COVID Could Infect Over a Million Americans Per Day by Early January

The U.S. could see around 1,005,486 coronavirus cases per day by January 10, according to the latest forecast by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington.

The projected daily case count could be reached if "governments do not re-impose mandates if cases increase" and "vaccine distribution is scaled up over 90 days," according to the IHME.

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.

With "rapid vaccine rollout," which would see vaccine distribution scaled up over 45 days, daily infections on January 10 could be more than halved from over a million cases to around 491,653, according to the latest IHME projection.

According to the DELPHI epidemiological model from researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), total active cases in the U.S. are projected to reach over 3.9 million on January 10. "We define a COVID-19 case as active if it has not yet resulted in recovery or death," the model explained.

"We compare the historical performances of the DELPHI model with the top models used by the CDC [U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] over the last three months.

"Country-level projections are modelled 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, compares average COVID-19 case tallies in the U.S. and the European Union.

COVID-19 in U.S. vs Europe

According to forecasts from 25 modeling groups published by the CDC last week, 690,000 to 1,700,000 new cases will likely be reported during the week ending December 26.

The CDC report noted Wednesday: "Over the last several weeks, more reported cases than expected have fallen outside of the forecasted prediction intervals. This suggests that current forecast prediction intervals may not reflect the full range of future reported case numbers. Forecasts for new cases should be interpreted accordingly."

As of Tuesday, total confirmed cases in the U.S. have surpassed 14.9 million. The country's seven-day average of cases has been rising sharply since early October, according to data compiled by Worldometer.

Current COVID-19 hospitalizations in the country have been at record levels since early November, with more than 102,000 coronavirus patients reported to be hospitalized, as of Monday, according to data compiled by The Atlantic's COVID Tracking Project.

The graphic below, produced by Statista, shows current COVID-19 hospitalizations in the U.S.

hospitalization graphic

Speaking to Newsweek, Dr. Anthony Fauci warned last week: "January is going to be terrible," with the outbreak expected to reach its worst level 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. So it's entirely conceivable that January could be the worst."

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

COVID-19 cases across U.S.