As of yesterday, there had been 14,521,751 confirmed cases of COVID-19 in America, up by 240,371. Fatal cases were 282,275, up by 2,641. Hospitalizations reached above 100,000 nationwide. The two daily growth rates and total hospitalizations were at or near records.
The situation is expected to get much worse based on carefully followed figures from The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine. Its new forecast puts deaths from COVID-19 at 539,000. Its scientists said that because of a “winter surge” policies and habits will need to be in place for at least several months to keep the disease even close to under control.
Dr. Christopher Murray, IHME director, remarked “Mass scale-up of vaccination in 2021 means we have a path back to normal life, but there are still a few rough months ahead. We must be vigilant in protecting ourselves at least through April, when, as our projections indicate, vaccines will begin to have an impact.”
If mask-wearing is not at very high levels across the U.S. and the rollout of the vaccine is slow, deaths by April 1 could rise to an astounding 770,000. To keep that number down, the IHME said states will need to take aggressive measures.
Other points made by the IHME:
A rapid vaccine rollout is forecast to reduce the death toll to 528,000 in the US.
The forecasts show that if mask-wearing increased to 95%, combined with expected vaccine rollout, approximately 66,000 lives could be saved, compared to a vaccine rollout scenario with current mask-wearing levels remaining the same.
In the US, the expected vaccine rollout only reduces the death toll by April 1 by 9,000 deaths.
Rapid rollout targeting high-risk groups, compared to no vaccination, can reduce the death toll from 548,000 to 524,000 deaths.
The vaccine rollout estimates incorporate vaccine hesitancy, available doses, vaccine effectiveness, and number of vaccinations per day.
Murray added: “Where the winter surge is driving spikes in infections, there will be many people who can still become infected and possibly die before the vaccine is fully rolled out.”
The figures are particularly stunning based on the pace at which the spread of the disease in the U.S. slowed from mid-August to early October when daily confirmed cases rose at an average of only 50,000 a day. On many days over that period, daily fatal cases dropped below 500.
A recent sign of how rapidly the disease has spread is the figures in some of America’s largest states. The confirmed cases count in Texas is 1,322,711. Fatal cases total 22,890. California has 1,318,139 confirmed cases and 19,791 fatal ones. For purposes of comparison, only nine countries in the world, excluding the U.S., have more cases than either California or Texas.
It will be a very grim winter.