04:38 GMT02 December 2020
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    A forecasting model is now predicting that the US will exceed 399,000 COVID-19-related deaths by February 1.

    The model, which was created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, further forecasts that if social distancing and mask-wearing guidelines are eased, the US death toll could exceed 513,000 by February 1. 

    However, the projections also suggest that deaths may rise to around 337,000 if there is universal mask-wearing.

    The latest update comes as COVID-19 cases in the US continue to soar. Data compiled by the New York Times reveals that at least 1,431 new coronavirus deaths and 142,860 cases were reported in the US on Wednesday. Over the last week, there has been an average of 128,096 cases per day, which is a 69% increase from the average two weeks earlier.

    As of Thursday afternoon, almost 11 million people in the US have been infected with the virus, and more than 242,100 Americans have died due to COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic. 

    On Thursday, California also reported its millionth case, according to the Times tracker, becoming the second state to record more than 1 million cases, with Texas being the first. 

    On the ABC network’s “Good Morning America” Thursday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, urged Americans to continue to practice social distancing and other infection-preventing measures like wearing masks and washing hands.

    “The best opposite strategy to locking down is to intensify the public health measures short of locking down,” he said.

    Fauci also warned Thursday that a vaccine may not be enough to eradicate COVID-19. 

    While speaking at a webinar hosted by think tank Chatham House, Fauci warned people not to become complacent due to news that a vaccine may be close to arriving.

    “The cavalry is coming, but don’t put your weapons down, you better keep fighting because they are not here yet. Help is on the way, but it isn’t here yet,” Fauci said, CNBC reported.

    “So to me, that is more of an incentive of, ‘Please don’t give up. Don’t despair, the end is in sight,’ as opposed to: ‘Hey, we are good to go, don’t worry about anything.’ We are not good to go. We have got to continue to double down on public health measures,” he added.

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