UW model projects 33,000 fewer deaths in US if 95% of people wear masks in public

CDC to release new guidance on wearing face masks

SEATTLE — The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation released an updated model Wednesday that forecasts 179,106 COVID-19 deaths in the United States by Oct. 1.

The forecast has a range of 159,497 to 213,715 deaths nationwide.

However, officials said the projections drop to 146,047 (with a range of 140,849 to 153,438) if at least 95% of people wear masks in public.

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“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray said. “People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends and their communities at risk.”

The updated IHME forecast is lower than the projected 201,129 deaths released June 15.

Officials said California and other states have seen increasing case numbers over the past several weeks but said deaths are not yet rising at the same rate.

"States reporting the ages of confirmed cases suggest there are more cases being detected in younger people who are at substantially lower risk of death than older people," Murray said. "It remains to be seen how this will unfold over the next few weeks, and if transmission continues to go up, we may see increasing infections in at-risk populations."

The new IHME projections include the reintroduced of strong social distancing guidelines when deaths per day reach a level of 8 per 1 million people. However, officials said only Texas and Florida are currently projected to reach that level before Oct. 1.

"These factors are vital in our projections and highlight how many lives can be saved," Murray said.

Washington state is forecast to have 1,556 COVID-19 deaths (range of 1,488 to 1,655) with 95% of people wearing masks and 1,917 (range of 1,704 to 2,272) without 95% of people wearing masks.

Click here to see how other states project.