US coronavirus deaths could reach 81,000 by July, even with current social distancing measures in place, according to a new report from researchers at the University of Washington.
Some hospitals could run out of ventilators and intensive care unit beds as early as mid-April, the report projected.
However, the researchers said the initial wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could end by this summer if the country stays on lockdown.
“The trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions,” the researchers warned.
The coronavirus pandemic could claim 81,000 lives in the US by July and overwhelm hospitals by mid-April, according to a new report from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine.
“Demand for ventilators and beds in US hospital intensive care units (ICUs) will far exceed capacity for COVID-19 patients as early as the second week of April. Deaths related to the current wave of COVID-19 in the US are likely to persist into July,” IMHE researchers said in a statement Thursday.
As the number of COVID-19 virus patients spikes — an outcome that public health experts say is all but certain — 21 states could need more ICU beds than they have currently, while 12 states may need to increase capacity by at least 50%, the report predicted.
IMHE’s estimates, which are based on information from a range of sources including local and national governments, the World Health Organization, and the American Hospital Association, also assume that the US works diligently to limit the spread of the virus through social distancing and other measures.
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“The trajectory of the pandemic will change – and dramatically for the worse – if people ease up on social distancing or relax with other precautions. We encourage everyone to adhere to those precautions to help save lives,” said IMHE Director Dr. Christopher Murray.
IMHE acknowledged that there’s a lot of uncertainty in its estimates. The number of US deaths could range between 38,000 and 162,000 by July, the group said.
Other researchers have predicted anywhere from 200,000 to 2.2 million deaths in the US by the end of the year.
Earlier this week, President Donald Trump broke with prevailing public health guidelines by calling again for Americans to return to work as soon as possible to re-start the struggling economy.
If the US continues to hunker down, “the current wave of the pandemic” could end (meaning fewer than 10 deaths per day nationwide), IMHE’s release said.
“We hope these forecasts will help leaders of medical systems figure out innovative ways to deliver high-quality care to those who will need their services in the coming weeks,” Murray said.