Photo Credit: Screenshot
NY Times cover, May 24, 2020

The United States is going to reach 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus by Memorial Day Monday, despite the fact that infections have slowed down. Meanwhile, as numerous states are moving to loosen the restrictions on social distancing, the New York Times decided to jolt people’s memories, in case they’ve grown too complacent. Its front page shows no photographs, news articles, or ads. Under the headline “U.S. DEATHS NEAR 100,000, AN INCALCULABLE LOSS,” the front page includes the names of 1,000 dead victims of the coronavirus.

NYT’s assistant graphics desk editor Simone Landon said she and her team had seen “both among ourselves and perhaps in the general public, there’s a little bit of fatigue with the data.” And so, as the death toll from the virus in the United States has reached 98,683 on Saturday, Landon was looking to represent the numbers in a way that “conveyed both the vastness and the variety of lives lost,” according to John Grippe, who presented the project ahead of time in the Saturday edition.

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“We knew we were approaching this milestone,” Landon said. “We knew that there should be some way to try to reckon with that number.”

According to Grippe, NYT researcher Alain Delaquérière retrieved from online sources obituaries and death notices with Covid-19 as the cause of death, compiling a list of close to a thousand names from hundreds of newspapers. A team of editors read them and chose phrases that said something unique about each life that had been lost: “Alan Lund, 81, Washington, conductor with ‘the most amazing ear.’”; “Theresa Elloie, 63, New Orleans, renowned for her business making detailed pins and corsages.”; “Florencio Almazo Morán, 65, New York City, one-man army.”; or “Coby Adolph, 44, Chicago, entrepreneur and adventurer.”

In choosing between a full page of pictures of the victims and a text, Landon and the editorial team opted for sheer text, a choice that resulted in a page that is eerily reminiscent of the Vietnam memorial, which consists only of names and dates.

On Friday, 84 deaths from the coronavirus were recorded in New York State, down from 109 deaths Thursday. Over the past week, NY State saw 100+ deaths each day. In early April, the state recorded close to 800 deaths a day for several consecutive days.

Governor Andrew Cuomo said at a daily press briefing on Saturday that in April, with “hundreds and hundreds” of deaths each day, a public health official told him that he could “breathe a sigh of relief” when the state figures were below 100 deaths a day.

“In my head, I was always looking to get under 100. … For me, it’s just a sign that we’re making real progress,” Cuomo said, although, he noted, “under 100 doesn’t do anything for those 84 families that are feeling the pain.”

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