The COVID-19 death toll will nearly double by this coming month, scientists project

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Earlier today, Dr. Anthony Fauci addressed rising coronavirus cases during a virtual event for the National Academy of Medicine.

With reports of a vaccine arriving as early as next month, the infectious disease expert voiced his concern with regard to convincing a mistrustful American public to take the first batch.

“It would be a terrible shame if we have — and I think we will have — a safe and effective vaccine but we’re not able to widely distribute it to those who need it,” Dr. Fauci said during the event.

“The issue is that as we enter, as we are now, in the cooler season of the fall, and ultimately the colder season of the winter, you don’t want to be in that compromised position where your baseline daily infection is high and you are increasing as opposed to going in the other direction.”

As of October 19th, 8.19 million Americans have been infected with the SARS-CoV-2 virus and 220 thousand have succumbed to the ensuing respiratory disease (COVID-19).

Similar trends are taking shape on the global stage, segmented between 40 million worldwide cases.

In the months since seasonal suppression and herd immunity theories failed to live up to their potential, the pandemic’s resistance to coordinated measures has become undeniable.

“Herd immunity can protect individuals, but it won’t keep a population safe from a disease that has no vaccine,” health expert Beth Skwarecki said of the controversial measure.

No matter what actions are taken at this point, we’re going to be dealing with this stuff for much longer than the initial projections indicated.

The question is, does a multiyear health crisis guarantee death and hospitalization rates keep rising?

A new model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and the University of Washington School of Medicine offers a grim forecast—albeit the depth of their pessimism is largely dependent on intervention tactics.

As of right now, the metadata suggests that Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming are all experiencing massive increases in coronavirus case numbers ahead of winter months.

“We expect deaths to stop declining and begin increasing in the next one to two weeks,” the authors wrote.

“The winter surge appears to have begun somewhat later than the surge in Europe. Daily deaths will reach over 2,000 a day in January even with many states reimposing mandates before the end of the year.”

By February, provided no substantive interventions are introduced, the researchers predict the death toll to rise to 389,087 in the US which represents a 78% increase.

Even if every American wore masks between now and then, we’re still looking at 314,000 deaths. However, if mask awareness decreases during this same window the researchers posit 477,000 deaths.

Cases peaked for the first time back in early April with 30,000 new cases across a rolling seven-day-average. This peak briefly plateaued only to rise to 66,000 new cases by July 19th.

Just this week, John Hopkins reported that 21 states are currently enduring a weekly rise in their average number of positive COVID-19 cases, pushing the national average to 52,345 new cases a day. Alabama, Delaware, Hawaii, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Texas, and Vermont are the only states evidencing dwindling case numbers.

A disparate approach to countermeasures appears to be partly to blame, alongside hope for windfall events to turn the tide in our favor.

However, unlike outbreaks of the recent past, SARS-CoV-2 is both highly unpredictable and resistant to clinical conformity. Only adhering to public health guidelines can meaningfully keep enough populations protected to make use of a targeted vaccine.

“The percentage of people who need to be immune to achieve herd immunity depends on the disease. Measles is very contagious: Each infected person could spread it to 12 to 18 other people in a population where nobody is immune. COVID-19 doesn’t spread as easily. The exact number, or R0, is still being determined, although it’s estimated to be in the range of 2 to 3. That means we might be able to achieve herd immunity with only, say, 60% of the population being immune”, Skwarecki concluded.