Experts forecast that there will be nearly 180,000 deaths due to the coronavirus by Oct. 1 – but as many as 33,000 lives could be saved if at least 95 percent of people wear face masks, according to a new report.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released a model Wednesday that predicts 179,106 deaths nationwide, with a range of 159,497 to 213,715.
Those numbers drop to 146,047 — with a range of 140,849 to 153,438 — if at least 95 percent of people wear masks.
As of Thursday, coronavirus has killed at least 121,979 people and infected nearly 2.4 million nationwide, according to data from Johns Hopkins.
“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said.
“People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk,” he added.
The latest forecast is lower than the 201,129 deaths predicted on June 15.
California and other states have recently seen spiking case numbers, but deaths are not yet rising at the same rate, a trend that could change in the coming weeks, according to the report.
“States reporting the ages of confirmed cases suggest there are more cases being detected in younger people who are at substantially lower risk of death than older people,” Murray said.
“It remains to be seen how this will unfold over the next few weeks, and if transmission continues to go up, we may see increasing infections in at-risk populations,” he said.
The institute’s projections include the reinstatement of strict social-distancing measures when deaths per day reach a level of 8 per one million people, but only Texas and Florida now reach this level of resurgence before October 1.
The wearing of face masks at current reported rates is included in the model.
“These factors are vital in our projections and highlight how many lives can be saved,” Murray said.
In New York state, the forecast of deaths with and without 95 percent wearing masks are 31,729 (range of 31,606 to 31,866) vs. 31,837 (range of 31,676 to 32,021), respectively, according to the report.
Orthodox Jewish men move a wooden casket from a hearse at a funeral home in Brooklyn’s Borough Park neighborhood in April.Spencer Platt/Getty Images
“States are attempting the difficult balancing act of preserving health and enabling economic recovery,” Murray said.
“Going forward, IHME will continue to forecast for different scenarios including planned intermittent mandates in the fall when deaths per day may reach higher levels within each state, recognizing that solutions are not uniform across communities,” he said.