Model projects 288,000 US COVID-19 deaths this year as best-case scenario


Doctor hand holding positive Coronavirus test. (Taechit Taechamanodom/Getty Images/Royalty Free)

SEATTLE (Nexstar/AP) – A newly-released model predicts the number of dead from COVID-19 in the United States to more than double by the end of the year under the most likely scenario, pacing with an increase of death across much of the Northern Hemisphere.

The forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington suggests a likely global peak this December of roughly 30,000 deaths per day, with the United States peaking that month around 2,900 deaths per day.

Modeling from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has been cited by the White House and media outlets since March, but critics have said the forecast frequently underestimated fatalities in the early days of the pandemic.

The new set of projections are broken down into best-case, most likely and worst-case scenarios for several countries. India is projected to surpass the United States as the global leader in total deaths under all three scenarios.

Under the best-case scenario, mask mandates and social distancing could save hundreds of thousands of lives, but there is “a tremendous amount of COVID fatigue” among the world’s government leaders because of economic downturns, Dr. Christopher Murray of the Institute for Health Metrics told reporters Friday.

Most of the world’s population lives in the Northern Hemisphere. Respiratory illnesses tend to peak in winter months, a seasonal effect expected to hold true for COVID-19. Disease models are based on assumptions about human behavior, so there is a large amount of uncertainty.

Even if a vaccine proves safe and effective, there won’t be time to distribute enough vaccine to change the bleak forecast, Murray said.

The low end of the model suggests the United States will lose a projected 288,381 residents to COVID-19 by January 1st. On the opposite end, the fatalities could number well over 600,00 in a worst-case scenario.

The Associate Press contributed to this report.

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