At some point this week, one hundred thousand Americans will be dead of this new pathogen.
Coming to terms with this number is not just an intellectual exercise. I say this as a historian and as a citizen of this country living in the American South. If we don’t reckon with this staggering number, if we don’t for a split second allow ourselves to stand open-eyed before the enormity of each life lost, then we lose our ability to act in ways that will stop it.
Though numbers seemed to be declining for a bit, COVID cases in Alabama are up 50% from last week. Whole counties here have no hospitals, and what hospitals there are, are filling. ICU beds are in short supply. There never were enough nurses and doctors, but now they are so pinched that we cannot provide the most basic care to the sick.
At the same time, people on the streets are not wearing masks and believe that maintaining social distancing is a joke. Indeed, masks—once the most precious of resources such that we were stitching them for healthcare workers—are thoroughly politicized now. It seems as though mask-mockers have closed themselves off to the horrifying fact that each one of those numbers of dead is a real person whose life was just as complex and amazing, just as full of dreams and desires, as their own. Each one of those numbers was once a child who had a mother that loved them. Each of the 100,000 deaths is a tragic, senseless loss. This is what the New York Times was trying to impress with its cover page.
But of course, most of the people outside of the major coastal urban centers do not read the New York Times.
To me, it feels like the “all of these deaths are so tragic” platitudes that one hears from the government are doing more harm than good. What would it mean, instead, if each government official, before standing to make a speech, gave a two-minute eulogy to any one of the dead? Maybe folks would see their sister, their father, or themselves, in the dead. Maybe they would count their blessings and put on their damn mask.
The Lincoln Project, “100,000 dead Americans. One wrong president.” May 26, 2020, https://youtu.be/hitGT3TkP9s
*If the pdf thumbnails are not appearing, please reload the page.
Nathan Scherer, Facebook, May 27, 2020. https://www.facebook.com/nathansmart/posts/10159813144574992
#BREAKING: 100,000 Americans are dead due to total incompetence in the White House. They can’t vote, but you can! Share this video and VOTE like your life depends on it this November. #100000 #TrumpLiesPeopleDie pic.twitter.com/bTXmQH9gIF— Brave New Films (@bravenewfilms) May 26, 2020
This is how we ALL should be pushing back on GOP disinformation and disregarding of 100,000 dead Americans. pic.twitter.com/abUzCzvhvM— Matt Rogers 🎙️ (@Politidope) May 27, 2020
Nearly 20 years later, we still take off our shoes at the airport because 3,000 Americans were killed in a terrorist attack.— Charlotte Clymer 🏳️🌈 (@cmclymer) May 24, 2020
100,000 Americans–and counting–have died in this crisis, but staying home and wearing a mask in public is considered too big a sacrifice to make.
He is a deeply deranged, seriously ill individual and I can’t imagine how the country survives four more years of his presidency.— Jon Favreau (@jonfavs) May 27, 2020
100,000 dead Americans with no sense of communal mourning or shared sacrifice seems like the ultimate victory for neoliberalism. We’re totally atomized. It might not have been true even a few decades ago but today there really is no such thing as society.— $ean P. McCarthy (@SeanMcCarthyCom) May 24, 2020
100,000. Congratulations to President Trump on a true success story. pic.twitter.com/SbuQTllJQH— The Daily Show (@TheDailyShow) May 27, 2020
The Republican House Select Committee on Benghazi spent 31 months investigating the death of 4 Americans, to find no wrongdoing.— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) May 25, 2020
Now 100,000 Americans have died in 3 months and not a single Republican has a thing to say, other than to enable and get behind Trump.
There are moments in our history so grim, so heart-rending, that they're forever fixed in each of our hearts as shared grief. Today is one of those moments. 100,000 lives have now been lost to this virus.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) May 27, 2020
To those hurting, I'm so sorry for your loss. The nation grieves with you. pic.twitter.com/SBBRKV4mPZ
100,000 Americans have died of coronavirus—most of whom could have been saved. Let’s put Trump’s chaos into context: pic.twitter.com/PSoB97wI2s— CAP Action (@CAPAction) May 27, 2020
* Timeline summaries at the top of the page come from a variety of sources:, including The American Journal of Managed Care COVID-19 Timeline (https://www.ajmc.com/view/a-timeline-of-covid19-developments-in-2020), the Just Security Group at the NYU School of Law (https://www.justsecurity.org/69650/timeline-of-the-coronavirus-pandemic-and-u-s-response/), the “10 Things,” daily entries from The Week (theweek.com), as well as a variety of newspapers and television programs.