A recently revised coronavirus death model predicts that more than 147,000 Americans will die from COVID-19 in early August, up from nearly 10,000 compared to the last projection, as restrictions on curbing the pandemic have eased, researchers said Tuesday.
The last prediction The University of Washington’s Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) reflects “the main drivers of viral transmission, such as changes in testing and mobility, as well as easing distance policies,” the report said.
The review strengthened public health warnings, including Tuesday’s U.S. Senate testimony from Dr. Anthony Fauci, the country’s top infectious disease expert, that clearing lockouts early could lead to more respiratory virus outbreaks.
Fauci and other medical experts have urged caution in easing trade restrictions before expanding diagnostic tests and the ability to track close contacts of infected individuals, along with other safeguards.
IHME researchers recognized that it is difficult to measure the precise impact of measures to reopen closed-door businesses and reduce home orders.
“The full potential effects of recent measures to facilitate social distance policies, especially if robust containment measures are not yet fully upscaled, may not be fully known for several weeks due to time periods between viral exposure, potential infection and full disease progression,” said the report.
COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus, has already claimed nearly 81,000 lives in the United States, out of a total of more than 1.36 million known infections, according to a Reuters note.
The revised IHME model, often cited by the White House and other public health authorities, predicted that the cumulative US death toll will rise to 147,040 by August 4, up 9,856 from the institute’s previous update on Sunday.
A week earlier, the model had sharply increased the figure to nearly 135,000 deaths, nearly double the April 29 forecast, citing steps in about 30 states to ease social distance requirements.
The buzz of reopening businesses, ranging from restaurants to car factories, has only accelerated since unemployment reached levels that had not been since the Great Depression of the 1930s.
The forecasts are presented as a series, with the latest forecast – 147.00 plus deaths – representing the average between a best-case scenario of 102,783 lives lost and a worst-case scenario of 223,489 fatalities.
Forecasts have fluctuated in recent months, with an expected death toll of as many as 60,000 on April 18.