The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation now projects that 68,000 American lives would be saved between now and March 1 by near universal wearing of masks.
The IHME released the updated model on Thursday.
The IHME’s coronavirus projections have been frequently cited in the past by the White House’s coronavirus task force. The group uses state data along with other metrics to create projections on the number of coronavirus-related deaths throughout the US.
Among the projections released by the IHME, the number of active hospitalizations in the United States tied to the coronavirus is expected to double by mid-January.
The COVID Tracking Project, a project led by The Atlantic, shows that current coronavirus-related hospitalizations hurdled the 60,000 mark in the US on Tuesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic. The number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 has more than doubled in the last six weeks throughout the US.
By Friday, the number of people hospitalized with COVID-19 neared 70,000.
A number of hospital systems in the US are nearing capacity already.
And the IHME’s director Chris Murray warns that his estimates are on the conservative side.
“The fall winter surge, you know, driven by people going indoors, having more indoor contact and, you know, it's what we've seen play out in Europe and now we're catching up,” Murray told CNN. “So we're seeing the huge exponential rise in cases, deaths starting to follow suit. We're already at over a thousand deaths a day, quite a bit more than that. So our numbers that see us getting to, you know, 2,200 deaths a day in mid-January, are perhaps conservative, and that does require 33 states to put in mandates. So, absolutely it can go much worse than that."
Murray’s projection forecasts roughly an additional 200,000 coronavirus between now and March 1. The estimate drops to 132,000 if masks are nearly all situations outside of the household.
By March 1, it’s possible that a number of high-risk Americans and health care workers will be vaccinated. The White House said on Friday that it intends on distributing 20 million vaccine doses by the end of December, and 25 to 30 million doses for each subsequent month. The vaccines would come in two doses.