A COVID-19 milestone: 1 million dead globally

Cemetery workers dig graves in Tijuana.
Cemetery workers dig graves at a municipal cemetery in Tijuana on April 27, 2020.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

The official death toll from COVID-19 surpassed 1 million this week as casualties continued to mount from a pandemic that has ravaged lives and economies, mocked notions of stability and evoked a seemingly bygone era of plagues.

The pathogen’s continent-hopping trajectory saw it bounding from its origins in China through Asia to Europe, across the oceans to the Americas and beyond.

Air travel and other aspects of global connectedness, esteemed markers of modernity, became viral vectors — just as amplified trade and urbanization once spread outbreaks of smallpox, malaria, cholera and other afflictions.

The pandemic has brought great cities to a standstill, shuttered schools and factories, grounded air transport and unleashed ongoing social and political tumult. It triggered restrictions on where people could go and when, while ushering in mandates to wear face coverings and abjure close contact with fellow humans.


Many victims perished alone, secluded in hospital wards and sealed-off rooms, their loved ones barred from this final moment. Time-honored rites of mourning yielded to hasty, socially distanced farewells. Morgues and cemeteries were overwhelmed.

The United States, with more than 207,000 deaths as of Thursday , topped the list of fatalities, according to Johns Hopkins University, followed by Brazil (143,952), India (97,497), Mexico (77,746) and the United Kingdom (42,233).

Scientists across the globe are hastening to devise a vaccine at a crucial juncture: Public health authorities worry that the onset of winter flu season in the Northern Hemisphere could trigger new surges in infections.

Andreia Silva de Sousa and her husband at the burial of their daughter.
Andreia Silva de Sousa, left, is embraced by her husband during the burial of their 1-year-old daughter, Vitoria, in Rio de Janeiro on May 8, 2020. According to Sousa, her daughter was infected with the coronavirus when she was hospitalized for a gastrointestinal problem.
(Leo Correa / Associated Press)
Relatives mourn at the gate of a cemetery in northern Iran.
Relatives of a coronavirus victim mourn at the gate of a cemetery in Babol, Iran.
(Ebrahim Noroozi / Associated Press)
Workers carry a coffin to the cemetery in Lima, Peru.
Workers carry the coffin of Wilson Gil, who family members say died of COVID-19, at a cemetery on the outskirts of Lima, Peru, on Aug. 26, 2020.
(Martin Mejia / Associated Press)

People wearing face masks attend a burial.
Relatives attend the burial of a COVID-19 victim at a special section of Pondok Ranggon Cemetery in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Sept. 24, 2020. The section was opened to accommodate the surge in deaths during the coronavirus outbreak.
(Dita Alangkara / Associated Press)
Workers in protective clothing bury three victims of COVID-19 at a cemetery.
Workers in protective clothing bury three victims of COVID-19 at the Vila Formosa cemetery in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
(Associated Press)
A lay worker leads visits with family and neighbors of a COVID-19 vicimt.
Brother Ronald Marin, a lay worker from Venezuela, visits relatives and neighbors of of Julia Ascencio in Lima, Peru, on July 21, 2020, after leading a memorial service for her. Ascencio died a month earlier.
(Rodrigo Abd / Associated Press)
People look at an open casket at an outdoor service.
Felipe Juarez, a victim of COVID-19, is memorialized at Continental Funeral Home in East Los Angeles on Aug. 4, 2020. It was Continental’s first outdoor service in compliance of state and city coronavirus mandates.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)
A worker prepares to remove a body in a home.
Juan Lopez prepares to remove the body of Amalia Tinoco, 81, from her home in Pharr, Texas, after she died of COVID-19.
(Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times)
An undertaker in full protective clothing pushes a coffin into a mortuary van.
An undertaker worker pushes the coffin of a COVID-19 victim into a mortuary van at a morgue on April 2, 2020, in Innsbruck, Austria.
(Jan Hetfleisch/ Getty Images)