As the spread of COVID-19 accelerates in America, there is a grim handicapping among researchers about how many people will die, particularly before the warmer weather and the arrival of a widely distributed vaccine. At least two carefully followed sets of experts put the figure of additional COVID-19 deaths at 200,000 over the course of the next three or four months.
The Dean of Brown University’s School of Public Health, Dr. Ashish Jha, told CNBC: “Once we get into the spring we easily could be at 450,000 or even 500,000 deaths.” The current U.S. total is 258,114 and has been rising by well above 1,000 and day. It is expected the average will top 2,000 a day soon.
Among the most widely followed models of the growth of confirmed cases and deaths is from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington. Its models cover every major nation in the world. The model looks at “deaths”, “daily deaths”, “daily infections and testing”, “hospital resource use”, “mask use” and “social distancing”.
The current model from the IHME forecasts death figures through March 1. Its forecast for the U.S. is 470,974. It presents the odds for deaths based on several sets of circumstances which it calls “scenarios”. The first of these is its current “projection.” This current number is forecast on social distancing being reimposed for six weeks each time deaths reach 8 per one million.
The best-case scenario is that 95% of the population wears masks in public. This is similar to Singapore. In this case, mandates are also reimposed for six weeks if deaths reach 8 per one million. The U.S. forecast for this case is 407,000 total deaths by March 21.
The worst-case scenario is the ongoing easing of social distancing with mandates not reimposed. The total death forecast based on the model under these circumstances is 659,000, in the U.S. by March 1.
Of course, the cases are very different from state to state, because some have already begun to lock down, and some are still largely open.
However, no matter how the deaths are spread, the U.S. faces a winter in which another 200,000 people could die from COVID-19.