Forecast: 300,000 Americans dead from COVID-19 by December

Aug. 10, 2020

The American death toll from the COVID-19 pandemic could reach nearly 300,000 by December 1, according to a new forecast by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington's School of Medicine. The forecast model was reported by the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota.

The model shows 295,011 deaths by December 1 but says 70,000 of those could be prevented if 95 percent of Americans wore masks whenever they were outside their homes. The model also assumes some states will reissue stay-at-home orders and close nonessential businesses when the daily death rate in a state reaches 8 per million.

"We're seeing a rollercoaster in the United States," said IHME Director Christopher Murray, MD, DPhil. "It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others—which, of course, leads to more infections. And the potentially deadly cycle starts over again."

Murray said IHME's data show fewer new cases in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, but deaths in those states will be expected to rise for the next two weeks. Based on rolling case counts and data on hospitalizations and deaths, IHME expects Colorado, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, and Virginia to see the next major case increases.

Currently, 32 states have passed mask mandates, as have Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. According to the Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 tracker, the U.S. has over 4.9 million COVID-19 cases, and more than 160,000 fatalities. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also updated their composite forecasting site and showed 175,000 to 190,000 total COVID-19 deaths will likely be reported by August 29.

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