World News

The world marks 2 million coronavirus deaths. The real toll is likely much higher

Posted January 15, 2021 12:53 p.m. EST
Updated January 15, 2021 1:17 p.m. EST

— It's as if 10 of the world's largest commercial jets fell out of the sky, every day for an entire year.

The official global death toll from the coronavirus pandemic has surpassed 2 million on Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University. The tragic milestone came just over a year after the first Covid-19 death was reported in Wuhan, China.

While the 2 million figure is horrifying, experts say the real death toll is likely much higher. Only confirmed Covid-19 deaths are included in the tally, which means that people who die without a firm diagnosis may not be included.

With testing still inadequate in many countries across the world, there might be hundreds of thousands of additional deaths.

Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle, said that an analysis of excess mortality suggests that as many as one fifth of coronavirus deaths might not be recorded.

"We have found that on average, total deaths are 20% higher than reported deaths," he told CNN in an email, adding that the ratio varies substantially across different countries.

"There are extreme cases such as Ecuador, Peru or Russia where total deaths are 300-500% higher than reported deaths... but where we have data, the average relationship is 20% higher."

As vaccination programs start rolling out across the world, there is a glimmer of hope -- even though it's likely going to take years for everyone to be offered the shot.

In the meantime, the pandemic is getting worse. The death toll is rising faster than ever. While it took eight months for the world to record 1 million Covid-19 deaths, the second million came in less than four months.

A number of countries, including the United States, Germany, Sweden, Indonesia, Israel and Japan recorded their deadliest days of the pandemic in the past week. The number of cases globally is fast approaching 100 million.

The US has recorded by far the highest total death toll in the world, followed by Brazil, India and Mexico. But the pandemic has reached every corner of the globe, and only a few tiny, isolated nations have reported no deaths.

The virus has hit the elderly the hardest, but that doesn't mean young people aren't dying. Poorer people and member of ethnic minorities, immigrants and frontline workers are dying at much higher rates. But death has not spared celebrities and royalty either.

There are now 2 million deaths. 2 million stories. 2 million chairs that are left empty at the dinner table. Here are the names of a tiny fraction of those who have lost their lives:

Kimora "Kimmie" Lynum was a 9-year-old who loved unicorns. Thomas Harvey cared for recovering stroke patients. Adan and Mariah Gonzalez were the parents of 4-year-old Raiden. José Ángel Medina Soto was a famed Mexican singer. Rita Haro, Jose "Chico" Haro and Manuela "Nellie" Johnson were siblings who loved homemade tamales and telenovelas. Demetria Bannister was an elementary school teacher who loved music. Fabrizio Soccorsi was Pope Francis' personal doctor. Evelyn Ochoa-Celano left retirement as a nurse to come back and fight on the pandemic frontlines. Patrick Ellis was a longtime DC radio host. AshLee DeMarinis was a middle school teacher. Jean-Jacques Razafindranazy was an emergency doctor respected by his team. Daniel Moran died just days after losing his father Miguel Moran. Erika Becerra died three weeks after giving birth to a healthy baby boy. Conrad Buchanan loved dancing with his daughter. Soumitra Chatterjee was an Indian acting legend. Dr. Rebecca Shadowen was the "glue of her family." Sergio Humberto and Dolores Padilla Hernandez were siblings. Thomas Slade, a Mississippi teacher, sometimes used a gavel in class. Keith and Gwendolyn Robinson were best friends, married for 35 years. Xavier Harris was a 4-year-old who died the day after Christmas. Carla Sacchi died after her husband serenaded her from the street. Rev. Vickey Gibbs had a passion for social justice and an ability to whip up colorful, beautiful breakfasts. Fatemeh Rahbar was a newly elected member of the Iranian Parliament. Guy Tetro played bass in a rock band. Tracy Larsen and her father Burt Porter died just minutes apart. Kiyotaka Suetake, known as Shobushi, was a sumo wrestler. Lt. Aldemar "Al" Rengifo Jr. wa a 20-year veteran of a sheriff's department in South Florida. Dr. Mohammed Al-Youssef was a doctor in Syria. Ken Shimura was a famed Japanese comedian. Samantha Diaz left behind three children. Flavio Ramos' family found out his body was missing in a hospital overrun by the virus. Eve Branson was the mother of Richard Branson, the billionaire founder of the Virgin Group. Noe Martinez Domingues once made his kids a go-kart out of an old lawn mower. Zororo Makamba was a prominent Zimbabwean journalist. Patricia Dowd loved to travel. Herman Cain was a onetime Republican presidential candidate and former CEO of Godfather's Pizza. Skylar Herbert was the 5-year-old daughter of two first responders. Belly Mujinga was a railway ticket office worker who was spat on while she was working. Cynthia Alcantara Barker was the mayor of Hertsmere in England. Kenzo Takada was a designer famous for creating the fashion house Kenzo. SP Balasubrahmanyam was one of India's most renowned film singers. Ruben Burks spent more than 60 years championing the work of women and people of color in the labor movement. Donna Mitchell organized potlucks in her neighborhood and even became a surrogate grandmother to the children next door. Maria Teresa of Bourbon-Parma was a Spanish princess and a distant cousin of King Felipe VI. Iris Meda left retirement to teach nursing students. May Bunjes spent decades volunteering. Margaret Ann Spangler was a strong, smart, opinionated, funny, caring woman who loved her family fiercely. Adeline Fagan was a second-year OBGYN resident. Maria Mercader was a CBS News producer. Dr. Susan Moore loved to practice medicine. Paul Blackwell and Rose Mary Blackwell were both teachers, and married for 30 years. Jay-Natalie La Santa was the infant daughter of a New York firefighter. Roy Horn was one-half of a popular Las Vegas animal and magic act. Dr. Carlos Araujo-Preza was a physician who cared for some of Houston's sickest Covid-19 patients. Luke Letlow was a Congressman-elect. Zelene Blancar, a first-grade teacher, taught her students to be kind. Chad Dorrill was a college student and former high school basketball player. Li Wenliang was a doctor widely regarded as a hero in China for blowing the whistle on the initial outbreak of the coronavirus.

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