One of the nation's most influential COVID-19 forecasting models projects that the U.S. could see nearly 100,000 more deaths from the virus between now and Dec. 1 — even as case rates start to fall.
According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington (IHME), cases are beginning to peak in places where the delta variant is widespread — states like Florida, Texas and Arkansas.
In fact, the model projects that cases could continue to fall in the weeks and months ahead.
"We're heading into a much better time simply because we have had a lot of infections around the country, and we have a high percentage of people getting the vaccine," Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor of health metrics sciences at IHME, told KIRO-TV in Seattle. "COVID-19 in many places is running out of people to infect, so you see that decline."
But while the IHME expects cases to fall, the virus will continue to spread and kill. The model projects that a total of 728,000 Americans will be dead of COVID-19 by Dec. 1. With Johns Hopkins reporting the current U.S. COVID-19 death total at 633,000, the IHME forecast represents an increase in 95,000 deaths.
By comparison, the U.S. lost a total of 200,000 people to the virus between Dec. 1 and Feb. 8 amid a surge in winter cases.
IHME scientists say there's a chance the U.S. could see some normality by this winter — as long as Americans do their part. The IHME model shows that cases could plummet if universal mask-wearing is adopted.
Mokdad also notes that hopes for normality this winter could be dashed by the rise of a new variant strain of the virus — something that health experts, like Dr. Anthony Fauci, say can be halted with increased vaccinations.
"We could have close to a normal winter only if we do our part and no new variants in the United States," Mokdad said.
Earlier this week, Fauci said he hoped the U.S. would be able to have COVID-19 under control by the spring of 2022.