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On July 24, 2020, author Stephen King posted a message on Twitter that claimed the number of Americans who will perish as a result of COVID-19 will be twice the number of Americans who died during the Vietnam War by this fall:
King was both right and wrong. The death toll in the United States from COVID-19 will indeed be more than twice the death toll from the Vietnam War by this fall, but it won’t take that long. In fact, as of this writing in July 2020, the COVID-19 death toll is already double the number of American deaths recorded for the Vietnam War.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) provisional count for deaths involving COVID-19 was 132,366 as of July 24, 2020. The CDC’s data, which often lags behind other sources by a week or so, is about 12,000 deaths lower than the John Hopkins University count of 144,780 COVID-19 related deaths.
In either case, both of these numbers are more than twice as high as the number of Americans who were killed in combat during the Vietnam War. According to a report compiled by the Congressional Research Service in 2019, 58,220 American “in-theater” deaths were recorded for the Vietnam War. If we double this number, we get 116,440.
We are, of course, unable to determine how many more people will die from COVID-19 by this fall. The CDC has published forecasts on the total number of deaths from this pandemic, but their estimates only go to mid-August. After assessing 26 individual forecasts from organizations researching the pandemic, the CDC estimated that the United States will see “between 160,000 and 175,000 total reported COVID-19 deaths by August 15.”
The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota reported on July 23 that the United States was seeing approximately 1,000 casualties per day from the pandemic. Scott Gottlieb, the former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, said that if this trend continues the United States, could surpass 300,000 COVID-19 deaths by the end of the year.