Philadelphia church bells ring out for more than 200,000 lives lost to COVID-19

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Wednesday, September 23, 2020
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A local church is honoring the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to COVID-19 by ringing its bells on Tuesday evening.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A Philadelphia church is honoring the hundreds of thousands of lives lost to COVID-19 by ringing its bells on Tuesday evening.

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus topped 200,000 Tuesday, a figure unimaginable eight months ago when the scourge first reached the world's richest nation with its sparkling laboratories, top-flight scientists and stockpiles of medicines and emergency supplies.

"It is completely unfathomable that we've reached this point," said Jennifer Nuzzo, a Johns Hopkins University public health researcher.

St. Peter's Episcopal Church at 3rd & Pine streets marked the grim milestone by ringing its 180-year-old bells 200 times, once for every thousand life lost.

"This is a tragedy to have lost 200,000 of our fellow citizens to this disease," said Ben Cornelius, who rang the 3000-pound bell that was made at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London , which also made the Liberty Bell.

"It's a solemn honor to do this and a heavy weight to the tolling of bells," said Cornelius.

READ MORE: St. Joseph's University grad dies of COVID-19 after ER rotation in Texas

New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy makes a point at every briefing to share stories of the victims of the virus. One of the latest is 69-year-old Rocco SanFiilippo of South Toms River, New Jersey.

Dr. Adeline Fagan, 28, who was a graduate of St. Joseph's University in Philadelphia, also died from the virus recently. According to a GoFundMe page created by her family, Fagan was mostly at the hospital delivering babies, but was doing a rotation in the ER and treating COVID-19 patients.

The number of dead in the U.S. is equivalent to a 9/11 attack every day for 67 days. It is roughly equal to the population of Salt Lake City or Huntsville, Alabama.

And it is still climbing. Deaths are running at close to 770 a day on average, and a widely cited model from the University of Washington predicts the overall U.S. toll will double to 400,000 by the end of the year as schools and colleges reopen and cold weather sets in. A vaccine is unlikely to become widely available until 2021.