1 million people have now died from COVID-19 worldwide

The funeral of a COVID-19 victim in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 6.
The funeral of a COVID-19 victim in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on April 6. (Image credit: Shutterstock)

At least 1 million people have now died from COVID-19. This grim milestone comes over eight months after the public first learned that a mysterious respiratory virus was infecting people in China.

The novel coronavirus swept quickly across the globe and overwhelmed hospitals from Italy to New York City.  The virus has caused a larger death toll in some places than in others; the toll is highest in the U.S. with more than 204,900 deaths, followed by more than 141,700 deaths in Brazil and more than 95,500 deaths in India, according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Related: Coronavirus live updates

But the official tally is likely lower than the actual death toll of the virus, Dr. Mike Ryan, the executive director of the World Health Organization's health emergencies program said on Monday (Sept. 28). "When you count anything, you can't count it perfectly but I can assure you that the current numbers are likely an underestimate of the true toll of COVID," he said.

On Friday (Sept. 25), Ryan said it's possible the death toll could double to 2 million before vaccines become available, at least if countries don't work to stop the spread.

"It's certainly unimaginable, but it's not impossible, because if we look at losing 1 million people in nine months and then we just look at the realities of getting vaccines out there in the next nine months, it's a big task for everyone involved," he said, according to CNBC. "The real question is: Are we prepared, collectively, to do what it takes to avoid that number?"

Still,  fatality rates have slowly declined over time because experts have started to understand how best to treat severe patients, for instance figuring out how to best deliver oxygen and giving the steroid dexamethasone, Ryan said, according to CNBC. 

In the U.S., COVID-19 is on track to become the third-leading cause of death in 2020, after heart disease and cancer, Live Science previously reported. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model predicts that nearly 167,000 more people will die in the U.S. by January 2021. Worldwide, at least 33.2 million people have contracted the novel coronavirus, and more than 7.1 million of those cases come from the U.S., according to the Johns Hopkins dashboard.

Originally published on Live Science.  

Yasemin Saplakoglu
Staff Writer

Yasemin is a staff writer at Live Science, covering health, neuroscience and biology. Her work has appeared in Scientific American, Science and the San Jose Mercury News. She has a bachelor's degree in biomedical engineering from the University of Connecticut and a graduate certificate in science communication from the University of California, Santa Cruz.

  • Wanda
    I agree that the true toll probably is much higher. And that doesn't even account for the (millions? billions?) of humans and other very valuable critters who have had their hard-earned safety and prosperity ripped out from under them by (a) the virus and (b) humanity's shameful lack of preparation for dealing with such a scourge.

    IMHO, H. Sapiens (big brains) is the only species who could have foreseen and adequately planned for such a cataclysm. The dogs can't do it; the worms and the shrimp can't do it. But H. Sapiens has elected to follow bizarre home-grown theories of righteousness and entitlement, and banded together in multiple cults of silliness, to justify its avarice and deny rights of life to other species and even to the unannointed of their own.

    A reckoning is upon us as a species. Frankly, I doubt that H. Sapiens will pass Nature's survival test. We fight each other instead of helping and supporting each other. Money (once a simple medium of exchange but now a measure of individual worth) determines who wins and who loses. I get Darwin's theory of survival of the fittest. But are those who cheat and steal from their fellows and manipulate laws and mores to their own benefit actually the FITTEST?? I think that history will prove that they were not, on an evolutionary scale.

    I'm old and don't have much skin in the game anymore, although I would love to believe that my offspring will be permitted to give what they can and survive receiving what they need (sound familiar?). I hope that they will not procreate beyond their ability to provide, and I don't expect society to underwrite their excesses. I expect society to limit the amount of support we-the-people provide to able individuals but also to provide humane and dignified levels of support to those who truly cannot do more to provide for themselves. A society needs specific rules about expectations and limitations (with enforceable consequences for miscreants), and it also needs adequate protections for members who may need a little, or a lot of, help. To me this concept makes perfect sense, intellectually and morally, and I don't understand why it is so objectionable to so many.
  • RobertPolaris
    And 25,986,412 have recovered.
  • vognick12
    I completely DISAGREE that the toll is higher....I would say it's far higher in China and India than reported, and the reality in the states is no one knows how many REPORTED Covid deaths were actually the result of something else entirely. My brother died of heart failure last January. Had he died two months later and happened to test positive for Covid he absolutely would have been classified as dying of Covid....10 percent of his heart was functioning.....he was dead man walking....he died of a useless heart period.
  • RobertPolaris
    As of my posting 2.081,264 have died but the good news is
    69,827,971 have recovered.