A new COVID-19 model is predicting that 14,000 fewer people will die from the novel coronavirus by August 1 if 95% of Americans wear masks.
According to the model from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), 618,523 people will have died of coronavirus in the United States by the Aug. 1, but that figure drops to 604,413 deaths if most of the population wears masks, reports CNN.
However, the scenario is more drastic if fully vaccinated people return to pre-pandemic, or "normal" routines, because the projection grows to 697,573, the forecast says.
The projection includes the rate of the distribution of vaccines, along with the spread of virus variants that are even more transmissible.
Meanwhile, all 50 states are now on track to have vaccines open to people ages 16 and older by April 19, but health experts say there is a race against variants like the B.1.1.7 cases that were first identified in the UK.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Rochelle Walensky said at a briefing this week that the B.1.1.7 variant has now overtaken the initial form of the virus in the U.S. and is now the country’s most common strain. The version has not only taken over other mutations that have emerged but has taken over the initial COVID-19 version of the virus in the United States.
"It is the most common lineage, period,” she said. “These trends are pointing to two clear truths — one, the virus still has a hold on us, infecting people and putting them in harm’s way, and we need to remain vigilant, and two, we need to continue to accelerate our vaccination efforts.”
On Friday, at least 80,157 new cases of COVID-19 were reported nationally, marking the third day in a row and the fourth day in the past week the country has reported at least 75,000 or more cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, more than 561,000 people have died from the virus, according to the university.
Dr. Anthony Fauci has warned that even people who have been fully vaccinated should continue wearing masks and practicing other protective health measures like social distancing and avoiding indoor gatherings.
"I don't think I would -- even if I'm vaccinated -- go into an indoor, crowded place where people aren't wearing masks," Fauci, who is President Joe Biden's chief medical adviser and the director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases told Business Insider.
Pfizer, meanwhile, is looking to expand its vaccines to patients younger than 16. Food and Drug Administration acting commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock said Friday the agency is to evaluate "as quickly as possible" Pfizer's request to expand the emergency use authorization of its vaccine to include young people ages 12-15. Currently, only people ages 16 and up are eligible for the shots.
"While the FDA cannot predict how long our evaluation of the data and information will take, we will review the request as expeditiously as possible using our thorough and science-based approach," she said in a Twitter post.
Pfizer says it will try to get similar rulings in other nations soon.
"These requests are based on data from the pivotal Phase 3 trial in adolescents 12 to 15 years of age with or without prior evidence of SARS-CoV-2 infection, which demonstrated 100 percent efficacy and robust antibody response after vaccination with the COVID-19 Vaccine," the company said in a statement.
Walensky said COVID-19 cases are rising, along with hospitalizations, but deaths are decreasing.
People between the ages of 18-64 are seeing increasing emergency department visits, she added, but the numbers of those aged 65 and older seeking care are decreasing, which likely shows the impact of the vaccination campaign.
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