U.S. COVID-19 death toll could rise to 410,000 by January, 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: John Moore/Getty Images)

A key model is projecting that the death toll from COVID-19 in the United States will rise to over 410,000 by the beginning of January.

The University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation this week forecast that by Jan. 1, the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. will rise to 410,451, per CNN. That would be about 225,000 more COVID-19 deaths.

The IHME says it expects the daily COVID-19 death rate in the U.S. to rise to nearly 3,000 a day in December, citing "seasonality and declining vigilance of the public." It describes the use of face masks as an "extraordinary opportunity" to save lives, and the model projects that the forecasted death toll could be lowered by 122,000 by January if mask use in the United States rose "to the levels seen in Singapore." But "mask use continues to decline from a peak in early August," especially throughout the Midwest, the IHME says.

Subscribe to The Week

Escape your echo chamber. Get the facts behind the news, plus analysis from multiple perspectives.


Sign up for The Week's Free Newsletters

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

From our morning news briefing to a weekly Good News Newsletter, get the best of The Week delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign up

Additionally, the IHME says that should a "herd immunity strategy" be pursued, and "no further government intervention is taken from now to January," the COVID-19 death toll could increase to 620,000. This comes after The Washington Post reported that a pandemic adviser was recommending that the White House adopt a strategy of letting COVID-19 spread through most of the population. The adviser subsequently denied having recommended such a policy, and the White House said "there is no discussion about changing our strategy."

The IHME model had last month projected 295,000 COVID-19 deaths by Dec. 1. Previously, CNN's Jim Sciutto notes, the model has "undershot the death toll."

Continue reading for free

We hope you're enjoying The Week's refreshingly open-minded journalism.

Subscribed to The Week? Register your account with the same email as your subscription.

Brendan Morrow

Brendan is a staff writer at The Week. A graduate of Hofstra University with a degree in journalism, he also writes about horror films for Bloody Disgusting and has previously contributed to The Cheat Sheet, Heavy, WhatCulture, and more. He lives in New York City surrounded by Star Wars posters.