More Americans Could Die of COVID Today than Were Killed at Pearl Harbor

On this day, December 7, in 1941, a Japanese military attack at the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor in Hawaii killed 2,403 Americans. That's less than the record number who died in a day last week when more than 2,800 COVID-19 deaths were reported on December 3, the country's highest daily death toll since the outbreak began.

And more Americans could potentially die today of the virus than the number killed at Pearl Harbor nearly 80 years ago, as the country's latest seven-day average of deaths approached 2,300 on Sunday. The figure has been rising sharply from early November, after declining from early August and flattening out from early September, according to Worldometer.

The latest average death count surpassed the daily death toll of around 2,093 projected for Monday by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

According to forecasts by 37 modeling groups received last week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), "the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will likely increase over the next four weeks, with 9,500 to 19,500 new COVID-19 fatalities likely to be reported in the week ending December 26, 2020." A total of 303,000 to 329,000 COVID-19 deaths are likely to be recorded by the same date, according to the CDC report.

The CDC noted Wednesday: "The state- and territory-level ensemble forecasts predict that over the next four weeks, the number of newly reported deaths per week will likely increase in 23 jurisdictions, which are indicated in the forecast plots below. Trends in numbers of future reported deaths are uncertain or predicted to remain stable in the other states and territories."

According to the IHME, the daily COVID-19 death count is projected to usurp the total death toll at Pearl Harbor in just under a week, with around 2,426 deaths projected for December 13.

This figure could be reached even with "rapid vaccine rollout" where "vaccine distribution is scaled up over 45 days" or if "vaccine distribution is scaled up over 90 days" and "95 percent mask usage is adopted in public," according to the IHME.

Speaking to Newsweek, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the White House COVID-19 task force, warned last week: "January is going to be terrible," with the outbreak expected to reach its worst level yet.

According to the IHME, the country's daily death toll is projected to reach around 5,807 by January 31, while the total death count will surpass 500,000 by the same date, if "vaccine distribution is scaled up over 90 days" and "governments do not re-impose mandates if cases increase."

Total reported deaths in the country have climbed past 282,000, as of Monday, according to Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

Fauci told Newsweek: "I think the decreases are going to start as we get into April and as more of the general population gets vaccinated.

"Then as you get to May, June and July, towards the end of the second quarter of 2021, I think you're going to start seeing some dramatic changes as we go into the third quarter," he added.

COVID-19 funeral New Mexico December 2020
A reverend says a prayer at Memorial Pines Cemetery in Santa Teresa, New Mexico on December 3 during the funeral of a patient who passed away from COVID-19 complications. Photo by Paul Ratje/AFP via Getty Images

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 67.1 million people, including over 14.7 million in the U.S., since it was first reported in Wuhan, China.

More than 1.5 million people have died worldwide and over 43.1 million have recovered as of Monday, according to JHU.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the distribution of COVID-19 deaths among the U.S. population.

COVID-19 elderly patients in U.S.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows the number of current COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S.

hospitalization graphic

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

About the writer

Soo Kim is a Newsweek SEO Reporter is based in London, UK. She reports on various trends and lifestyle stories, from health, fitness and travel to psychology, relationships and family issues. She is also a South Korea expert who regularly covers Korean culture/entertainment for Newsweek, including the latest K-dramas, films and K-pop news, and is the author of the book How to Live Korean, which is available in eight languages. Soo also covered the COVID-19 pandemic extensively from 2020 through 2021 after joining the general news desk of Newsweek in 2019 from the Daily Telegraph (a U.K. national newspaper) where she was a travel reporter/editor from 2010. She is a graduate of Binghamton University in New York and the journalism school of City University in London, where she earned a Masters in international journalism. Languages spoken: English and Korean.

Follow her on Twitter at @MissSooKim or Instagram at

You can get in touch with Soo by emailing

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