There was a period, as COVID-19 vaccinations were approved and then shipped, that the tide of rising cases and deaths would turn by the end of winter or early spring. A faster spreading mutation of the virus and a lack of effective lockdowns across much of the U.S. have fueled fears that the disease will spread at record levels over the next several months. This spread will be boosted by heavy travel and gatherings which occurred over Christmas and New Year’s. One of the most widely respected forecast models shows American deaths from COVID-19 could near 730,000 by April 1.
The distribution of vaccine doses has been a terrible disappointment so far. Figures vary, but at the end of last year, approximately 12 million doses had been shipped, but less than 3 million had been administered. Those figures lag by a day or more because of how records get reported, particularly over the holidays. Suffice it to say, the good of 20 million vaccinations by year-end was missed.
Although specific incidents of carelessness do not add up to hard figures, they do tell a story. There were large, private parties of hundreds of people in a number of places across the country. Hundreds of thousands of people traveled by air. And, there was unexpected news that people have started to turn down the chance to be vaccinated, and this has even been the case with some healthcare workers.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine provides models for the future spread of the COVID-19, deaths, infection rates, hospitalizations, and mask use. The model for fatal cases uses several assumptions that yield varying forecasts. In the first forecast, mask use moves to 95% of the country. Under these circumstances, IHME predicts 518,000 deaths by April 1.
The IHME’s “current forecast” is for 566,000 deaths by April 1. This assumes vaccine rollout is rapid over the next 90 days.
The “worst-case”, which IHME labels “easing” is based on a roll-out of the vaccine that takes 90 days, and governments which do not impose mandates to slow the diseases if the spread accelerates. Forecast deaths for this scenario are 731,151. Current U.S. fatal cases stand at 353,309 based on the Microsoft Bing COVID-19 Tracker.
If the IHME is correct, COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. could double by April 1.
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