A Grim COVID Prediction, With One Hopeful Piece of Advice

Model forecasts 300K US deaths by December, but wearing masks could cut that number
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 7, 2020 11:25 AM CDT
A Grim COVID Prediction, With One Hopeful Piece of Advice
Dr. Anthony Fauci testifies during a congressional hearing on the coronavirus crisis on July 31, 2020, on Capitol Hill in Washington.   (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Winter will soon be coming, and with it, some not-great news, according to a prominent model with a new prediction on COVID-19 deaths. While Johns Hopkins documents more than 160,100 deaths so far in the US from the coronavirus, the "forecast totals 295,011 deaths by December," reads a grim projection Thursday from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, per CNN. NPR reports that, of more than two dozen national coronavirus forecasts, the IHME's is the most dire in terms of death toll, with some offering more optimistic outlooks. But the outlet also notes other sobering takeaways based on that group's projection, including that it would put COVID-19 on a path to become the third leading cause of death in the US—behind only heart disease and cancer—and with more than five times the number of annual flu deaths.

The CDC offered its own look ahead Thursday, noting there could be up to 190,000 total US deaths by Aug. 29. But there's some good news amid the gloom: "The model doesn't have to come true," according to IHME Director Christopher Murray, who says the public's behavior can play a major role in stopping the spread—specifically via the wearing of masks. The IHME statement notes that if 95% of Americans consistently wore face coverings, that December projection would drop to just over 228,000 deaths, saving more than 66,000 lives. Currently, 39 states, plus Puerto Rico and DC, have some sort of mask mandate in place. Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN's New Day on Thursday that "we can be way down in November ... if we do things correctly, and if we start right now." Head to NPR to read more analysis on the IHME's projection. (More coronavirus stories.)

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