• A closely watched COVID-19 model is predicting a scary new reality when it comes to the number of coronavirus deaths the US is expected to see over the next four months.
  • The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine is predicting the US to see around 171,000 additional coronavirus deaths between now and February.
  • That’s a roughly 80% increase in COVID-19 deaths.

For months, we’ve heard scary predictions about a tough fall and winter being in store for the US as a result of the country not getting a strong-enough handle on our coronavirus outbreak. Just a few weeks ago, White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci said we all need to plan to “hunker down” for the final months of the year, based on how nasty things are expected to get.

Well, now it seems that time is almost at hand. A closely watched coronavirus model that tracks the outbreak is predicting a nearly 80% surge in coronavirus deaths between now and February, according to data from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

The model shows an additional 171,000 coronavirus deaths predicted to occur between now and February 2021. That’s almost as many people as have died in the US from the coronavirus pandemic to-date, with that official number currently standing at 220,150, according to the latest data as of the time of this writing from Johns Hopkins University.

If the model’s most likely scenario comes to pass, that would push the overall total of deaths from the pandemic up to more than 390,000 over the coming four-month period. However, the model also has a better-case and a worst-case scenario. If sufficient numbers of Americans continue to use face masks, for example, the researchers think the overall death count in the US from COVID-19 will only increase to around 314,000.

However, if people ease up on wearing face masks, the model suggests the number of deaths could actually explode to 477,000.

“We expect deaths to stop declining and begin increasing in the next one to two weeks,” the researchers said, per CNN. “The winter surge appears to have begun somewhat later than the surge in Europe. Daily deaths will reach over 2,000 a day in January even with many states reimposing mandates before the end of the year.”

For more evidence that the US is already on this trajectory, CNN also reported in recent days that an analysis of coronavirus data shows that 21 states are currently seeing a record number of weekly averages of new cases — the highest, in fact, that they’ve recorded since the start of the pandemic.

Those states include Alaska, Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.