U.S COVID Death Toll Could Hit 477,000 by Early February, CDC Says

The U.S. COVID death toll may hit 477,000 by the beginning of February, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Between 16,200 and 29,600 new COVID deaths are likely to be reported in the week ending February 6, 2021, the CDC said on Wednesday. By that time, the CDC believes COVID may have claimed the lives of between 440,000 to 477,000 Americans.

The agency arrived at these figures by collating predictions from 39 independent groups of experts, including institutions such as Columbia University, who use existing data to make forecasts.

For months, the U.S. has been the country with the highest COVID case count and death toll. Currently, 384,794 fatalities have been reported out of 23,079,163 cases, according to the Johns Hopkins University COVID tracker.

India is the nation with the next worst case count, at over 10 million, and Brazil second when it comes to deaths, at almost 206,000. Since the COVID pandemic started more than a year ago, over 92.4 million COVID cases have been recorded globally, and over 1.9 million people have died after catching the virus.

After initially affecting the northeast of the U.S. in the spring, COVID spread across the Sun Belt in the summer, before hitting the West and Midwest hard in the fall, and finally surging countrywide.

Cases peaked at around 75,000 per day in July, before dropping in the fall and spiking upwards. On Wednesday alone, 229,610 COVID cases were confirmed, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Hospitalizations have also sky-rocketed, with COVID Tracking Project data showing 130,383 COVID patients in such facilities on Wednesday.

Fatalities, which lag behind cases by around two weeks, have also increased over time, hitting 4,022 on Wednesday, marking the third day they surpassed 4,000, according to the COVID Tracking Project. COVID deaths were up by more than 10 percent or more in 25 states across the U.S. on Wednesday.

These figures fit with the estimations of experts who spoke to Newsweek last December, when they envisioned the U.S. would be hit by deaths equivalent to a "9/11 a day by Christmas." Some 2,977 people were killed in the September 11 attacks.

But experts say there is light at the end of the tunnel. The startling figures come as the U.S. rolls out COVID vaccines, albeit at rates slower than expected. Last week, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Newsweek he believes President-elect Joe Biden will be able to hit his target of vaccinating 100 million people in his first 100 days in office.

Fauci said the U.S. "will begin to see a return to normality" by fall 2021 if the majority of people get COVID shots.

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A funeral director wears gloves as he moves the casket of a person who died of Covid-19, on December 31, 2020 in East Los Angeles, California. The CDC forecasts as the U.S. COVID death toll may reach 477,000 by the start of February. PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images