One Year of COVID: Iran Compared to U.S.

The United States and Iran have both been epicenters of the coronavirus pandemic. The United States reported its first confirmed case, in Washington state, on January 21. Iran’s first cases, both deaths, were reported on February 19. The U.S. population is 331 million, roughly four times larger than Iran’s population, which is approximately 84 million. As of March 23, 2021, roughly 9.1 percent of the U.S. population had been infected, compared with 2.1 percent of Iran’s population, according to government data in both countries. Both governments have acknowledged that the data on COVID-19 is preliminary and may change as earlier deaths are investigated and earlier cases are discovered through anti-body testing. The following graphs reflect two different data points. The first compares the real numbers in each country. The second reflects the numbers proportionate to their population.

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Total Cases

As of March 23, 2021, in absolute numbers, the United States had far more confirmed cases than Iran. The United States had nearly 30 million cases compared to 1,815,712 cases in Iran. The U.S. total was more than 16 times the total in Iran. But proportionately, the number of cases in each country would be closer. The United States would have more than three times the number of cases in Iran. 

A chart showing total COVID cases

U.S. Source: The New York Times aggregated data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state- and local-level public health agencies.
Iran Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center, Iranian Ministry of Health

 

A chart showing total COVID cases if adjusted proportionality

U.S. Source: The New York Times aggregated data from the CDC, state- and local-level public health agencies
Iran Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center, Iranian Ministry of Health

 

Daily Cases

The U.S. and Iran had similar number of cases during the first month, but U.S. cases skyrocketed and gyrated beginning on March 17, 2020. The U.S. consistently had thousands of more new cases per day than Iran.

A chart showing Daily COVID cases

U.S. Source: The New York Times aggregated data from the CDC, state- and local-level public health agencies
Iran Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center, Iranian Ministry of Health

 

A chart showing daily COVID cases in Iran adjusted proportionately

U.S. Source: The New York Times aggregated data from the CDC, state- and local-level public health agencies
Iran Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center, Iranian Ministry of Health

 

Total Deaths

As of March 23, 2021, the United States reported 543,479 deaths while Iran reported 61,951 deaths. The United States recorded more than eight times the total in Iran. But proportionately, the number of deaths would be closer. The United States would have about double the number of deaths in Iran. 

Total Deaths Chart

U.S. Source: The New York Times aggregated data from the CDC, state- and local-level public health agencies
Iran Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center, Iranian Ministry of Health

 

A chart showing total deaths adjusted proportionality

U.S. Source: The New York Times aggregated data from the CDC, state- and local-level public health agencies
Iran Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center, Iranian Ministry of Health

 

A chart comparing mortality rates

U.S. Source: The New York Times aggregated data from the CDC, state- and local-level public health agencies
Iran Source: Johns Hopkins University of Medicine - Coronavirus Resource Center, Iranian Ministry of Health

 

The graphs were initially assembled by Alex Yacoubian, a former program assistant at the U.S. Institute of Peace. Andrew Hanna, a program specialist, updated this piece.

Updated