(CNN) — A new model often cited by top health officials raised its projections Friday, predicting over 410,000 coronavirus deaths nationwide by January 1.
That would mean an additional 224,000 Americans lost in the next four months — more than double the 186,000 deaths reported by Johns Hopkins University.
The model from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation points to declining mask use in some regions from a peak in usage in early August. The scenarios in the model suggest 122,000 of those lives could be saved with near-universal mask use. It also warns the death toll could be much higher — over 620,000 — if all restrictions are eased.
“If a herd immunity strategy is pursued, meaning no further government intervention is taken from now to Jan 1st, the death toll could increase to 620,000,” according to IHME’s briefing.
IHME expects the death rate could reach an unprecedented 3,000 a day by December, due in part to “declining vigilance of the public.”
The IHME model is more aggressive in its predictions than others. It comes a day after a new CDC ensemble forecast predicted 211,000 US deaths from Covid-19 by September 26.
Campuses urged to ban tobacco use in the fall
Lawmakers are reiterating a call for universities and college campuses to prohibit tobacco use this fall due to the coronavirus pandemic.
In a letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Democratic lawmakers urged the federal health agency to review its Covid-19 guidelines and recommend no smoking, vaping or chewing tobacco in schools.
The letter cites a study suggesting that young people who’ve used e-cigarettes can be five times more likely to be diagnosed with Covid-19. Stanford University researchers published the report last month in the Journal of Adolescent Health.
“Following the Stanford study, the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) announced that it was banning tobacco use on campus in the fall … In making that decision, UNLV took into account that if someone is smoking, vaping, or chewing tobacco, they cannot be complying with requirements to wear a mask,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi and Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin wrote in the letter.
With the public health risk posed by coronavirus, they said, the CDC should “act quickly and forcefully.”
Coronavirus has infected over 6.1 million nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.
Last month, Krishnamoorthi wrote a letter to the Food and Drug Administration asking it to temporarily clear the market of all e-cigarettes during the coronavirus crisis. He wrote it on behalf of the Subcommittee on Economic and Consumer Policy.
Young people urged to be cautious
More young people are getting infected with coronavirus at higher numbers. Experts fear that will only grow as many colleges and schools reopen.
In August alone, for example, nearly 7,000 people between ages 18-24 tested positive for coronavirus in Missouri, Gov. Mike Parson said. About 30% of the new cases in the state are among that age group.
“While young, healthy people are likely to have mild symptoms and quick recoveries … they may unknowingly carry Covid-19 to someone older or with underlying conditions, who is unable to fight off the virus. This is why it is so important for young people to take precautions and understand the responsibility,” Parson said.
While more young people continue to test positive, the vast majority of them have not required hospitalization.
“I know there is a lot of concern right now regarding college students. But I want to assure you that our colleges, and our universities, have plans in place, and are taking all steps necessary to keep their students and communities as safe as possible,” Parson said.
College campuses in at least 40 states have seen outbreaks of the virus and officials are urging caution as we head into the holiday weekend.
” I understand many will probably not be going home since they just got on campus. So they’ll be around and they’ll have some free time,” Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson said. “You’ve got to be cautious over this weekend.”
Over 200 of the 969 new cases reported in the state are from Washington County, home to the University of Arkansas, he said.
In the county, four out of every five positive tests were among people between the ages of 18 and 24.
Dr. Anthony Fauci pointed out measures that colleges and universities should take to open successfully.
In a phone interview with CNN, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said that colleges should only consider reopening if they have several protocols in place. They include testing every student, surveillance testing at various intervals and readily available quarantine spaces.
“They’ve got to have the capability of doing the testing to begin with,” said Fauci, who emphasized testing upon arrival. “They’ve got to have the capability of doing surveillance testing as you get into the school year, and they have to have a plan of how they handle the inevitability of some students who are going to wind up getting affected.”
He said it would be unrealistic to assume that there are no Covid-19 cases on campus and that planning should include designated specific quarantine spaces for students who contract the virus.
Pressure for a vaccine grows as election nears
With a persistent polling deficit and a struggling economy, President Donald Trump has cranked up pressure on federal health officials to expedite work on a coronavirus vaccine and treatments.
In his public remarks and through private prodding, Trump has pushed for more good news on the pandemic, insisting that even developments considered minor by health experts be expanded into major announcements for which he can claim credit.
In the last week alone, FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn was forced to apologize for an overhyped plasma announcement, subsequently removed a new communications aide and found himself on the receiving end of criticism from the West Wing.
And officials inside the FDA have told CNN that Trump has consistently pressed agencies to speed up their timeline for developing a vaccine so he can have a vaccine victory by Election Day.
While the CDC has asked states to get ready to distribute a coronavirus vaccine by as early as next month, health officials have said this timeline is unlikely.
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