New Covid-19 Death Forecast Sees Big Cold-Weather Boost in Cases

A new long-term forecast predicts a significant increase in Covid-19 deaths in the U.S. by the new year.

Under the latest projections from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, Covid-19 deaths could rise to 410,451 by the end of 2020. In a worst-case scenario, there could be 620,029 fatalities, according to the estimates.

The difference between the projected and worst-case scenarios comes down to how diligent authorities are in mandating masks and social distancing, according to the report.

Efforts to model the spread of the virus, and how many people it will kill, are highly subjective and can swing widely based on what assumptions go into the math. At times, projections have been significantly off. The further out a model looks, the wider the range of estimates can be.

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“People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” Christopher Murray, IHME’s director, said in the report.

There’s no mention of the impact a new vaccine could have on the spread in the IHME report.

President Donald Trump has said it’s possible the U.S. could have a vaccine ready to use by Nov. 1. Others in his administration -- including Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease official, and Moncef Slaoui, the chief adviser for the White House vaccine program -- have been more cautious. Slaoui told National Public Radio that it’s “extremely unlikely” one would be available by then, and Fauci puts the timing closer to the end of the year.

Worldwide, the institute forecasts 2.8 million deaths by Jan. 1, about 1.9 million more from now until the end of the year. Daily deaths in December could reach as high as 30,000.

“We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the United States,” Murray said. “But the science is clear and the evidence irrefutable: mask-wearing, social distancing, and limits to social gatherings are vital to helping prevent transmission of the virus.”

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