The body of a deceased patient is considered a health care worker treating individuals infected with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) on December 30, 2020 at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, United States.

Callaghan O’Hare | Reuters

At 5:00 am on July 11th, Tara Krebbs received a call at her home in Phoenix. Her mother was on the other end, crying hysterically. Tara’s father had woken up breathless and on his way to the hospital.

Charles Krebbs, 75, showed symptoms of Covid-19 shortly after Father’s Day in June, first developed a fever and then lost his sense of taste and smell. With the local hospitals overwhelmed, he had tried to recover at home and was still waiting for the results of a Covid-19 test that had taken weeks to plan. His results still weren’t back – even when rescue workers took him to the emergency room.

Just a few weeks earlier, Tara had given her parents a Father’s Day present with a card that said, “Next year will be better.” It was the last time she saw her father until he had an hour to say goodbye in person in the intensive care unit the night he died. After almost four weeks in hospital, he lost his fight against the coronavirus in early August.

Charles Krebbs is one of more than 500,000 Americans who have died of Covid-19, an astonishing number that occurs about a year after the virus was first discovered in the United States. according to the Johns Hopkins University. And for each of those lost lives, there are children, spouses, siblings, and friends who have been left behind.

“I look at old pictures of him holding me and you can see how much he loved me,“” Tara said of her father who worked as a real estate agent and appraiser in Maricopa County. He was a music lover and history buff who enjoyed living with his daughter and her family. Take his grandson on his first day of kindergarten and train his little league teams.

“He was just a caring, practical guy who loved his family more than anything,” said Krebbs.

Tara Krebbs and her father Charles Krebbs

See Krebbs

Today’s grim milestone follows some of the deadliest months of the pandemic. After a fall and winter spike in Covid-19 cases, 81,000 deaths were reported in December and 95,000 deaths in January, both of which far exceeded April’s high of just over 60,000. At the same time, US health officials are trying to increase the pace from Covid-19 vaccinations across the country.

Terrible landmark

Although the virus has been with us for more than a year, the magnitude of the death toll is difficult to gauge.

When US health officials gave early estimates of hundreds of thousands of deaths last spring, “people thought we were hyperbolic about this, and we clearly were not. This is a terrible milestone that we have now reached,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, the White House medical director, told CBS News Monday.

Almost as many Americans have now died of Covid-19 as were killed in the First and Second World Wars combined. The US death toll equates to a population roughly the size of Atlanta or Kansas City, Missouri.

“Even if about half a million people die, that sounds like a huge number, but it’s difficult to put them in perspective,” said Cynthia Cox, vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonprofit that deals with national health issues deals . “It’s hard for people to hear these big numbers and give them faces.”

Part of the reason for this is the way these deaths have often occurred in isolation and away from loved ones.

“What sets Covid apart from other mass casualty events is the lack of video or personal connections at the time of death,” Cox said. “Covid stations are so sealed off for security reasons that we don’t have any news cameras to show us what it really looks like. We hear a lot of big numbers, but we only get this personal connection when we know someone.”

David Kessler, a Los Angeles-based grief expert and author who has run an online support group for those who have lost someone to Covid, said 500,000 deaths is a number “the mind won’t understand”.

“A number like that makes the world dangerous, and we’d rather not live in a dangerous world,” he said.

In search of a reference point, Kessler compared the death toll in Covid with the two Boeing 737 Max plane crashes in 2018 and 2019, in which a total of 346 people were killed.

“Think about how many 737 Maxes fell, how much news we had, and what pictures we had,” he said. “What they don’t know is that 500,000 people equate to almost 3,000 crashed planes. Eight would have crashed yesterday. Can you imagine if eight planes crashed every day?”

One of the leading causes of death in the US

The Covid-19 death toll makes the disease a leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, only heart disease and cancer killed more than 500,000 people a year in 2019, the latest annual figures available. When the daily death toll peaked in January, Cox found in an analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation that Covid was killing more people per day than any other cause.

