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The coronavirus pandemic by the numbers

I’m dwelling on numbers because this week, the US officially counted 200,000 COVID-19 deaths. Words like “grim milestone” just don’t seem adequate in the face of that toll.

Numbers are valuable. Case counts help scientists track the infection’s spread. Death tolls help policy makers figure out where things are going right — or horribly wrong. They’re utilitarian.

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They can also hit like a derailed train.

Since I started this column two months ago, more than 345,470 people have died of COVID-19 around the world. 57,993 of those deaths were in the US.

That’s 345,470 people, each with families and friends and coworkers and enemies and cats and dogs and people who just saw them on the street while walking to the bus. They’re gone. Their desks and armchairs and beds are empty. The people who loved them are red-eyed and sorting through the stuff they left behind. Each human lost cuts deep into communities, and the US has etched a wound into itself that is deeper than any other covid-wound on Earth.

I’ve stopped looking at the numbers every hour, like I was doing this spring. But every Friday, when I look at the numbers on Johns Hopkins’ dashboard,

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