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

Study projects 33,000 fewer deaths in US if 95% of people wear masks in public
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 11: Excalibur Hotel & Casino employees line up and applaud as guests are let into the Las Vegas Strip property for the first time since being closed in mid-March because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic on June 11, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Hotel-casinos throughout the state were allowed to open on June 4 as part of a phased reopening of the economy with social distancing guidelines and other restrictions in place. Excalibur is MGM Resorts International's fourth Las Vegas location to reopen for business following its Bellagio Resort & Casino, New York-New York Hotel & Casino, MGM Grand Hotel & Casino and The Signature properties on June 4. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

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 deaths, with a range of 140,849 to 153,438, if at least 95% of people wear masks in public.

“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,” said Christopher Murray, director of the institute. According to KIRO-TV, Murray added, “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.”

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The new forecast had a bit of positive news: The new projected number of deaths is lower than the 201,129 deaths that were projected in a June 15 report.

Officials said California and other states have seen increasing numbers of infections over the past several weeks but reported that 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 explained. “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 institute projections include reintroduced strong social distancing guidelines when deaths per day reach a level of eight 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.

So far, more than 125,000 people have died in the U.S. from the coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Click here to see each state’s projected COVID-19 deaths according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.