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Editorial


Front Page - Friday, December 18, 2020

Pandemic by the numbers: Telling, horrifying




Month after dismal month, Americans have been inundated by an ever-rising tide of devastating numbers. Hundreds of thousands of deaths. Tens of million unemployed.

By mid-December, five in every 100 Americans — more than 16 million — had been infected by COVID-19.

Those numbers testify to a historic tragedy. But they don’t fully capture the multitude of ways, large and small, that the virus has upended and reconfigured everyday life in the U.S.

For that, there are a host of other numbers. Some may be less familiar than others, yet all are just as telling in calculating the pandemic’s sweeping impact:

• Miles that Americans did not drive because they were unemployed, working or studying from home and traveling less: 35.3 billion (through August)

• School lunches and breakfasts that went unserved in March and April after schools were closed: 400 million

• Number of people participating in meetings on Zoom each day December 2019: 10 million

• Number of people participating daily in Zoom meetings by the end of March 2020: 300 million

• Employment rate of low-wage workers as the year nears its end, compared to January: down 20.3%

• Employment rate of high-wage workers compared to January: up 0.2%

• Share of small businesses that are still closed even as the U.S. economy has reopened: 28.8%

• Drop in the number of passengers traveling on U.S. domestic flights this spring: 272.01 million, a decline of 76% (March to July, compared to the same period in 2019).

• Dollars the international airline industry has lost this year: $118.5 billion

• Passengers screened by Transportation Security Administration agents at U.S. airports April 14 last year: 2.21 million

• Passengers screened by the TSA April 14 this year: 87,534

• Number of TSA screening agents who have tested positive for COVID: 3,575

• Number of TSA agents at New York’s John F. Kennedy International who have tested positive: 152

• Number of people who went to a New York Broadway show during the first week of March: 253,453

• Number of people who have been to a Broadway show since mid-March: 0

• Number of jobs lost at New York City restaurants and bars between February and April: 233,751

• Number of jobs regained at New York City restaurants and bars from April through September: 89,559

• People who applied for a job at Amazon.com in a single week, after the online retailer announced a hiring fair to keep up with skyrocketing orders: 384,000

• Payments to Americans by the Internal Revenue Service to help ease the pandemic’s economic fallout: 153.1 million checks and direct deposits through August, totaling $269.3 billion

• Americans’ spending on restaurants and hotels, compared to January: down 36.6%

• Americans’ spending on transportation, compared to January: down 50.9%

• Americans’ spending on entertainment and recreation, compared to January: down 64.3%

• Americans’ spending on groceries, compared to January: down 2.7%

• Total sales of alcoholic beverages during the pandemic: $62.5 billion, up 21.8%

• Online sales of alcohol in September compared to a year ago: up 256%

• Sales of tequila for home consumption in September and October, compared to a year ago: up 56%

• Champagne: up 71%

• Ready-to-drink cocktails: up 131%

• Production increase in bottles of Purell hand sanitizer this year: up 300%

• Number of Purell single-pump “doses” contained in bottles shipped to U.S. hospitals this year: 54 billion

• Dentists who closed their offices entirely, or to all but emergency patients, in April: 97.1%

• Dentists whose offices have reopened, but with fewer patients than usual: 65.6%

• Dentists who say they are seeing more patients who grind their teeth, usually an indicator of stress: 59.4%

• Games played during Major League Baseball’s regular season last year: 2,430

• Fans who attended those games: 68,494,752

• Games played during MLB’s shortened regular season this year: 898

• Fans who attended those games: 0

Sources: Federal Highway Administration; Sivak Applied Research; U.S. Government Accountability Office; Zoom Video Communications Inc.; Opportunity Insights using data from Womply, Affinity Solutions, Paychex Inc., Intuit Inc., Earnin and Kronos; Bureau of Transportation Statistics; International Air Transport Association; Transportation Security Administration; The Broadway League; Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Amazon.com Inc.; Internal Revenue Service; The Nielsen Company; GOJO Industries; American Dental Association; Major League Baseball.