US COVID-19 deaths could double by year end, experts warn

The model forecasts that the best case scenario is 288,381 deaths.

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An additional 1.9 million deaths from the coronavirus pandemic could triple the global death toll by the end of the year. Meanwhile, a fall wave of infections could increase fatalities in the U.S. to 410,000, according to a recent forecast from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (IHME).

A Health agent of the City of Rio de Janeiro performs a COVID-19 rapid test on Cecilia de Souza, 73, at Morro da Mangueira (favela) on September 3, 2020 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Photo by Bruna Prado/Getty Images)

Many experts have warned that cooler, drier weather and extended time periods spent indoors could cause the virus to spread more rapidly in the Northern Hemisphere – a common occurrence with other respiratory viruses.

READ MORE: Coronavirus cases surpass 6M in the US

According to health data analyzed by the Washington Post, the current U.S. death toll from COVID-19 is 183,000. Under the most likely scenario, the IHME model projects that 410,451 people in the U.S. will have died by January 1.

That model forecasts that the best case scenario is 288,381 deaths and the worst case scenario is 620,029 deaths.

WAPO reported that the best case scenario would result if nearly everyone wore masks, practiced social distancing, and observed government mandates that limit the size of indoor gatherings. The model predicted that the worst case scenario was likely to occur if people refused to take precautions.

“It’s easy given the summer lull to think the epidemic is going away,” said Christopher Murray, director of IHME during a conference call on Friday. But there are “bleak times ahead in the Northern Hemisphere winter, and unfortunately we are not collectively doing everything we can to learn from the last five months.”

While many models do not project further than four to six weeks ahead, IHME is one of the rare models that forecasts months into the future.

READ MORE: CDC chief warns of second, more severe coronavirus outbreak this winter

“Beyond that it’s all conjecture and guesswork because there are so many factors we just can’t predict and factors about transmission that truthfully scientists don’t understand very well yet,” said Jeffrey Shaman, leading infectious disease expert at Columbia University.

“What happens the next few months really depends on what we do as a society the next few weeks,” Shaman added.

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