The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predicts there will be 260,000 to 282,000 coronavirus deaths by December 5, according to a forecast published Thursday.
There are currently at least 10.5 million cases of coronavirus in the US and more than 242,000 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Unlike some individual models, the CDC’s ensemble forecast is based on a group of forecasts the CDC received and only offers projections a few weeks into the future. The previous ensemble forecast, published November 5, projected up to 266,000 coronavirus deaths by November 28.
Another widely-used Covid-19 model is predicting 438,941 deaths by March 1. That model is run by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington School of Medicine.
But if states relax restrictions and mask mandates, deaths could hit a staggering 587,000 by March 1, the IHME said.
The updated forecasts come as new Covid-19 hospitalizations and deaths are accelerating at alarming rates, and health experts worry they will get worse before the upcoming holidays.
There were 67,096 current hospitalizations reported on Thursday across the entire United States, according to the Covid Tracking Project, making it the third consecutive day that that nation has topped 60,000 current hospitalizations.
Eighteen states and one US territory reported record high Covid-19 hospitalizations Thursday, the Covid Tracking Project said. Those affected are Colorado, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, West Virginia, Wyoming, and Puerto Rico.
“This is a humanitarian disaster — probably one of the worst stories I’ve covered in my career here at CNN,” the network’s Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said Thursday.
On Wednesday, the US recorded 1,893 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The tally would reflect a new high since May, though it may be skewed by an outsized number from Georgia that could include backlogged deaths.
More than 110,000 additional people in the US are projected to die from Covid-19 in just the next two months, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Wednesday marked the second straight day of record-high Covid-19 hospitalizations, and the US has topped 100,000 daily infections at least nine days in a row.
‘Accelerating community spread’ and ‘significant deterioration’
The White House coronavirus task force warned of “accelerating community spread across the top half of the country” in reports distributed to states this week.
The panel, which last week warned of “significant deterioration in the Sunbelt,” said that has led to the “most diffuse spread experienced to date.”
Coronavirus test results could slow in the days ahead as cases surge across the US, according to members of the American Clinical Laboratory Association (ACLA).
The group, which represents major commercial labs like LabCorp and Quest Diagnostics, has seen a “significant increase” in Covid-19 test orders, which could cause some labs to “reach or exceed their current testing capacities in the coming days,” said ACLA President Julie Khani.
A separate forecast from the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia Policy Lab projects conditions will worsen in the West Coast, the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic states over the next several weeks.
Hospitalizations, ICU admissions and ventilator use are rising in every single state, the lab said.
Coronavirus records in Utah are being broken at an alarming rate, officials said. The state broke it’s seven day case average with over 3,800 cases reported Thursday. The last record was November 5.
The records in Utah come as the state is also running out of hospital beds, according to Greg Bell, the president of the Utah Hospital Association.
“We’re right on that line where we’re effectively full,” Bell said Thursday during a press conference with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert.
In Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said cases are “skyrocketing.”
“I’m not going to sugarcoat this. We are in the worst part of this pandemic to date,” Whitmer said during a press conference Thursday. “Our hospitals are nearing capacity, and they are burning through PPE.”
The Philadelphia Policy Lab also reported “COVID-19 patients are occupying more than 25% of ICU beds” in every Midwestern state.
That’s as the US reported the highest number of hospitalizations ever on Wednesday — with more than 65,000 Covid-19 patients nationwide, according to the Covid Tracking Project.
“The nearly universal rise in statewide hospitalization rates, particularly in our colder regions, is a pattern that will grow as we move into the holiday season,” the policy lab said.
Some hospitals have reached full capacity and are sending patients away. And doctors are pleading for the public to get more serious about wearing masks, washing hands and physical distancing.
A critical holiday ahead
But experts worry their warnings will fall on deaf ears as some Americans prepare for Thanksgiving — when gatherings could easily spark new outbreaks.
“On a personal level, the most prudent thing that families can do this holiday season is choose not to gather in person with their older higher-risk relatives. However, this pandemic has taken such an emotional toll, on children and seniors alike, that we suspect many families will likely take the risk of gathering,” the policy lab said.
