Presold caskets at a funeral home in New York City in April.
Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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The toll of the virus has grown considerably over the past month, with the daily average more than doubling to close to 2,400 deaths every day. With over 50,000 coronavirus deaths since November 14, COVID has risen to become the leading cause of death in the U.S. — above even heart disease and cancer. As we enter what President-elect Joe Biden has called our “dark winter,” the virus is now killing one American every 36 seconds.
With COVID hospitalizations breaking all-time highs almost every day that new statistics are reported, deaths are expected to rise substantially in the months before the public can be vaccinated. One recent projection from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimates that by the end of January, more Americans will have been lost to the coronavirus than service members killed during World War II. Like most aspects of life and illness in America, the hardships have not been distributed equally. Poverty dramatically increases one’s likelihood of dying from the virus, while Black and Hispanic Americans are 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
“The reality is, December and January and February are going to be rough times,” CDC director Robert Redfield said earlier this month. “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult in the public-health history of this nation, largely because of the stress that’s going to be put on our health-care system.”