Healthcare Economy

US COVID-19 Deaths May Hit 200,000 by Labor Day

COVID-19 deaths in the United States started a second surge about a month ago. Over the past few days, more than 1,000 people have died per day. At the current pace, the disease will kill 200,000 people by Labor Day, a figure hard to imagine a few weeks ago.

The first surge started in March and decimated New York (especially New York City), Michigan, Massachusetts and Illinois. It began to taper in late May and early June. Then cases started to spike through the west and south of the country. Particular hot spots began in the three largest states by population: California (with 39.5 million residents), Texas (29.0 million) and Florida (21.5 million). Together, these states have 27% of the country’s population.

Two months ago, it was improbable that any state could pass New York in the number of confirmed cases. Now, the three largest states have moved ahead of it. California has almost 493,000 cases, Florida has just over 470,000 and Texas has about 420,000. New York’s count (no longer rising rapidly) is at just above 415,000.

Other parts of America also have posted huge surges in infections. These include Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee. The rise in these states largely has been blamed, without full proof, on a lack of social distancing and mask-wearing. There is a large body of anecdotal, but convincing, evidence to support this.

The U.S. fatal cases total 155,660 after rising 1,411 yesterday, according to the Bing COVID-19 Tracker. Again, at the current pace, the number will reach 200,000 before Labor Day.

There is a case that deaths may slow. Perhaps measures to prevent the disease will take effect soon. That means that much of the population in those states hardest hit recently will start wide use of masks and social distancing. The most common means to keep spread under control finally will be in place.

On the other hand, matters could get worse. One reason is that deaths often trail infections by two weeks or more. A large number of new infections in July may cause a sharp rise in deaths in August.

Several academic models of the spread of the disease have shown that 200,000 would die by early August. Others put the figure as late as November. The first forecast is already wrong. The chance the second one might be right is improbable.

Almost certainly, a total U.S. death count of 200,000 from COVID-19 will be reached in early fall. It is only a matter of exactly when it happens.