Degrees of Separation

Here’s two things that appear to be true:

  1. Some people will not accept the coronavirus as real until they personally know someone affected by it. The most extreme impact of the virus is of course death.
  2. By lore, everyone is “six handshakes” (when we used to do that) away from anyone else in the US.

So the question becomes, how much death does there need to be in order for everyone in the US to be affected?

If the “six handshakes” or “six degrees of separation” rule were true, everyone is already affected by death from the virus, they just don’t know it yet.

However, due to economic and social segregation, the problem isn’t that simple. And some people just don’t have any friends.

So we’re at 146,484 deaths reported as of this morning in the US. It would take 2.2 million deaths for every person in the US to have someone among their casual friends who has died from the virus. We are a distance from that, and we might have a vaccine before we get there. But maybe not.

However, the 330,000,000 population figure includes kids and assumes that the Census Bureau has adjusted its population growth estimates for Covid deaths. Now if we only consider adults, we need 1.5 million deaths for each person to have a casual friend who had died. Unfortunately, that’s in the range of possibility, since the virus is currently killing more than 1,000 Americans per day.

My original estimate was 240,000 dead in the US by Halloween. That assumed 150,000 dead by August 1st, and we are running a couple of days ahead of that schedule. We have 96 days until Halloween.

For the past week the US has been running at 906 deaths per day. That number peaked in April at 2,160 deaths per day. After dropping and the outbreak in NY and NJ was controlled, the number appears to be on its way back up.

If we stay at the 906 death rate, we will have 233,824 deaths by Halloween. If we go back up to the 2,160 per day rate, we will have 354,208 dead in the US. The truth is probably somewhere in between these numbers. We can expect roughly 35 million Americans to know someone who has died. However, almost everyone in the US knows someone who knows someone who has died. That just hasn’t sunk in yet.

Thanatos is going to have an awesome holiday this year!


  1. I found this to be a very informative and interesting read, thank you for sharing! Interesting to see that people typically can process a relationship with 3-5 close friends, I found that to be very relatable.


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