COVID-19 has already taken more American lives than the Vietnam War, the Korean War, and World War I combined. Globally, the death toll is even more devastating; as of June, more than 500,000 people have died.
Multimedia artist and musician James Beckwith has created a 13-minute, animated global map that charts COVID-19 deaths across the world’s countries. It’s the latest attempt to visualize the unfathomable scale of the pandemic, from a front page of The New York Times covered in obituaries to Harvard’s map of dangerous hot spots.
In Beckwith’s video, the deaths erupt in circular orbs, evoking bombs. That’s no coincidence. The piece was inspired by Isao Hashimoto’s iconic time-lapse of nuclear explosions since the advent of the atom bomb.
We see the first COVID-19 case strike on January 9, framed in a close-up on China. Slowly the camera pulls out. China morphs into an undulating bull’s-eye of loss. We see a blip in Iran by late February. Then Italy. By the first week of March, COVID-19 has spread across Europe and into North America. By the end of March, the red dots are blowing up globally, like a worldwide nuclear war.
At this point, there are still eight minutes left in the animation. We aren’t even halfway through.
What happens next, if you commit to actually watching the work to its end, is disheartening—all the more so since the pandemic rages on. There are more than 3 million cases in the United States, and many states are halting or rolling back plans to reopen, after months under quarantine. If Beckwith’s visualization suggests anything, it’s that our vigilance is more important than ever. Stay home. Wear a mask. Don’t become a red dot.