Nina Lin / NBC

A subvariant of the omicron strain called "stealth omicron" overtook the original strain in COVID case percentages stateside in March. 

A second booster shot is recommended for older Americans, as well as Americans with severely weakened immune systems, for added protection against further COVID surges. Eligible Americans were recommended to get their second booster four months after their first. 


Editing by Corin Cesaric and Andrew V. Pestano.