WASHINGTON, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) — A key COVID-19 model has updated its projection that nearly 300,000 Americans may die from coronavirus by Dec. 1.
The forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington said on Thursday there will be 295,011 COVID-19 deaths by Dec. 1, based on current projection scenario.
“However, starting today, if 95 percent of the people in the U.S. were to wear masks when leaving their homes, that total number would decrease to 228,271 deaths, a drop of 49 percent. And more than 66,000 lives would be saved,” said the IHME.
In early May, the IHME forecast the United States would have 134,000 COVID-19 deaths by early August. As of Aug. 7, the country has 160,000 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Masks and other protective measures against transmission of the virus are essential to staying COVID-free, but people’s inconsistent use of those measures is a serious problem, said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.
“We’re seeing a rollercoaster in the United States,” Murray said. “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 noted that there appear to be fewer transmissions of the virus in Arizona, California, Florida, and Texas, but deaths are rising and will continue to rise for the next week or two.
The drop in infections appears to be driven by the combination of local mandates for mask use, bar and restaurant closures, and more responsible behavior by the public.
Confirmed COVID-19 cases in the United States hit over 4,918,000 and fatalities surpassed 160,700 as of Friday afternoon, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Experts warned that the actual numbers are believed to be much higher due to testing shortages, many unreported cases and asymptomatic transmissions.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said the United States is in a “new phase” in its fight against the pandemic. “We are seeing today is different from March and April,” she said.
In an interview with Xinhua, Stanley Perlman, a professor of microbiology and immunology at the University of Iowa, said the deadly virus is more widespread than when it first took hold in the country earlier this year.
“Mitigation measures need to be related to the extent of infection and rapidity of spread,” he noted. Enditem