“For those that do, outdoor events are safer than indoors, and conscientious spacing of older vulnerable individuals from the rest of the family will be important,” it said. “But even more important is a commitment to quarantine before visiting family.”
“Separation should be the norm” this Thanksgiving, Dr. William Schaffner, professor of infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University said. The safest thing to do is stay separate and connect with loved ones virtually, Schaffner told CNN’s Jake Tapper.
“Less is more this Thanksgiving,” Schaffner said. “It is the Covid Thanksgiving. We don’t want to give the virus while we’re giving thanks.”
If people do decide to meet up for the holiday, Schaffner suggests quarantining for 14 days starting Thursday.
“It’s 14 days, because that’s the incubation period of the virus,” Schaffner added. “Should you be infected today, you’ll become sick sometime during that 14 days.”
Chicago issued a stay-at-home advisory that will go into effect November 16 and will stay in place for 30 days as Covid-19 cases continue to rise. Residents are encouraged to stay home and only leave for school or work and for essential needs, according to a release from the city announcing the advisory Thursday.
The holidays also mean many college students will likely return home to spend Thanksgiving with family and could unknowingly bring the virus back with them.
College campuses in all 50 states have reported Covid-19 cases since the pandemic began.
Syracuse University said it’s moving to completely online learning after an “an increase in COVID-19 cases among our student population.”
And the University of Maryland’s football program said it’s pausing all team-related activities after “an elevated number of COVID-19 cases within the Terrapin’s program.”
Poll says most Americans wouldn’t comply with another shutdown
Fewer than half of Americans say are very likely to comply with another lockdown, according to a new Gallup poll.
About 49% of Americans surveyed between October 19 and November 1 said they would be very likely to stay home for a month if health officials recommend it following a coronavirus outbreak in their community. That’s down from 67% in the spring.
While 18% said they were somewhat likely to comply, a third of people said they would be unlikely to comply with lockdown orders, the results showed.
While Americans are less willing to stay at home, the results show they’re actually more worried about the pandemic — with 61% saying they believe the situation is getting worse, compared to 40% in April.
The results show a political divide in those willing to stay home. About 40% of Republicans polled said they were willing to comply with a stay-at-home order, down from 74% in the spring.
By contrast, 87% of Democrats said they would likely comply, a slight drop from 91% in March and April.
Health experts have said mask use could significantly reduce the need for more shutdowns.
Safety measures aren’t going away any time soon
Even with good news about Covid-19 vaccines, a top global health official said it’s important to manage expectations.
For example, preventive measures — like wearing masks and social distancing — need to be kept up.
“While we hope we’ll get more good news about vaccines, it’s going to take time to scale up production to get them out to all the countries and then get enough people vaccinated so life goes back to pre-Covid days,” World Health Organization Chief Scientist Dr. Soumya Swaminathan said Wednesday.
And even when a vaccine arrives, people may need booster shots in the future, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
“I don’t think it’s going to be one and done, as they say,” Fauci told the Financial Times on Wednesday.
But a vaccine will likely suppress the spread of the virus below pandemic and epidemic levels. But “as people who were immune lose their immunity, they may become re- susceptible,” Fauci said.
“Traditionally, if you look back at common cold coronaviruses and the experience we have, it is not the kind of virus that usually gives lifelong immunity.”
US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said Thursday that “all Americans who wish to get vaccinated” will be able to do so by April.
The US does not have an authorized coronavirus vaccine yet. But one vaccine maker — Pfizer — reported promising early data on Monday and officials expect the company to be able to apply for US Food and Drug Administration emergency use authorization before the end of this month.
Azar said HHS believes there will be enough vaccine for “all of our most vulnerable citizens” to get vaccinated in December, followed by “all of our senior citizens, as well as our emergency first responders and our health care workers” in January.
“By the end of March to early April, we think across all of the vaccines that we have invested in, we have enough for all Americans who wish to get vaccinated,” he said.