A version of this article first appeared in the “Reliable Sources” newsletter. You can sign up for free right here.
Wednesday’s front page of USA Today, clad in black, honors the Americans who have died from the coronavirus.
The official counts of the death toll are expected to pass 100,000 very soon, most likely sometime on Wednesday, and that’s why the newspaper decided to run this front page now.
The number 100,000 appears in an oversized font below the faces of 100 Covid-19 victims. “These are the faces of some of the victims,” the newspaper says. “One hundred people of different ages, races and backgrounds.”
The paper also shows how their 100 photos fit into the overall, overwhelming scale of the lives lost to date.
Wednesday’s issue also contains a four-page wrap around the cover, including a Mitch Albom essay that calls this coronavirus “the fastest killer in U.S. history.”
“World War II took four years to kill just over 400,000 of us. COVID-19 is a quarter of the way there in four months,” he wrote. “But then, this war is not about sending our young men and women overseas to defend us. This war is about shoppers, church-goers, bar hoppers and party-goers, factory workers, hospital staff and police forces. A war of the Everyman. We are all potential victims. And all potential killers.”
Wednesday’s USA Today cover comes a few days after The New York Times published the names of 1,000 coronavirus victims on its Sunday front page and several inside pages. The Times’ display generated a huge outpouring from readers.
“People are talking about crying over their newspapers,” Times national editor Marc Lacey said on the Euronews network. “We’re getting calls and emails and social media posts from relatives of some of those people who found their relatives’ names.”
Why we must mark these morbid milestones
Lester Holt said it so well on Tuesday’s “Nightly News:”
“It’s like we’re living the stages of grief all at once: denial, anger, bargaining, despair and perhaps, even acceptance. Is it possible we have come to accept 100,000 deaths? Or are we simply unable to process it?” He said “this, of course, is not over, but we choose milestones to take stock, to remember, to share our sorrows until as a country we can confront the depths of our collective pain, face to face…”
The true death toll…
…Is almost certainly higher, as Dr. Anthony Fauci and countless other experts have said. Dr. Elisabeth Rosenthal, editor in chief of Kaiser Health News, personalized this point in a column for the NYT. She said her mother “almost certainly died of Covid (she met the clinical case definition)” but her death “was, as far as I can tell, not counted — and certainly will not be counted if the White House gets its way.”
We can’t make this point about the undercount often enough in the news coverage. An accurate count is in the public’s interest, as Rosenthal wrote: “Cataloging deaths like hers would make our ‘numbers’ look worse, yes. But it would also greatly add to our knowledge of how this virus spreads and affects patients, as we try to develop a coherent strategic reaction.” Keep reading…