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On Tuesday, the pandemic in the United States reached a grim milestone, as more Americans have now died from the coronavirus than in the Vietnam War. In less than three months since the first confirmed death, COVID-19 has killed 58,365 people in the United States, according to Johns Hopkins University, surpassing the 58,220 U.S. military deaths in Vietnam.
While far more Vietnamese military and civilians were killed in the nine-year conflict — as many as 612,000 civilians and 1.26 million soldiers were killed in total — the coronavirus has quickly outpaced the lethality of the United States’ most costly war since WWII. As NPR notes, the deadliest year for U.S. troops in Vietnam was 1968, when 16.899 soldiers were killed for every 100,000 U.S. residents; the rate of the coronavirus is almost double that. While the highest nationwide death tolls have topped 2,000 on six separate days in April, the highest single-day count in Vietnam was on January 31, 1968, when 246 personnel were killed on the second day of the Tet Offensive.
On Monday, New York’s Washington correspondent Olivia Nuzzi raised the comparison to President Trump: “If an American president loses more Americans over the course of six weeks than died in the entirety of the Vietnam War, does he deserve to be reelected?” Though Trump has responded to difficult questions at the coronavirus press conferences by attacking reporters, he responded directly, comparing the death toll to the “original projections” without social distancing of 2.2 million. Earlier in the conference, he also raised the expected death toll to 70,000 — more than double that of the next closest country.