CDC predicts COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. could hit 534,000 by month’s end

Hundreds of luminaries line the edge of the reflecting pool to pay tribute to the 400,000 people in the U.S., who have died of the coronavirus are seen during a COVID memorial event at the Lincoln Memorial on Tuesday, January 19, 2021 in Washington,

While COVID-19 cases continue to trend downward across the U.S., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention believes the country’s death toll could hit 534,000 by Feb. 27.

Forecast data revealed the country’s coronavirus death rate will slow throughout February and projects at least 60,000 Americans will die from the virus by the end of this month. Researchers said the COVID-19 death toll could fall between 496,000 to 534,000 in the U.S. by then. As of this week, the CDC said more than 436,000 Americans have died from the virus since.

The prediction was a part of the agency’s ensemble forecast, which is an accumulation of several different models. 

Graph depicting the CDC’s prediction of the US COVID-19 death toll (Credit: CDC)

Meanwhile, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, at the University of Washington School of Medicine, predicted the country’s death toll could hit 631,000 by June 1. Researchers believed the global death toll could reach higher than 3.5 million by that same date.

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IHME researchers said increasing mask use to 95% in the U.S. could save 44,000 lives between now and June 1.

Scientists said the emerging COVID-19 variants will contribute to the rising death toll.

"There are serious concerns that with the spread of new COVID-19 variants, achieving herd immunity necessary to end the pandemic may be difficult if not impossible," IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said. "We may be able to bring COVID-19 under control if we continue to focus on the strategies that can keep transmission low – avoiding gatherings, wearing masks, and other measures – while working to get as many people vaccinated as possible."

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According to MedRxiv, the U.K. covid variant, also known as B.1.1.7, is spreading rapidly throughout the U.S., with infections doubling every week and a half. The study has not been peer-reviewed or published in a journal according to the Washington Post. The variant is believed to be more transmissible and more deadly than the previous strains of the virus.

The nation’s top infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci predicted the U.K. strain will become the dominant COVID strain by March.

According to the CDC, the U.S. has nearly 700 cases of the U.K. variant with Florida having the most cases at 201. California comes behind with 150 cases.

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Drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline said last week it will work with a German biopharmaceutical company to develop new vaccines targeting emerging variants of COVID-19 amid concerns that some mutations are making the virus harder to combat.

As COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations fall around the country, federal officials are warning states not to relax restrictions on dining out and other social activities that can lead to more spread of the virus.

"We have yet to control this pandemic," Dr. Rochelle Walensky, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters on Monday. The three waves of infection last year showed that the virus does rebound when people more mobile.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.