Here’s why the U.S. coronavirus death toll could climb as high as 300,000 by the end of 2020

scott gottlieb coronavirus deaths
Photo via U.S. Department of Agriculture/Flickr (Public Domain)
  • Mask use is not as widespread as it needs to be to have a positive effect
  • Only about 50% of Americans are wearing masks
  • Almost 1 million new cases were reported in the span of a month

With outbreaks of COVID-19 surging and receding in tandem across the country, the outcome of the pandemic can feel uncertain. What is certain, according to former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, is that the U.S. death toll from the pandemic will be high— possibly as high as 300,000 by the end of the year. 

On Face the Nation in mid-August, Gottlieb said that the U.S. could see between 200,000-300,000 deaths by the end of 2020 as a result of the country’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The diseases’ pervasive saturation of the country, especially as it moves into more rural areas which are less equipped to handle a pandemic, is the main cause of concern for Gottlieb, as noted by the Hill

A model released by the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation shows similar estimates, with the number of COVID-19-related deaths almost doubling from what they are in mid-August by Dec. 1. CNN reported that this estimate is driven by the public’s willingness to wear masks. If 95% of the public were to wear masks, the total number of COVID-19 deaths could drop by about 66,000. 

NPR global health correspondent Nurith Aizenman said the number of Americans actively wearing masks currently sits at around 50%. Aizenman also said that if nothing changes, the seasonality of fall and winter will increase the spread of coronavirus in November by at least 50%, if nothing else is to change. 

“This forecast is already factoring in states moving to stay-at-home orders and shutdowns once cases skyrocket,” Aizenman said. “They’re also assuming 50% of schools will be doing online-only instruction. But the model does not assume widespread mask use, and that is what could change things.”

In the last month alone, almost 1 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in the U.S., bringing the national total to more than 5 million. 

Sources: The Hill, CNN, NPR

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