The start of the new year brought another grim milestone. U.S. fatal cases topped 350,000. Almost every model of future deaths puts the sum at about 400,000 by the time Joe Biden is sworn in as 46th President of the United States and well above 500,000 by spring.
According to the Microsoft Bing COVID-19 Tracker, fatal cases in the U.S. currently stand at 350,853, up 1,456. Confirmed cases sit at 20,331,785, up 118,965. Experts claim data for the last several days are understated because many state and county offices have been closed for Christmas and New Year’s. Numbers are expected to “catch up” to reality as these offices reopen this upcoming week.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the organization that predicts 400,000 deaths by January 20. The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine has forecast 539,000 deaths by April 1. The IHME number was provided just after the dates for the release of the vaccination were set by the U.S. government. If 95% of Americans were to wear masks, that figure would drop by 66,000 over the same period. However, “if states do not act to bring current surges under control, the death toll could reach 770,000 by April 1.”
To hit the 770,000 deaths pace, fatal cases would need to rise to an average of 4,700 a day between now and the end of March. Is that number possible? U.S. deaths have topped 3,500 on two separate days already. There is an almost universal expectation among scientists who track the disease that holiday surges will push January and February higher than current levels. And, as hospitalizations overwhelm ICUs, the level of care for COVID-19 patients has fallen in some areas. Hospitalizations currently rise almost every day and sit above 120,000.
The spread of deaths has been very uneven. The most remarkable figure remains New York State. Although it ranks fourth in confirmed cases well behind California, Texas, and Florida, it ranks first in deaths, at 37,557. The state, and particularly the area of New York City and surrounding counties were blitzed by the disease in March and April. New York State has 990,711 confirmed cases.
The disease is spreading more rapidly in California than in any other state over the last several days based on some measures. It also has the most confirmed cases at 2,307,706, which is higher than all but seven nations including the U.S. Deaths in California total 25,971
Based on the confirmed case count, Texas is second at 1,772,483. The state has 28,155 deaths. Texas is followed by Florida as measured by confirmed cases at 1,323,315. Deaths in Florida are 21,987.
The pace of the spread of the disease is also very different from state to state. One measurement for this is cases and deaths per 100,000 people over an average of figures for the seven most recent days. The places where the spread is worst at this point are California, Arizona, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Arkansas.
One factor which will make it difficult to slow the spread of the disease is that, while vaccines have been shipped they are not being distributed quickly. The most recent data from the CDC show 12.4 million doses shipped but only 2.8 administered. Those figures, while at least two days old, are an indication that an early target of 20 million people vaccinated by the end of 2020 was missed by a very large margin. Some of the problems appear to be logistics, but a number of people who have offered vaccination have refused it. And, the current pace may be a sign of things to come.
The larger estimated for deaths this winter appear more and more likely to come true.