A million lives lost

Two years into the COVID pandemic, the U.S. is grieving a once unthinkable death toll

A million lives lost

Two years into the COVID pandemic, the U.S. is grieving a once unthinkable death toll

Funeral home worker Joanna Martinez transports the body of a person who died as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic from a mobile refrigeration unit at Farmington Funeral Home in New Mexico, December 14, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

A million lives lost

Two years into the COVID pandemic, the U.S. is grieving a once unthinkable death toll


On May 11, 2022, the United States surpassed 1 million deaths attributed to COVID-19. Over the past two years, Reuters photographers documented the human toll the virus took.

May 11, 2022, 12 p.m. GMT

The pandemic tore apart families and divided an already politically polarized nation. COVID-19 laid bare the economic inequities between white-collar workers who could work safely from home and essential workers in grocery stores, fire stations and hospitals who had to go out and risk exposure to help others each day.

Reuters photographers witnessed the devotion of doctors and nurses as they tackled a virus none of them had ever seen before. They stood beside the beds of patients sickened by the virus and unable to breathe. A year into the pandemic, they captured the joy and hope vaccines offered and the grief and despair as mostly unvaccinated Americans continued to die by the thousands each day. Here are some of the key moments during the pandemic:

This story contains sensitive material and images that may offend or disturb.

36 dead


March 11, 2020

The World Health Organization declares COVID-19 a global pandemic. In the U.S., weeks after health officials detect the first cases, 36 people have died from COVID-19.

A Servpro cleaning crew puts on protective gear before entering Life Care Center of Kirkland, a long-term care facility linked to several confirmed coronavirus cases, in Kirkland, Washington, March 12, 2020. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Ballet dancer and performer Ashlee Montague of New York wears a gas mask while she dances in Times Square as the COVID-19 outbreak continued in Manhattan, New York City, March 18, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
First responders evacuate sick crew members with flu-like symptoms from two cruise ships, the Costa Favolosa and Costa Magica at U.S. Coast Guard station at Port of Miami after the Florida Department of Health reported more than 2300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, in Miami, Florida March 26, 2020. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
The USNS Comfort passes the Statue of Liberty as it enters New York Harbor during the outbreak of COVID-19 in New York City, March 30, 2020. REUTERS/Mike Segar

6,610 dead


April 2, 2020

One month after the first cases are detected, the virus spreads quickly. Most U.S.  states now report widespread transmission and many have ordered residents to stay home.

Alisha Narvaez, 36, the manager and Nicole Warring, 33, a Resident Funeral Director at International Funeral & Cremation Services, a funeral home in Harlem, carry a deceased person into the basement area, where bodies are stored and prepared for funeral services in Manhattan, New York City, April 2, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Drone pictures show bodies being buried on New York’s Hart Island where the department of corrections is dealing with more burials overall in New York City, April 9, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Hashim, an essential worker in the healthcare industry, greets his daughter through the closed door as he maintains social distance from his family as he works amid the COVID-19 outbreak in New Rochelle, April 11, 2020. REUTERS/Joy Malone
New York City Fire Department (FDNY) and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT) wearing personal protective equipment lift a man after moving him from a nursing home into an ambulance during an ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 in the Brooklyn borough of New York, April 16, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
Health care workers stand in the street in counter-protest to hundreds of people who gathered at the State Capitol to demand the stay-at-home order be lifted in Denver, Colorado, April 19, 2020. REUTERS/Alyson McClaran

54,940 dead


April 26, 2020

Two months after the first cases are detected, over 50,000 people have died and new cases are rising nationally. Some states like Georgia reopen businesses that have been closed for a month as unemployment rises to levels not seen since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Joseph Neufeld, Jr. looks over caskets of bodies at the Gerard J. Neufeld funeral home during the outbreak of COVID-19, April 26, 2020 in the Queens borough of New York. REUTERS/Bryan R Smith
Aracely Iraheta touches the casket of her husband, Jose Agustin Iraheta, who died from COVID-19, in Malden, Massachusetts, May 12, 2020.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder
A woman wears a mask reading “Fascist Muzzle” at a protest against restrictions implemented in response to the COVID-19 outbreak near Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker’s house in Swampscott, Massachusetts, May 16, 2020.   REUTERS/Brian Snyder

88,190 dead


May 16, 2020

Three months after the first cases are detected, the country is facing a second wave. Up to one person a minute is dying of COVID as infections peak in the summer. The hardest hit areas in Texas and Arizona are running out of places to store bodies.

