CDC projects US could see up to 514K coronavirus deaths by Feb. 20

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The United States is projected to record as many as 514,000 deaths from the coronavirus by Feb. 20 based on the country’s current trajectory, the head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said Wednesday.

Speaking at the Biden administration’s first formal public health briefing on the pandemic, CDC Director Rochelle Walensky said the agency predicts the country is on pace for between 479,000 and 514,000 COVID-19 deaths by Feb. 20. The estimate is a more specific version of what Walensky said she expected during an interview with CBS earlier this month.

Walensky said the United States has reported slightly fewer than 420,000 coronavirus deaths since Jan. 22, 2020, based on CDC data.

The U.S. reported its highest number of deaths in a single day on Jan. 20, with 4,383. But the seven-day average for deaths has decreased over the past week, she said. 

“While I am encouraged by these trends, our case rates remain extraordinarily high, and now is the time to remain vigilant,” Walensky said. “If we continue in the current trajectory, the CDC’s most recent national ensemble forecast predicts that 479,000-514,000 COVID deaths will be reported by Feb. 20, 2021. I know this is not news we all want to hear, but this is something we must say so we are all aware. But if we are united in action, we can turn things around.”

The Biden administration has repeatedly hammered home the idea that the pandemic is likely to get worse before it gets better, and that the U.S. will continue to see a significant number of infections and deaths from the virus.

President Biden said in remarks on Tuesday that while the administration is poised to increase vaccine distribution in the coming weeks, most Americans will not be fully vaccinated for “months.”

“In the next few months, masks — not vaccines — are the best defense against COVID-19,” he said. “Experts say that wearing masks from now just until April would save 50,000 lives who otherwise will pass away if we don’t wear these masks.”

Tags CDC Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Coronavirus COVID-19 Rochelle Walensky
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