Deaths could approach 400,000 by February, model predicts

The US coronavirus death toll could almost double to about 400,000 by February, an influential model predicts.

a person standing on a sidewalk: People walk through Times Square near Broadway and an empty theater district on October 9, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

© Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
People walk through Times Square near Broadway and an empty theater district on October 9, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

This comes as the country reports the highest number of daily Covid-19 infections in almost two months, with experts offering grim outlooks if Americans don’t take precautions.

The latest forecast projects 394,693 US coronavirus deaths by February 1, 2021. That’s about 181,000 additional lives lost beyond the current US death toll of 213,860, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

The model, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine, projects that daily deaths in the US will peak at about 2,300 in mid-January.

For comparison, Friday’s US death toll was 990, according to Johns Hopkins.

The new projections are based on current conditions. If the US eases social distancing mandates, the number of deaths could be 502,852 by February 1, the model says.

Masks make a difference, experts say. If 95% of people in the US wore them, the model projects, 79,000 fewer lives would be lost by February 1, and daily deaths would peak at less than 1,400.

Globally, the model predicts that 2,488,346 people will die from coronavirus by February 1. The model shows that if 95% of people around the world wore masks, more than three-quarters of a million lives would be saved by that date.

US cases highest since August

Johns Hopkins reported a total of 57,420 new US cases on Friday.

That is the most reported cases in a single day since August 14, when there were 64,601 new cases, the data show.

Friday’s surge of 57,420 cases marks the third consecutive day of 50,000+ reported cases in the US, Johns Hopkins says. The last time the US reported three consecutive days of more than 50,000 cases was also in mid-August.

Now Florida, which over the summer became the country’s hotspot, is “ripe for another large outbreak,” an infectious disease expert told CNN. Late last month, the state cleared the way for bars and restaurants to fully reopen and this week reported more than 6,000 cases over a two day-period.

“What they’ve done is opened up everything as if nothing had ever happened there, and you and I could be talking probably in eight to 10 weeks, and I will likely bet that Florida will be a house on fire,” Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told CNN Friday.

White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx also cautioned Friday of “early suggestions” of alarming trends in the Northeast, urging residents to take action and help prevent the spread before the virus takes off again.

“The actions this time have to happen at the personal level, in our private homes, rather than just the public spaces,” she said.

In New Jersey, officials are monitoring several areas of concern after the governor said the state was beginning to see “sobering” numbers. And in New York, several cluster areas prompted Gov. Andrew Cuomo to issue strict restrictions in areas with large Orthodox Jewish communities, sparking protests and criticism from some local leaders.

As of October 8, the moving average of new cases per million people in the Northeast increased by 91% since September 8, according to data from Johns Hopkins. And across the US, 28 states — scattered mostly across the Midwest and Northeast — are reporting more new cases than the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins.

Only two states — Maine and Nebraska — are reporting a decline.

Alarming trends all over the country

Worrying trends are being recorded across the US. At least 22 states reported more than 1,000 new cases on Thursday. And the country’s daily case count average — now more than 46,000 — has surged by 12% since the previous week.

Hospitalizations are also on the rise. Especially worrisome are the statistics from Wisconsin, experts say, which in recent days has reported its highest daily case count, hospitalization number and death toll.

After issuing an emergency order limiting public gatherings, Wisconsin Gov. Tony Evers warned the state was in a “dire place” and announced a field hospital would be opening next week to help respond to the surge in patients.

“We’re in a crisis right now and need to immediately change our behavior to save lives,” he told residents earlier this week.

But other states aren’t trailing far behind — with Utah’s Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox saying this week hospitalization rates were “surging” and “beginning to place a strain on our healthcare system.”

Health officials have warned things could get worse as winter approaches and the Covid-19 pandemic is stacked against flu season. Projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation show more than 2,900 Americans dying every day by January. And the latest US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ensemble forecast shows the US death toll could climb to 233,000 by the end of the month.

More than 213,000 Americans have died from the virus since the start of the pandemic, according to Johns Hopkins.

CDC: Young adults may be the sparks in hotspots

Meanwhile, CDC researchers say young adults may be the sparks that set off new hotspots of Covid-19 spread.

The researchers found the percentage of positive Covid-19 test results start going up among people under the age of 25 about a month before a county is designated as a hotspot.

Percent positivity in younger persons was followed by increasing positivity among older age groups, the researchers wrote.

Other experts have previously said that could be the case. Over the summer, Birx said parts of the country were seeing a “household” spread: younger people were contracting the virus and unknowingly (as many often can have mild or no symptoms) brought it back home to their parents, who then passed the virus on to other members of the family and community.

With holidays like Thanksgiving on the horizon, Birx urged residents on Friday not to let their guard down and said it was important for college students returning home to remain diligent about taking health precautions and encouraging their communities to do the same.

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