A Chilling Time-Lapse Video Documents Every COVID-19 Death on a Global Map: From January to June 2020

The sto­ry of the Coro­n­avirus, at least in the US, has swung between a num­ber of rhetor­i­cal tics now com­mon to all of our dis­course. Called a “hoax,” then giv­en sev­er­al racist nick­names and dis­missed as a “noth­ing burg­er,” the pandemic—currently at around 3 mil­lion cas­es in the coun­try, with a U.S. death toll over 130,000—has now become the “new nor­mal,” a phrase that pops up every­where you look.

“This fram­ing is invit­ing,” writes Chime Asonye at the World Eco­nom­ic Forum. It con­veys “the idea that our present is okay because nor­mal is reg­u­lar,” and we’re all sup­posed to be get­ting back to reg­u­lar life, accord­ing to the pow­ers that be, who don’t seem par­tic­u­lar­ly trou­bled by the dead, sick, and dying or the con­tin­ued threat to pub­lic health.

But pre­tend­ing things are nor­mal is sim­ply a form of a denial, a mal­adap­tive and unhealthy response to trau­ma as much as to dis­ease. “Allow­ing our­selves to cope means not nor­mal­iz­ing our sit­u­a­tion,” writes Asonye, “but giv­ing our­selves the time to tru­ly process it.” We are all liv­ing in the midst of pro­found loss—of loved ones, liveli­hoods, future plans and present joys. Asonye adds:

Psy­chol­o­gists advise that it’s impor­tant to iden­ti­fy the loss­es we are feel­ing and to hon­our the grief sur­round­ing us through meth­ods like med­i­ta­tion, com­mu­ni­cat­ing our strug­gle, and express­ing our­selves through art or by keep­ing a jour­nal. In uncer­tain times, the ‘new nor­mal’ frame rein­forces an under­stand­ing that the world and our emo­tions should by now have set­tled. Sur­round­ed by uncer­tain­ty, it’s okay to admit that things are not nor­mal. It’s okay to allow our­selves to grieve or to be scared. It’s okay not to be com­fort­able with what is going on.

How do we process if we can­not admit that there is a problem—a mas­sive prob­lem that requires our lives to change, even if we’re feel­ing fatigued and worn out? Though we may have grown cyn­i­cal­ly accus­tomed to the cal­lous, cor­rupt response of cer­tain gov­ern­ments to human suf­fer­ing, the “over­whelm­ing scale” of the pan­dem­ic, as James Beck­with writes on YouTube, marks the coro­n­avirus as decid­ed­ly not nor­mal. It may be the kind of cat­a­stro­phe the world has not wit­nessed in over a cen­tu­ry.

Inspired by artist Isao Hashimoto’s “Time-Lapse Map of Every Nuclear Explo­sion Since 1945,” which we’ve pre­vi­ous­ly fea­tured here, Beck­with used the same visu­al pre­sen­ta­tion to map the over 500,000 lives lost to the virus since the first Jan­u­ary out­break in Chi­na. “The virus grows, con­tin­u­ing to work its way through­out the world until the end of June—where this piece ends but the real virus has not,” he writes. “It is like­ly a sequel will need to be made.” Though he admits the ani­ma­tion “may be upset­ting to some peo­ple,” Beck­with, like Asonye, rec­og­nizes the impor­tance of admit­ting the full scope.

Watch­ing the virus spread, and kill, over the past six months hits much hard­er than read­ing the dry facts. The video is ded­i­cat­ed to “every per­son that trag­i­cal­ly lost their lives to COVID-19.” Beck­with would like it “to be under­stood and seen by as many peo­ple around the world as pos­si­ble,” so that we can all have a shared under­stand­ing of what we’re fac­ing togeth­er (and maybe come to an agree­ment that this can­not be the “new nor­mal”). “Some­times there are no words for ter­ri­ble events like this,” Beck­with writes, but he would like help trans­lat­ing the video descrip­tion into oth­er lan­guages. You can con­tact him via his YouTube or Insta­gram chan­nels to vol­un­teer.

Relat­ed Con­tent:  

The His­to­ry of the 1918 Flu Pan­dem­ic, “The Dead­liest Epi­dem­ic of All Time”: Three Free Lec­tures from The Great Cours­es

Watch “Coro­n­avirus Out­break: What You Need to Know,” and the 24-Lec­ture Course “An Intro­duc­tion to Infec­tious Dis­eases,” Both Free from The Great Cours­es

Inter­ac­tive Web Site Tracks the Glob­al Spread of the Coro­n­avirus: Cre­at­ed and Sup­port­ed by Johns Hop­kins

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

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Comments (4)
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  • Ray Owens says:

    Next, will we see a world­wide ani­mat­ed loop of SEASONAL FLU deaths for the past sev­er­al years? Hmmm…I won­der what the answer to that will be. Closed Cul­ture has jumped the shark as an open­ly cult-like, sta­tist rag.

  • Josh Jones says:

    Huh. Well, if the flu were spread­ing around the world unchecked killing and debil­i­tat­ing hun­dreds of thou­sands and there were no vac­cine, you can bet we’d post about it. In fact we have, sev­er­al times. Also, “sta­tist” is inter­est­ing giv­en that it’s the state deny­ing the sever­i­ty of the virus and forc­ing peo­ple back to work/school and you’re the one vol­un­teer­ing to do their work for them here.

  • Rick says:


    It’s because of dolts like you that the US has 25% of the glob­al COVID-19 deaths and 5% of the world pop­u­la­tion.

    You’re part of the nation­al humil­i­a­tion.


  • jerry says:

    A chill­ing sev­en min­utes. I would like to see a pre­sen­ta­tion like this adjust­ed on a per-capi­ta basis. In oth­er words, how many deaths as a per­cent­age of the total pop­u­la­tion. As dis­mal as many coun­tries’ pan­dem­ic response has been (yes, I mean Amer­i­ca’s), it would add to the real­i­ty of the sit­u­a­tion. Long live truth, jus­tice and ratio­nal­i­ty!

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