News & Opinion | December 10, 2020 10:17 am

That Viral “Deadliest Days in American History” List Isn’t Totally Accurate

The meme is missing a few key events

coronavirus deaths
Reverend Eduardo Henningham says a prayer during the funeral of Humberto Rosales, who passed away from COVID-19 complications, at Memorial Pines Cemetery in Santa Teresa, New Mexico, on December 3, 2020. (Photo by PAUL RATJE/AFP via Getty Images)
AFP via Getty Images

If you’ve scrolled through social media at all during the last few days, you’ve no doubt encountered a meme, meant to highlight the unfathomable tragedy of the COVID-19 pandemic, that lists the “deadliest days in American history” (half of which were due COVID-related deaths from the past week). The statistics are sobering, but as a new piece by Slate points out, they’re not entirely accurate.

For one, the title of the graphic is a little misleading. “A list of the ‘deadliest days’ in American history would include days with the most deaths, not the most deaths from one discrete event,” the publication notes. “On all of the days included, more people in the United States died than the numbers listed.” (The list does not take into account all the people who died of heart disease, cancer, drug overdoses, etc. on any of the listed days, for example.)

But beyond that, assuming we’re just focusing on single events causing mass casualties, the list fails to include the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, where over 3,000 people died, or the 1899 San Ciriaco hurricane which killed more than 3,330 people in Puerto Rico.

Still, it’s an important reminder of just how deadly this virus is and why it’s crucial to wear a mask, stay home whenever possible and adhere to social distancing guidelines when out in public.