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Harvard doctor warns coronavirus deaths could reach 200,000 by September as states uptick in cases

A top Harvard doctor said Thursday that the U.S. could see its death toll from the coronavirus pandemic hit 200,000 by September, as several states have seen spikes in the number of COVID-19 cases.

"The numbers are concerning particularly in states like Arizona, North and South Carolina, Florida and Texas — places where we're seeing pretty consistent increases," Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute told NBC's "Today." 

He added, "It is about two weeks after Memorial Day that we're seeing this, and this is what we were worried about. I had hoped that the fact that people are spending more time outside, it's summer, we would not see such a big increase so fast." 

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The U.S. this week surpassed 2 million confirmed cases of the virus. All states have eased their pandemic restrictions in at least some way and supporters of the country continuing to reopen have pointed to expanded nationwide testing as the source of the increased number of positive cases.

Ashish said, however, that while increased testing was only part of the equation, and that it didn't explain the increased number of hospitalizations that some states have faced.

"We have right now, between 800 and 1000 Americans dying everyday from coronavirus and when you put all of the models out there together and you look at consensus, if we just stay flat ... that's about 25,000-30,000 [deaths] a month," Ashish said. "Sometime in September we're going to cross 200,000 [deaths] and we still won't be done."

Asish reiterated what many health experts have been saying, that the pandemic will continue until a vaccine is widely available, which could take until next summer.

The doctor also said that it was crucial that people continue to social distance and wear masks throughout the summer and beyond.