UW releases first COVID-19 global forecast

UW releases first COVID-19 global forecast

SEATTLE — On Thursday, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) released its first COVID-19 global projections, predicting nearly 770,00 lives worldwide could be saved between Sept. 3 and Jan. 1 by people wearing masks and social distancing.

Researchers said deaths could reach 2.8 million by Jan. 1, which is about 1.9 million more from now until the end of the year.

Scientists predict daily deaths in December could reach as high as 30,000.

Content Continues Below

“These first-ever worldwide projections by country offer a daunting forecast, as well as a roadmap, toward relief from COVID-19 that government leaders, as well as individuals, can follow,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray. “We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia and the United States. But the science is clear and the evidence irrefutable: mask-wearing, social distancing and limits to social gatherings are vital to helping prevent transmission of the virus.”

The institute modeled three scenarios:

  • A “worse case” in which mask usage stays at current rates and governments continue relaxing social distancing requirements, leading to 4.0 million total deaths by the end of the year.
  • A “best case” of 2.0 million total deaths if mask usage is near-universal and governments impose social distancing requirements when their daily death rate exceeds 8 per million.
  • A “most likely” scenario that assumes individual mask use and other mitigation measures remain unchanged, resulting in approximately 2.8 million total deaths.

Those numbers, which reference 750,000 lives saved and the 30,000 daily deaths in December, show the contrast in what researchers said was a “best case” scenario and a “most likely” scenario.

The current worldwide death toll is at nearly 910,000. And IHME reports that each scenario represents a significant increase in deaths, as part of the increase is due to a possible seasonal rise in COVID-19 cases in the Northern Hemisphere.

“To date, COVID-19 has followed seasonal patterns similar to pneumonia. And if that correlation continues to hold, northern countries can anticipate more cases in the late fall and winter months.

“People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” Murray said.