Virus review: American deaths surpass 100,000 — What does a number mean?
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Virus review: American deaths surpass 100,000 — What does a number mean?

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The fraught, freighted number of this particular American moment is a round one brimming with zeroes: 100,000. A hundred thousands. A thousand hundreds. Five thousand score. More than 8,000 dozen. All dead.

This is the week when America's official coronavirus death toll reaches six digits. One hundred thousand lives wiped out by a disease unknown to science a half a year ago.

And as the unwanted figure arrives — nearly a third of the global death toll in the first five months of a very trying year — what can looking at that one and those five zeroes tell us? What does any number deployed in momentous times to convey scope and seriousness and thought really mean?

“We all want to measure these experiences because they’re so shocking, so overwhelming that we want to bring some sense of knowability to the unknown,” says Jeffrey Jackson, a history professor at Rhodes College in Tennessee who teaches about the politics of natural disasters.

The accuracy of U.S. coronavirus death count has been both a scientific and political issue. Some conservatives have suggested coronavirus deaths were being over-counted. Meanwhile, some researchers say the toll is far more likely to be higher than the count.

Here's a look at how deaths are being counted in the U.S.

In other developments:

  • For the first time in history, lawmakers in the U.S. House of Representatives intend to vote by proxy to avoid the risk of travel to Washington during the pandemic. To mark the moment, House Republicans sued to stop the majority party from going ahead.
  • More than one in every six young workers have stopped working during the coronavirus pandemic, the U.N. labor agency reported, warning of long-term fallout that could lead to a “lock-down generation” if steps aren’t taken to ease the crisis.
  • Only about half of Americans say they would get a COVID-19 vaccine if scientists produce one. An additional 31% simply aren’t sure, while one in five say they’d refuse. That’s according to a survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.
  • Latin America is facing increased infections and spiking deaths, according to the World Health Organization. But there’s no sign of any slowdown for swindlers in the region even in the midst of a devastating pandemic. Reports of fraudulent purchases of ventilators, masks and other medical supplies are piling up.
  • French lawmakers were set to vote Wednesday on whether to endorse a contact-tracing app designed to contain the spread of the coronavirus amid sharp debate over privacy concerns. If approved, France’s StopCovid app will be made available to users on a voluntary basis starting Monday.
  • British Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused to hold an official inquiry into the actions of his closest adviser for allegedly flouting lockdown rules, imploring an angry public to move on from the scandal rocking his government. Dominic Cummings drove from London to his parents’ house in northeast England while he was falling ill with suspected COVID-19 — despite stay-at-home rules that the government had imposed on the rest of the country.
  • Public pools will look very different this summer if they open at all with the coronavirus threat still looming, as staffers will be tasked with maintaining social distancing and spotting COVID-19 symptoms in addition to their primary duties.
  • Miami Dolphins fans will soon be able to return to Hard Rock Stadium — to watch a movie. Months after hosting the Super Bowl, the stadium is converting into both a drive-in and open-air move theater. The stadium’s new drive-in will accommodate up to 230 cars, while the open-air theater offers a more intimate viewing experience on the plaza.
  • Some lucky skiers and snowboarders were able get back on the mountain at Colorado’s only open resort, Arapahoe Basin west of Denver. The resort opened Wednesday with restrictions for 600 snow enthusiasts who earned spots through a random drawing.

For more summaries and full reports, please select from the articles below. Scroll further for helpful tips, charts tracking testing and more.

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