Another pandemic milestone

Major news outlets announced this week that in passing 675,000 Covid deaths, the nation has now surpassed the death total from the 1918-1919 flu. That makes the current pandemic, still going strong, the deadliest the nation has ever seen. 

Wyoming Covid deaths passed the state’s 1918-1919 total, 780, during the first week of August this year. By August 24, the number was up to 835. As of this writing, September 21, Wyoming Covid deaths stand at 918, with numbers of new cases up 50 percent in the last two weeks while the number of hospitalizations, thank goodness, has leveled off. Still, only 41 percent of Wyomingites have been fully vaccinated, compared to a national average of 55 percent. Many more deaths will come, as the great majority of Covid hospitalizations and nearly all deaths come now to unvaccinated people. The Covid deaths and hospitalizations of recent months were preventable.

Of course, there were far fewer people in the United States and in Wyoming in 1918-1919 than there are now. Without vaccines and modern medicine, deaths per capita then were more than three times as high. Wyoming, to match the per capita flu-death rate of 1918-1919, would reach 2,360 Covid deaths. Thanks to the vaccines, we are so far nowhere near that level. But our rate of new cases as of this week is fifth among the nation’s states and territories, with only Alaska, West Virginia, Kentucky and Guam ahead of us, and Montana right behind. Here at, we personally know two people who’ve died of Covid and a third who was hospitalized for a month or more.

These are all milestones, but they feel like gravestones. 

For more on how it felt to live through the flu pandemic 103 years ago, see University of Wyoming Professor Emeritus Phil Roberts’s article, The 1918 Flu: A Worldwide Epidemic Sweeps Wyoming.