afriedman22_ANGELA WEISSAFP via Getty Images_covid-19 deaths Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The Meaning of 200,000 COVID-19 Deaths

Americans’ desensitization to the pandemic’s skyrocketing death toll vindicates Joseph Stalin’s famous observation: “One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.” The danger of this approach, of course, is that it relieves government of its obligation to act – opening the way for far more COVID-19 deaths.

JACKSON HOLE – COVID-19 has now killed 200,000 people in the United States. Many Americans – including US President Donald Trump – play down the figure by focusing on victims’ age and comorbidities (which include common conditions such as diabetes and hypertension) and emphasizing that they do not personally know anyone who has died from COVID-19. They seem unwilling to recognize the magnitude of the grief and devastation that the pandemic has caused.

Americans’ desensitization to the pandemic’s skyrocketing death toll vindicates Joseph Stalin’s famous observation: “One death is a tragedy; a million is a statistic.” The danger of this approach, of course, is that it relieves government of its obligation to act – opening the way for far more COVID-19 deaths. So it is worth taking a moment to put this statistic into perspective.

Let’s start with some scale. If 200,000 people stood on one another’s shoulders, they would form a structure that would extend nearly within reach of the International Space Station.

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