More than 140,000 more people could die of the coronavirus in the US between now and February.
That’s according to the latest model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics, which predicted in a paper published Friday that the US’s total death count could surpass 511,000 by February 28.
“Even if we do better on a case-by-case basis, I think that the number of deaths that we’re going to experience this fall and winter is going to dwarf what we’ve already been through,” Megan Ranney, an emergency-medicine physician at Brown University, recently told Business Insider.
Cases have already started to climb again as cold weather sets in, forcing more people to congregate indoors. The US reported more than 73,000 cases on Thursday, according to data from The COVID Tracking Project. Data from Johns Hopkins University suggests that tally was even higher — more than 76,000, the nation’s second-highest daily count to date.
Over the last week, the US reported more than 60,000 daily cases on average — a roughly 40% increase since the start of October. That’s more new coronavirus cases than any other country.
Though Europe is battling a second wave of infections, average daily case counts in the UK, France, and Italy are still less than a third of those in the US. However, all three European nations have more average daily cases than the US relative to their population sizes.
The US is also seeing an uptick in daily hospitalizations, which have risen 33% since the start of October. Average daily deaths have risen by 12% during that time. Both hospitalizations and death are lagging indicators: Hospitalizations usually reflect cases that were diagnosed a week ago, while deaths reflect cases that were diagnosed two to three weeks ago.
The US leads the world in its weekly average of new deaths. India had outranked the country in that metric until Friday. The US is now seeing more than 760 deaths per day, on average, compared to roughly a fifth of that in France and the UK.
At the height of the pandemic in April, the US saw more than 2,000 deaths per day. If the IHME model proves accurate, the US could reach that peak level again before the end of 2020.
“We are heading into a very substantial fall-winter surge,” Christopher Murray, director of IHME, said in a Friday press briefing. “The idea that the pandemic is going away, of course, we do not believe is true.”
The worst of this peak is yet to come, he added: “We expect that surge to steadily grow across different states — and at the national level, continue to increase — as we head towards quite high levels of daily death in late December and January.”