The pace of COVID-19 deaths will drop sharply in the next four weeks, according to a new forecast that shows a brutal wave of cases ebbing and the U.S. plodding forward with vaccine distribution.
The nation is expected to have about 12,666 deaths in the week ending March 13, according to the University of Massachusetts’ Reich Lab’s COVID-19 Forecast Hub, which issued a four-week forecast Tuesday. The prediction is based on independent models collected in collaboration with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The toll would be a drop of 43% from the 22,062 deaths reported last week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
Although cases have been declining for a month, deaths -- a lagging indicator -- haven’t dropped much from record levels, the Johns Hopkins data show. That should start to change this week, and the numbers are likely to improve gradually over the four-week period. The pace would be the slowest since the period ending Nov. 28.
(Tabulation methods vary, and the COVID Tracking Project’s widely used tally shows deaths already dropping to a more significant degree.)
The vaccine rollout is still in its early stages, with just 4.5% of Americans having received the required two doses, according to the Bloomberg Vaccine Tracker. But Americans also are using masks at near-record levels and moving around less, according to survey and mobility data compiled by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Plus, the CDC estimates that some 83.1 million Americans may have already been infected, with many acquiring a measure of natural immunity that’s been shown to last at least five months.
Still, there are many reasons to remain vigilant. The U.S. is starting to see new variants of the virus that spread more easily, and many residents have been forced to huddle together in homes and shelters to wait out a winter storm. What’s more, Americans have tended to relax mitigation measures as soon as cases start to ebb in their communities.
The U.S. posted 53,410 new cases on Monday, bringing the seven-day average to 86,002, the fewest since Nov. 3, according to Johns Hopkins. There have been almost 487,000 deaths overall, the data show.
According to Tracking Project data:
- The number of people currently hospitalized with the virus is down from a week earlier in all but North Dakota and Wyoming.
- South Carolina had the most cases per capita in the past week.
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