Jessica Holguin, 25, (L) comforts her younger sister Natalie Holguin (R) at the viewing service of their father Jose Holguin, 50, originally from the Dominican Republic and who died of complications related to COVID-19, at International Funeral & Cremation Services in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan, May 16, 2020.  REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Co-director of the intensive care unit at CommonSpirit’s Dignity Health California Hospital Medical Center, Dr. Zafia Anklesaria, 35, who is seven months pregnant, removes a tracheostomy tube from COVID-19 patient Vicente Arredondo, 65, in the intensive care unit at the hospital where she works in Los Angeles, May 18, 2020. “Yay, you did it, you are officially liberated!” said Anklesaria to Arredondo after she removed the tube. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson
A man who died from COVID-19 is seen wrapped in a body bag at the United Memorial Medical Center’s COVID-19 intensive care unit in Houston, Texas, June 29, 2020.  REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Overheated, a healthcare worker takes a break as people wait in their vehicles in long lines for COVID-19 testing in Houston, Texas, July 7, 2020.  REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Dr. Joseph Varon, 58, the chief medical officer at United Memorial Medical Center, hugs Christina Mathers, 43, a nurse from his team who became infected with COVID-19, at United Memorial Medical Center (UMMC) in Houston, Texas, July 25, 2020. Mathers was told she tested positive for COVID-19 after she reported feeling ill during one of her shifts. “That’s the hardest thing to ever hear... It messes with you,” said Mathers, who has been working every other day since April 29. “But I wouldn’t go anywhere else but here.” REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare

183,983 dead


September 1, 2020

Six months into the pandemic, the country is still plagued by long lines for testing and a rise in cases adds to uncertainty ahead of an election to pick the next president.

Pictures of Metro Detroit residents who died from COVID-19, line the street during a drive through memorial, on Belle Isle in Detroit, Michigan, September 1, 2020. REUTERS/Rebecca Cook
While FaceTiming her siblings, Angelica Mendez, 48, says goodbye to her mother, Catalina Salazar, 86, who is struggling to fight COVID-19, and who died later in the day at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, September 8, 2020.   REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Dana Clark and her 18-month-old son Mason wait in line at City Hall as early voting begins for the presidential election in New Orleans, Louisiana, October 16, 2020. Clark said she donned this protective cover because didn’t know how many people would be wearing masks in line, and her child doesn’t have a mask. She said she works as a teacher, and wanted to take precautions for her students’ sake. REUTERS/Kathleen Flynn
An aerial view of vehicles waiting at a drive-thru COVID-19 testing site in the parking lot of Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, November 5, 2020. REUTERS/Bing Guan

245,579  dead


November 16, 2020

Almost a year into the pandemic and a once unimaginable death toll has come to pass. The country is gripped by its third and deadliest COVID surge as the Delta variant sickens millions. The first vaccines are authorized, providing hope to a weary nation.

An El Paso County Sheriff’s Officer tries to block photographs from being taken as bodies are moved to refrigerated trailers, deployed during a surge of COVID-19 deaths, outside the County of El Paso Medical Examiner’s Office in El Paso, Texas, November 16, 2020.  REUTERS/Ivan Pierre Aguirre
Family of Jose Garcia, 67, who is currently being treated for COVID-19 on a ventilator, wait by his hospital window at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, New Mexico, November 29, 2020.  REUTERS/Paul Ratje
Florence Bolton, 86, a COVID-19 positive patient who later died, lies in her intensive care bed as family members attempt to FaceTime her at Roseland Community Hospital  on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois, December 1, 2020. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
Healthcare workers treat a patient infected with COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, December 29, 2020.  REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Healthcare workers treat patients infected with COVID-19 at United Memorial Medical Center in Houston, Texas, December 31, 2020.  REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Betty Nelson, 81, who got in line at 6 a.m., reads on her tablet while waiting for a COVID-19 vaccine clinic run by the Jamestown S’Klallam Tribe to open in Sequim, Washington, January 23, 2021. The tribe, which is sharing its excess vaccines with Sequim residents, was able to begin the first-come, first-served site earlier than other locations in the state due to its tribal sovereignty. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson

422,789 dead


January 26, 2021

Over a year since the first cases, the elderly and essential workers lined up at mass vaccination sites as many maskless yearend gatherings pushed the death toll higher. At one point in January, more people died from COVID-19 every day on average than were killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.

