Researchers: Covid-19 death toll could double this winter to World War 2 levels

November 14, 2020

Covid-19 could kill as many Americans this winter as the Germans and Japanese did during World War 2, a research outfit that the Trump administration once relied on warned Friday.

The death toll in the United States, currently at 244,250, could nearly double by March 1 to 438,971, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine forecasted in its latest projection.


Add Europe, which is in the midst of a second wave of infections, and the rest of the world, and the global death toll could reach a staggering 2.8 million by March 1, the IMHE projected.

“When you see that Europe is already up to 4,000-plus deaths a day, and it just keeps growing. We’re on a similar trajectory,” Dr. Christopher Murray, a professor of health metrics sciences at the University of Washington and director of the IHME, told NBC News. “We’re just about four weeks behind."

Coronavirus deaths in the U.S. had slowed compared to the rate of new infections in the summer and through fall, but Murray said he expects that will change in the coming months.

“Eventually deaths come up,” he said. “We see transmission first in younger people and then it spreads into older people and people with comorbidities. There’s a natural lag, which means deaths don’t start to tick up at the same rate, but then they do.”

January in America could be especially grim, the IMHE forecasted, echoing the warnings of Dr. Anthony Fauci and other top U.S. infectious disease experts who have repeatedly urged Americans to mask-up and be more vigilant about social distancing with the holiday season fast approaching.

The daily death rate from Covid-19, which rose to 910 last week, could hit 2,200-a-week by the middle of that month, the IMHE projected.

Murray said the IHME’s projection of more than 438,000 deaths by March could climb even higher if Americans are not diligent about wearing masks, exercising social distancing and avoiding large gatherings.

“It depends on what we do as citizens and what state governments do,” Murray said. “Our numbers are what we think will happen, but they can certainly be worse."

As of Friday, the U.S. led the world with more than 10.5 million cases and record numbers of new infections were being reported every day, while the Pfizer vaccine is still months away from being distributed.