The U.S. COVID-19 death toll reached the 1 million mark in May 2022; 15 million estimated deaths worldwide
COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020. More than two years later, the disease has caused about 1 million deaths in the U.S. and an estimated 15 million excess deaths worldwide, according to health agencies.
Accurate: The claim accurately covered U.S. death counts by U.S. states health agencies as well as from the CDC. The official COVID-19 death count reached the 1 million mark around mid-May 2022.
China officially reported its first COVID-19 death on 11 January 2020. On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) characterized COVID-19 as a pandemic, which is the worldwide spread of a disease. Since then, the disease has swept the globe, causing an estimated 15 million excess deaths worldwide compared to the expected mortality, according to WHO.
In late May 2022, roughly 29 months after the first officially recorded COVID-19 deaths in the U.S., several news outlets reported that the U.S. COVID-19 death toll hit the one million deaths mark. Official mortality data confirmed that these statements are accurate, as we detail below.
The Johns Hopkins University COVID Coronavirus Resource Center, which compiles mortality data from U.S. states, reported 999,842 COVID-19 deaths as of 17 May 2022. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) COVID Data Tracker mentioned 997,215 COVID-19 deaths as of 16 May 2022. Figure 1 illustrates the increase of COVID-19 mortality over time in the U.S. as reported in the CDC COVID Data Tracker.
Figure 1. Cumulative number of COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. over time as of 16 May 2022. Source: CDC COVID Data TrackerThe CDC provides another death count, managed by its National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS). The NCHS death count is updated weekly and based on the analysis of death certificates, as Health Feedback previously explained. This process is slower than the one used in the COVID Data Tracker that is updated daily, but provides more accurate numbers. In its latest update of 16 May 2022, the NCHS reported that the deaths involving COVID-19 reached 1,000,292.
The number of deaths from a pandemic in a given country is influenced by the size of its population: the larger the population, the more people are expected to get infected and die. However, the U.S. is one of the hardest-hit countries in the world even after its population size has been accounted for. Indeed, the U.S. ranks second in COVID-19 mortality rate–the number of COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants–right after Brazil and before Greece, according to the Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center (Figure 2), although the accuracy of death reporting might vary with the reliability of each country’s health statistics.
Figure 2. Ranking of countries by COVID-19 mortality rate. Source: Johns Hopkins University Coronavirus Resource Center.
In summary, the claim that COVID-19 caused around one million deaths in the U.S. as of May 2022 is accurate.