NEW DELHI (AP) — The worldwide death toll from the coronavirus has eclipsed 1 million, nine months into a crisis that has devastated the global economy, tested world leaders’ resolve, pitted science against politics and forced multitudes to change the way they live, learn and work.
“It’s not just a number. It’s human beings. It’s people we love,” said Dr. Howard Markel, a professor of medical history at the University of Michigan who has advised government officials on containing pandemics and lost his 84-year-old mother to COVID-19 in February.
“It’s our brothers, our sisters. It’s people we know,” he added. “And if you don’t have that human factor right in your face, it’s very easy to make it abstract.”
The bleak milestone, recorded on Monday in the U.S. by Johns Hopkins University, is greater than the population of Jerusalem or Austin, Texas. It is 2 1/2 times the sea of humanity that was at Woodstock in 1969. It is more than four times the number killed by the 2004 earthquake and tsunami in the Indian Ocean.
Even then, the figure is almost certainly a vast undercount because of inadequate or inconsistent testing and reporting and suspected concealment by some countries.
And the number continues to mount. Nearly 5,000 deaths are reported each day on average. Parts of Europe are getting hit by new outbreaks, and experts fear a second wave in the U.S., which accounts for about 205,000 deaths, or 1 out of 5 worldwide. That is far more than any other country, despite America’s wealth and medical resources.
“I can understand why … numbers are losing their power to shock, but I still think it’s really important that we understand how big these numbers really are,” said Mark Honigsbaum, author of “The Pandemic Century: One Hundred Years of Panic, Hysteria and Hubris.”
The global toll includes people like Joginder Chaudhary, who was his parents’ greatest pride, raised with the little they earned farming a half-acre plot in central India to become the first doctor from their village.
After the virus killed the 27-year-old Chaudhary in late July, his mother wept inconsolably. With her son gone, Premlata Chaudhary said, how could she go on living? Three weeks later, on Aug. 18, the virus took her life, too. All told, it has killed more than 95,000 in India.
“This pandemic has ruined my family,” said the young doctor’s father, Rajendra Chaudhary. “All our aspirations, our dreams, everything is finished.”
When the virus overwhelmed cemeteries in the Italian province of Bergamo last spring, the Rev. Mario Carminati opened his church to the dead, lining up 80 coffins in the center aisle. After an army convoy carted them to a crematory, another 80 arrived. Then 80 more.
Eventually the crisis receded and the world’s attention moved on. But the pandemic’s grasp endures. In August, Carminati buried his 34-year-old nephew.
“This thing should make us all reflect. The problem is that we think we’re all…