US COVID-19 deaths now projected to surpass 200K by October 1, according to University of Washington

Deaths attributed to the novel coronavirus are now projected to surpass 200,000 by October 1, according to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington.

The latest IMHE projected death count is a sharp rise from the June 10 forecast, which estimated that deaths could reach 169,890 in the U.S. by early October.

“These predictions are based on our current knowledge of COVID-19 and key drivers in the U.S., as well as some model parameter updates to inform estimates beyond August (e.g., resumption of in-person instruction at previously closed educational facilities),” the IMHE said in its June 10 update. “We anticipate more data to become available on reopening plans beyond June and July, as well as the potential for locations to reinstate prior distancing policies or implement new ones amid shifting COVID-19 trends.”

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IMHE also offers projected death counts on a state level. Based on IMHE data available from June 16, by October 1, several states will see increases in deaths: 

-15,000+ for California
-33,000+ for New York
-18,600+ for Florida
-5,500+ for Texas
-8,200+ for Illinois
-10,000+ for Georgia
-700+ for the District of Columbia

“These forecasts indicate that COVID-19 infections could rise between August and September as we enter the fall season, human contact increases, social distancing mandates continue to be relaxed,” according to the IMHE. “We assume that schools will start to reopen in mid-August for in-person instruction, resulting in further increased mobility thereafter. All of these factors are likely to contribute to an increase in COVID-19 deaths.”

Founded in 2007 by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, IMHE has been analyzing, displaying and projecting various COVID-19 statistics since March, forecasting anything from how many hospital beds will be needed by a certain date to likely changes in mobility due to social distancing measures. 

IMHE made updates to its death model in late May, stating that the tool “improves our ability to analyze data that fluctuate substantially, and allows us to make more accurate predictions for locations with smaller epidemics.”

The projected 200,000 death count is a grim number, but also one that takes into account a certain amount of assumption over future events that may unfold. 

For example, if states were to announce next week the re-implementation of more stringent lockdown measures, that could lead to a drop in real and projected COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Similarly, if mask policies and social distancing guidelines were all lifted tomorrow, that could lead to a increase in projected and real COVID-19 cases and deaths. 

As of June 16, there were more than 8 million confirmed COVID-19 cases and 430,000 deaths across the world. In the United States, there were more than 2.1 million confirmed cases and 116,000 deaths.

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