COVID-19 Deaths Surpass 9/11 Deaths in
Single Day

Carolyn Crist

December 10, 2020

Editor's note: Find the latest COVID-19 news and guidance in Medscape's Coronavirus Resource Center.

The U.S. reported more than 3,080 COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, marking the highest day so far in the pandemic and passing the number of deaths recorded on 9/11, according to New York magazine.

On Sept. 11, 2001, four coordinated terrorist attacks killed 2,977 victims, which was the single deadliest terrorist event on U.S. soil since the Pearl Harbor attack on Dec. 7, 1941. Historians and public health experts have looked to the milestone during the past week to measure the magnitude of the coronavirus pandemic.

"It's tragic to think that that number of people passed on 9/11. It's tragic that that many passed on 1 day during this pandemic, that's been going on 10 months," Naeha Quasba, MD, a doctor in Baltimore treating COVID-19 patients, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"But I feel like we shouldn't even have to say that," said, Quasba, who lost her father to the coronavirus in September. "The gravity of what we've seen this virus already do should be enough for people to realize how horrific it is."

Wednesday was also one of the deadliest days in U.S. history. The Sept. 8, 1900, Galveston, TX, hurricane is estimated to have killed more than 8,000 people, and the Sept. 17, 1862, Civil War Battle of Antietam is believed to have left more than 3,600 Union and Confederate soldiers dead.

Single-day death totals from the coronavirus are expected to increase in coming weeks as coronavirus cases and hospitalizations continue to rise. Nearly 107,000 COVID-19 patients were in U.S. hospitals on Wednesday, according to the COVID Tracking Project, which is also a record. More than 210,000 new cases were reported.

As Americans have embarked on holiday travel and spent more time indoors due to colder weather, COVID-19 numbers have spiked across the board during the past month. Since Nov. 10, daily cases and hospitalizations have nearly doubled, the COVID Tracking Project reported, and the weekly average of deaths has almost tripled.

Cases are rising again in the South, according to Bloomberg News, making up about a third of new cases. So far this month, 28 states have broken single-day records for cases. Alabama, Arizona, Ohio, and Washington posted record highs on Tuesday, the news outlet reported.

With more than 289,000 total COVID-19 deaths this year, the U.S. will likely pass the 300,000 milestone in the next week. There could be 200,000 more deaths by February, the news outlet reported.

"The tale is going to be told in what happens in the next 7-10 days, as to whether the travel, social gatherings, and other such things has had any impact in the states," Jeffrey Gold, MD, chancellor of the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

"Everybody is concerned about that, myself included," he said. "We're going to have to hold our breath for this next period of time to see what the actual impact is."


New York magazine: "U.S. Surpasses 3,000 COVID Deaths in a Day for the First Time."

Australian Broadcasting Corporation: "Coronavirus kills more people in the US in one day than on September 11."

COVID Tracking Project: "Our Data."

Bloomberg News: "December Smashes Records for Virus Cases as Deaths Near 300,000."