U.S. coronavirus death toll could rise to nearly 300,000 by December, model projects

Coronavirus crisis volunteer Rhiannon Navin greets local residents arriving to a food distribution center at the WestCop community center on March 18, 2020 in New Rochelle, New York.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

A key model has projected that the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States could reach almost 300,000 by December.

The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation has forecasted that the U.S. coronavirus death toll will reach 295,011 by Dec. 1. That's up from the over 160,000 COVID-19 deaths that have been reported in the U.S., per Johns Hopkins University. But the model also finds that mask-wearing could prevent tens of thousands of these deaths.

Specifically, the researchers say that if 95 percent of Americans wore masks when leaving their homes, the forecasted COVID-19 death toll could decrease by 66,000 to about 228,000. IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray stressed the need for Americans to continue measures like wearing masks, even in areas where COVID-19 cases are not spiking.

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"We're seeing a rollercoaster in the United States," Murray said. "It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others — which, of course, leads to more infections. And the potentially deadly cycle starts over again."

Murray also explained to CNN that Americans have an "extraordinary opportunity" to save lives by wearing a mask.

"It's rare that you see something so simple, so inexpensive, so easy for everybody to participate in, can have such an extraordinary impact," he said.

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