Wednesday, December 09, 2020

"Deadliest Days In American History" Amended

 Around December 7, 2020, a meme began to float around the internet comparing the daily death tolls from Covid to to a few other high casualty days in American history. Because of the day it appeared, I assume the point was to draw a contrast to Pearl Harbor, a day that shocked the country into action and our current fickle leadership. The motive behind the meme seemed good. What I disliked about it was the vagueness. The Covid dates were given as "last Thursday" and "last Monday." Knowing how things on the internet live forever, I wanted to put a date on the meme.

Here is a sample of the meme that I copied off of Facebook.

A few hours ago, I decided to get off my butt and really do that. I hunted for a set of day-by-day death reporting that I could match to days of the week. I didn't find one that exactly matched the numbers in the meme, but I found a good set of numbers that are close to the same magnitude.

At the same time, it occurred to me that the San Francisco earthquake should be on this list. This led me to think I should look up other hurricanes, besides the Galveston Monster, and I found some that should be included on the list. Hurricanes are tricky candidates. Many go on for days. Subsequent flooding and crop damage can keep killing for weeks or months. I only used numbers that seemed to limited to the passage of the storm and nothing else.

Finally, as I was finishing this list, I realized I have no daily statistics for the 1918-19 Spanish Flu. The death numbers for that pandemic in the US were about twice what they are now. In October 1918 alone, 195,000 Americans died of the flu. If I had those daily numbers, they would dominate this chart.

Here is my amended chart, sans Spanish Flu.

  1. Galveston Monster (Hurricane), September 8, 1900, 8000+
  2. Battle of Antietam/Sharpsburg, September 17, 1862, 3675
  3. Covid, December 10, 2020, 3067
  4. Covid, December 9, 2020, 3054
  5. San Francisco Earthquake, April 18, 1906, 3000 *
  6. Hurricane Maria, September 20, 2017, 2982
  7. 9/11, September 11, 2001, 2977
  8. Covid, May 7, 2020, 2769 **
  9. Covid, December 2, 2020, 2733
  10. Covid, December 3, 2020, 2706
  11. Covid, April 29, 2020, 2661
  12. Covid, December 8, 2020, 2622
  13. Covid, December 4, 2020, 2563
  14. Covid, April 15, 2020, 2546
  15. Okeechobee Hurricane, September 17, 1928, 2,511 ***
  16. D-Day, June 6, 1944, 2500
  17. Covid, May 5, 2020, 2494
  18. Covid, April 21, 2020, 2481
  19. Covid, December 1, 2020, 2473
  20. Covid, December 5, 2020, 2461
  21. Pearl Harbor, December 7, 1941, 2403

      * This is the official number and is at the high end of estimates.

      ** Daily Covid deaths are according to

      *** Four days earlier it caused over 300 deaths in Puerto Rico.


      Anonymous said...

      It would be interesting to see these as a % of population. I'm not trying to lessen the tragedy that's unfolding around us... but trying to put more context around it.

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