New projections from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) paint a grim picture for fall and winter amid the COVID-19 pandemic as the cold weather will force more people indoors.
IHME currently projects total deaths in the United States will reach 394,693 by Feb. 2021 — an increase of almost 180,000 from the current death toll — if conditions remain the same.
Universal mask wearing could cut down on those numbers and potentially save 79,000 American lives. IHME projected that if masks are universally adopted, meaning 95% of people wore masks in all interactions, the total deaths would reach 315,827 by next February.
However, if stay home and mask wearing mandates ease, the agency predicts 502,852 deaths by Feb. 2021, a staggering increase of 287,000 from the current death toll.
Many of the researchers involved worry that the cold weather and holiday season ahead will lead to more time spent inside, reducing social distancing and causing more super spreader events.
“What worries me is we haven’t learned our lessons,” said Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington, to AP News. “People let down their guard. They said, ‘It’s not us. It’s big cities.’ But eventually, like any other virus, it’s going to spread. Nobody lives in a bubble in this country.”
The new projections come as cases in the Midwest and Plains states are surging and hospitalizations have reached their highest point so far. New data also found that 41 states in the country were either experiencing “uncontrolled spread” of COVID-19 or trending poorly.
According to the Department of Health, there have been 2,190 deaths in Washington. Eighteen counties have increases in the number of new cases per 100,000 people over the previous 14 days.
“We have had a lot of success here relative to other states, and this is even though we were the first hit and the hardest hit,” said Gov. Jay Inslee last week. “I think what we have been doing has been working significantly … that’s not to say we’re out of the woods. As you know, there’s a lot more work to do.”
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