Sep 28, 2020 - World

Global coronavirus death toll crosses 1 million

Data: Our World in Data; Chart: Sara Wise/Axios

The global toll of confirmed deaths from COVID-19 crossed 1 million on Monday, according to data from Johns Hopkins.

By the numbers: More than half of those deaths have come in four countries: the U.S. (204,762), Brazil (141,741), India (95,542) and Mexico (76,430). The true global death toll is likely far higher.

  • Adjusted for population, Peru, Belgium, Bolivia, Spain and Brazil have had the world's deadliest outbreaks to date. The U.S. is eighth and Mexico is 10th.

How we got to 1 million: The first known death from COVID-19 was announced on Jan. 11 in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began.

  • By the end of February, several countries — South Korea, Iran, Italy — had outbreaks, but just 104 deaths had been recorded outside of China.
  • Europe become a new epicenter by early March. Italy instituted the first nationwide lockdown on March 9, and much of Europe and the world soon followed.
  • The highest daily global death tolls came in mid-April, when the pandemic was near its peak in western Europe and in parts of the U.S., including New York City.
  • By early May, the situation was improving in Europe but the U.S. continued to record upwards of 1,000 deaths each day. Latin America, meanwhile, was becoming a new global epicenter.
  • Since the spring, more than half of all deaths recorded globally have come in the Americas, though India has joined the U.S., Brazil and Mexico among the countries recording the highest death tolls.

The state of play: India is approaching 100,000 deaths. It's currently tallying the world's highest daily totals, followed by the U.S. and Brazil.

  • European countries including Spain and France are dealing with second waves that have seen new cases, but not deaths, match the totals seen in the spring. Deaths are now beginning to tick upward.
  • The pandemic continues to be far less deadly in Africa, though testing is limited in many countries. One oft-cited reason is the continent's very young population.

The true death toll from COVID-19 will never be known with any precision, but "excess mortality" figures indicate that the U.S. is probably undercounting deaths by about 30% — and many other countries by more than that, per the Economist.

  • Mike Ryan, emergencies director at the WHO, recently warned that the official death toll could double to two million before a vaccine is widely available.

The trend: Every day, approximately 5,300 coronavirus deaths are being recorded around the world — a number that has held relatively steady since July (based on 7-day rolling averages). At that rate, we should expect 500,000 more deaths by the end of 2020.

  • The rate could still shift significantly in either direction.
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