Coronavirus death toll surpasses U.S. casualties from Vietnam War in just two months

First Read is your briefing from "Meet the Press" and the NBC Political Unit on the day's most important political stories and why they matter.
Image: The body of a deceased person is prepared to be transferred at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City
The body of a deceased person is prepared to be transferred at the Brooklyn Hospital Center, during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in the Brooklyn borough of New York City, April 28, 2020.Brendan McDermid / Reuters

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By Chuck Todd, Mark Murray, Carrie Dann and Melissa Holzberg

WASHINGTON — It was exactly two months ago, on Feb. 29, when the United States announced its first fatality from the coronavirus (though we’d later find out there were deaths even earlier than that).

Today, on April 29, the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus stands at 58,671 — higher than the 58,220 Americans who were killed in the years-long Vietnam War.

All in the span of two months.

Here is how the death toll has grown, per the tally we release each morning in First Read:

  • Monday, March — 23: 446
  • Monday, March — 30: 2,472
  • Monday, April 6 — 9,626
  • Monday, April 13 — 21,994
  • Monday, April 20 — 40,643
  • Monday, April 27 — 54,944
  • Wednesday, April 29: — 58,671

Data Download: The numbers you need to know today

1,018,162: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the United States, per the most recent data from NBC News and health officials. (That’s 23,593 more than yesterday morning.)

58,671: The number of deaths in the United States from the virus so far. (That’s 2,277 more than yesterday morning).

5.80 million: The number of coronavirus tests that have been administered in the United States so far, according to researchers at The COVID Tracking Project.

One in three: The share of antibody tests in a California study that produced false positives more than 10 percent of the time.

More than a dozen: The number of big businesses that have returned PPP money amid anger from small businesses that larger companies snapped up the funds

50 percent higher: The total number of deaths in seven hard-hit states for the period of time from March 8 through April 11, compared to normal rates.

More than 1,700: The number of coronavirus fatalities in the DC/Maryland/Virginia area, as the House abruptly canceled plans to come back into session in Washington next week.

Tweet of the day

Is it safe — to work on Capitol Hill?

The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives and the GOP-controlled Senate have two completely different views on this subject.

Twenty-four hours after House Democrats announced they would come back into session next week, they reversed course on Tuesday. “There was significant unrest in our caucus about coming back on the 4th,” House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn told NBC News in an interview. “Dumpster fire,” one Democratic aide wrote to NBC News, unprompted. “We have no choice,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said on a public conference call Tuesday, citing guidance from the Capitol physician’s office. ‘We don’t see ourselves at a disadvantage.’”

But the Senate is going full steam ahead. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is still planning on going into session next week to confirm judges. But McConnell did give some hints on Tuesday as to what legislation would look like for coronavirus relief (although the Senate can’t pass much meaningful legislation without the House also in session). McConnell said Tuesday he is “not interested in passing a bill that does not have liability protection, so that’s an integral part of our economy getting back to normal.” He went on to say liability protection is a “red line” for the Republican-held Senate.

2020 Vision: A*M*A*S*H

Rep. Justin Amash, I-Mich., who left the Republican Party over his support for President Trump’s impeachment, announced on Tuesday that he’s exploring a bid to be the Libertarian Party’s presidential nominee.

Amash joins former Minnesota Gov. Jesse Ventura, who earlier this week said he’s testing the waters of entering the 2020 presidential race with seeking the Green Party’s nomination being his top choice (though he’s yet to file any paperwork).

In 2016, third parties got approximately 6 percent of the popular vote, and that turned out to be one of several factors that helped Donald Trump pull off his upset against Hillary Clinton.

It will be interesting to see how Amash’s bid — if he wins the Libertarian Party’s nomination — might affect the race in Battleground Michigan, especially in GOP-leaning Kent County.

Does he pull from Trump and keep the president’s percentage down in the state? Or does he take away from Biden, especially if November turns into a referendum on Trump?

Ad Watch from Ben Kamisar

In today’s Watch, we have a fuller glimpse at the initial state of advertising in the battle for the Senate.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee yesterday released its initial reservations for TV and digital advertising, split like this:

  • North Carolina: $11.7 million
  • Iowa: $7.3 million
  • Arizona: $6.4 million
  • Montana: $5.2 million.

We’ve already told you about the NRSC’s buys — the group also made its biggest initial investment in North Carolina ($7.3 million). And it invested in those other three states as well — on top of Colorado, Maine and Michigan, states also home to marquee races.

The big money is a reminder that while many eyes are transfixed on the presidential race, and many minds focused on the coronavirus pandemic, there’s a big battle for control of Senate playing out, too.

The Lid: Cast away

Don’t miss the pod from yesterday, when we explored just how skeptical Americans are about the integrity of the elections in November.

ICYMI: What else is happening in the world

Democrat Rep. Joyce Beatty, who faced a challenge from the left, coasted to a win in her Ohio primary.

And Joe Biden is the winner in the delayed Ohio primary, too.

Maryland Democrat Kweisi Mfume looks set to retake the seat he held for nine years before he stepped down and was succeeded by the late Elijah Cummings.

The Kansas Senate GOP primary is getting pretty spicy.

The Trump campaign is touting its digital engagement, saying that it’s gotten nearly 300 million views across all of its virtual platforms.

What’s up with Andrew Yang’s mayoral ambitions?

Alumni of Bernie Sanders’ campaign are forming a super PAC. Not everyone’s happy about it.