Over 9,000 U.S. COVID Deaths Forecast for Week of Christmas As Cases Continue to Soar

As many as 19,500 new COVID-19 deaths could be recorded in the week of Christmas, according to the latest forecasts published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

According to forecasts from 37 modeling groups published by the CDC last week, "the number of newly reported COVID-19 deaths will likely increase over the next four weeks, with 9,500 to 19,500 new deaths likely to be reported in the week ending December 26, 2020," while "a total of 303,000 to 329,000 COVID-19 deaths will be reported by this date."

The latest projections come as total number of confirmed cases in the country surpasses 14.9 million. COVID-19 hospitalizations in the country have been at record levels since early November, with over 102,100 coronavirus patients reported to be hospitalized on Monday, according to data compiled by The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project.

The CDC report noted Thursday: "The state- and territory-level ensemble forecasts predict that over the next 4 weeks, the number of newly reported deaths per week will likely increase in 23 jurisdictions, which are indicated in the forecast plots below. Trends in numbers of future reported deaths are uncertain or predicted to remain stable in the other states and territories."

According to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, the country's COVID-19 death toll is projected to reach around 330,677 on Christmas, if "governments do not re-impose mandates if cases increase" and "vaccine distribution is scaled up over 90 days."

A spokesperson for IHME explained to Newsweek that the 90-day period refers to "the time it takes to scale up to full capacity for [vaccine] distribution. So for example, in the reference scenario, the maximum number of doses per day is three million, and that scenario assumes 90 days to reach three million doses per day.

"The doses per day figures were based primarily on flu vaccine delivery in the U.S., with approximately 180 million annual seasonal flu vaccines delivered over three months each year.

"In the fast vaccine scenario, the number is doubled (six million doses per day) and the time to reach that point is halved to 45 days," the spokesperson added.

But even with "rapid vaccine rollout," which would see vaccine distribution scaled up over 45 days, total coronavirus deaths in the U.S. are projected to reach around 328,516 by Christmas, according to the latest IHME projection.

The DELPHI epidemiological model from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) predicts a slightly lower death toll by Christmas, with 318,936 "total detected deaths" projected by December 25.

"We compare the historical performances of the DELPHI model with the top models used by the CDC over the last three months.

"Country-level projections are modeled based on all historical data to increase the accuracy of future predictions. As such, daily counts extracted from the model may not exactly correspond with reports," the model noted.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows the distribution of COVID-19 deaths among the U.S. population.

COVID-19 elderly patients in U.S.

The seven-day average of deaths in the U.S. reached a record level of 2,300 on Monday, the highest it has been since the outbreak began. The figure has been rising sharply since early November.

The graphic below, provided by Statista, shows the spread of COVID-19 cases in the U.S.

COVID-19 cases across U.S.

Speaking to Newsweek, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned last week that the outbreak in the U.S. will "get worse before it gets better" and "it's entirely conceivable that January could be the worst" stage yet.

The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) and member of the White House COVID-19 task force explained: "I think January is going to be terrible because you're going to have the Thanksgiving surge super-imposed upon the Christmas surge.

Brooklyn New York Christmas lights December 2020
Crowds gathered around houses decorated with Christmas lights in the New York City borough of Brooklyn on December 6. Over 9,000 new U.S. COVID-19 deaths are projected for the week of Christmas, according to the latest forecasts published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The wider picture

The novel coronavirus has infected more than 67.6 million people since it was first reported in Wuhan, China.

More than 1.5 million people have died worldwide and over 43.5 million have recovered as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, compares average COVID-19 case tallies in the U.S. and the European Union.

COVID-19 in U.S. vs Europe