A University of Washington research says COVID-19 deaths in the United States will surge close to 180,000 by October.
The forecast by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington has a range of 159,497 to 213,715 deaths nationwide.
However, if the country strictly follows a universal mask-wearing order, it could save as many as 33,000 lives, the study says. The death toll could drop to 146,047 (with a range of 140,849 to 153,438), if at least 95 percent of people wear masks in public, the study estimates.
The coronavirus death toll in the United States rose to 121979 as per Johns Hopkins University’s latest update on Thursday.
Mask-wearing has been politicized in a country where the President himself refuses to wear mask in public appearances, and anti-mask rallies held in states like Arizona, which saw record number of single-day cases this week.
“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.
“People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk,” he added.
The new US forecast is lower than the forecast of 201,129 deaths released on June 15.
The report was published a day after the country’s top infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci told a House Committee that the U.S. was experiencing a “disturbing surge” of infections after states reopened too quickly and without adequate plans for testing and contact tracing.
New coronavirus infections in the United States returned to the April peak level this week. More than half of U.S. states are in the grip of rising cases.
IHME projects only Texas and Florida to reach high level of resurgence in COVID cases before October 1. It calls for re-imposition of strong social distancing mandates, which are vital in saving many lives.
Southern and western states such as Arizona, California, Mississippi, Nevada, Texas, North Carolina and South Carolina saw daily infection cases reaching record numbers these days.
But deaths are not yet rising at the same rate, a trend which could change in the coming weeks, the study warns.
“States reporting the ages of confirmed cases suggest there are more cases being detected in younger people who are at substantially lower risk of death than older people,” Murray said. “It remains to be seen how this will unfold over the next few weeks, and if transmission continues to go up, we may see increasing infections in at-risk populations.”
IHME is also forecasting that nearly 388,300 people will die from COVID-19 in Latin American and Caribbean nations by October 1. More than 166,000 of those deaths will be in Brazil.
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