09:30 GMT24 September 2020
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    A forecasting model by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington predicts that the US COVID-19 death toll will exceed 410,000 deaths by January 1, 2021.

    That figure drops to around 286,000 deaths if 95% of Americans wear masks when leaving their homes. However, the figure could also reach as high as 620,000 deaths if social distancing mandates are lifted and not re-imposed and mask usage rates remain unchanged.

    The most recent projections also show that cumulative worldwide COVID-19 deaths could total 2.8 million by January 1, in which case about 1.9 million more people will die because of the respiratory illness by the end of 2020. The model also predicts that worldwide daily deaths from COVID-19 in December could reach 30,000.

    “These first-ever worldwide projections by country offer a daunting forecast as well as a roadmap toward relief from COVID-19 that government leaders as well as individuals can follow,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray in a news release. 

    “We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the United States. 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,” Murray added.

    The forecast indicates that the 10 countries with the highest cumulative death tolls by January 1 will be India, the US, Japan, Spain, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, France, Russia and the Netherlands.

    Murray also warned that there could be a seasonal rise in COVID-19 cases in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months, since the disease has followed similar seasonal patterns to pneumonia so far.

    “People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” Murray noted.

    The same model also predicts that the US COVID-19 death toll will exceed 260,000 by Election Day on November 3. 

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