However, Covid-19 is a single disease rather than a group of diseases that make up the CDC’s more general cause of death categories such as heart disease and cancer. The Covid-19 numbers are even clearer when compared to other specific diseases like lung cancer which killed 140,000 Americans in 2019, Alzheimer’s disease which killed 121,000 people, or breast cancer which killed 43,000 people.

Broken down in this way, Cox said, “the death toll in Covid” far exceeds any other disease.

Like the Covid-19 death toll

compares with other USA

Causes of death

35,000 Americans died

Parkinson’s Disease in 2019

43,000 died of breast cancer

50,000 died of the flu and

lung infection

104,000 died of heart attacks

121,000 died of Alzheimer’s


140,000 died of lung cancer

500,000 died of Covid-19

over the past year

Iconography courtesy of ProPublica

WeePeople project

How the Covid-19 death toll compares to other US

Causes of death

35,000 Americans died of Parkinson’s disease in 2019

43,000 died of breast cancer

50,000 died of flu and pneumonia

104,000 died of heart attacks

121,000 died of Alzheimer’s

140,000 died of lung cancer

500,000 died of Covid-19 last year

Iconography courtesy of ProPublica’s WeePeople project

The effects of the disease are so far-reaching that life expectancy in the United States fell by one year in the first half of 2020 – a staggering decrease, according to the latest analysis by the CDC.

The United States has been one of the countries hardest hit by the coronavirus, with more reported deaths than anywhere else in the world. In terms of population adjustment, the United States has only the United Kingdom, the Czech Republic, Italy and Portugal in terms of deaths per capita, according to an analysis by Johns Hopkins University.

“She meant a lot to many people”

Isabelle Odette Papadimitriou was a respiratory therapist in Dallas and spent the spring and summer caring for Covid patients at the hospital where she worked. She infected herself with the virus at the end of June and died shortly afterwards on July 4th, her favorite holiday. She was 64 years old.

Her daughter, Fiana Tulip, remembers her mother as someone “strong as an ox” who had made it through countless flu outbreaks in her 30-year career. Tulip, a fan of the British royal family, who treated their two dogs “like little people,” said she was the kind of mother who would send Amazon parcels to her daughter as soon as she felt she needed something. After her death, Tulip received a pair of pink ruffle shoes that Papadimitriou had sent for Tulip’s daughter, her first grandchild.

Over the summer, Tulip received calls from her mother’s former coworkers and friends, from an employee at Papadimitriou’s local dog daycare to the owner of a storage unit she rented in Texas.

“People who loved my mother just came out,” said Tulip. “She meant a lot to many people.”

The pandemic is not over yet

Coronavirus cases in the US have declined in recent weeks and the pace of reported deaths is also slowing. According to data from Johns Hopkins University, the country has a weekly average of close to 1,900 deaths from Covid-19 per day, compared with more than 3,300 per day in mid-January.

Even so, the death toll will continue to rise. Projections by the University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation show a range of 571,000 to 616,000 Covid-19 deaths in the United States as of June 1, based on various scenarios.

Fauci, the nation’s foremost infectious disease expert, warned Americans on Sunday to avoid a sense of complacency with Covid-19 despite falling case numbers, saying that “the baseline of daily infections is still very, very high”.

The CDC has also identified At least three mutant strains of the virus in the US, some of which have been shown to be more transmissible than the dominant strain, although experts have largely said that they expect the current vaccines to be offer some protection against these variants.

So far, around 44 million people, roughly 13% of the population, have received at least one shot either Pfizer’s or Moderna’s two-shot vaccines, and President Joe Biden suggested during a CNN town hall last week that the country could return to some semblance of normality by Christmas.

But for those who lost a loved one to Covid-19, Kessler, the grief expert, said things won’t be the same.

“When you talk about family members, we don’t recover from losses,” he said. “We have to learn to live with the loss.”