Lila Blanks holds the casket of her husband, Gregory Blanks, 50, who died of COVID-19, ahead of his funeral in San Felipe, Texas, January 26, 2021.  REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Safeway pharmacy manager Kel Fanny draws up a COVID-19 vaccine at a COVID-19 mass vaccination site at the Clark County Event Center at the Fairgrounds in Ridgefield, Washington, January 27, 2021. REUTERS/Alisha Jucevic

530,732 dead


March 13, 2021

Thanks to vaccines, new cases fall throughout the spring and summer allowing many families and friends to reunite for the first time in 18 months. Broadway shows return to live performances and workers start coming back to offices.

People receive their COVID-19 vaccines at a mass vaccination site at Lumen Field Event Center in Seattle, Washington, March 13, 2021. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Yoshia Uomoto, 98, reacts as her son Mark Uomoto and niece Gail Yamada surprise her with their first in-person visit in a year after indoor visitation restrictions were lifted at Nikkei Manor, an assisted living facility primarily serving Japanese-American seniors, in Seattle, Washington, March 30, 2021. Residents, who have all been fully vaccinated, can visit with family for an hour at a time. REUTERS/Lindsey Wasson
Joan Bronson, of Chalmette Louisiana, is treated for COVID-19 at the Ochsner Medical Center in Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, August 10, 2021.  REUTERS/Kathleen Flynn
REACT EMS paramedics prepare to transport a man suffering from possible COVID-19 symptoms in McLoud, Oklahoma, September 8, 2021. The man was living with his wife who had been diagnosed with and recovered from COVID-19 in the weeks prior. REUTERS/Nick Oxford

702,140 dead


October 5, 2021

While millions eagerly rolled up their sleeves for vaccines, some workers protested government or employer mandates to get vaccinated.

Adrian James, 2, who tested positive for COVID-19, breathes with the help of a ventilator at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Missouri, October 5, 2021.  REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
Registered Nurse Savanah Wagstaff is seen reflected in the electrocardiogram monitor of Jerry, a COVID-19 positive patient, in his isolation room at Madison Memorial Hospital in Rexburg, Idaho, October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
New York City Fire Department (FDNY) union members, municipal workers and others demonstrate during a protest against the city’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates on Manhattan’s Upper East Side in New York City, October 28, 2021. REUTERS/Mike Segar

748,081 dead


November 3, 2021

Nearly two years since the first cases, parents are overjoyed to hear that their children ages 5-11 can get vaccinated.

Five year-old Milo from Chula Vista, California, receives the Pfizer-BioNTech coronavirus vaccine at Rady’s Children’s hospital vaccination clinic in San Diego, California, November 3, 2021.  REUTERS/Mike Blake
Joanna Martinez, a funeral home worker, looks into a refrigeration cooler with people who died of COVID-19 marked with red tags at the Farmington Funeral Home in Farmington, New Mexico, December 13, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

805,386 dead


December 20, 2021

The new and more contagious Omicron variant taxes the nation's hospitals and healthcare workers as mostly unvaccinated Americans fall ill and die.

People wait in line  to be tested for COVID-19 in Times Square, as the Omicron coronavirus variant continues to spread in Manhattan, December 20, 2021. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly
Healthcare workers in Houston, Texas, arrive for a shift change as the Omicron variant of the coronavirus continues to spread through the country, December 29, 2021.  REUTERS/Callaghan O’Hare
A son and daughter embrace their father, a COVID-19 patient in the Intensive Care Unit ward, before his intubation procedure at the Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California, January 25, 2022.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

1,000,092 dead


May 11, 2022

The U.S. surpasses 1 million COVID-19 deaths. COVID has become an entrenched part of daily life but all states and most businesses have lifted mask mandates. Many families still struggle with the grief and loss caused by the virus. Over 200,000 children have lost at least one parent to the virus.

An empty hospital bed sits inside the former Intensive Care Unit for COVID-19 patients at Providence Mission Hospital in Mission Viejo, California, April 12, 2022.  REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

Picturing the Pandemic

By Corinne Perkins

Photo editing: Corinne Perkins

Design: John Emerson

Data: Reuters COVID-19 Tracker

Edited by Lisa Shumaker