And as the virus runs unabated across US communities, experts warn the coming weeks will likely be brutal and the pandemic’s death toll will keep climbing.
By December 18, more than 2,300 Americans could be losing their lives daily, according to the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME).
“We expect daily deaths to reach a peak of over 2,500 a day in mid-January,” the IHME modeling team wrote on Thursday.
The group also hiked its Covid-19 death forecast considerably, now predicting a total of 471,000 American deaths by March 1 — up more than 30,000 since their last projection about a week ago.
“It’s sometimes very frustrating because we know what works,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN’s Chris Cuomo Thursday night. “If we had everybody pulling together as a country, doing the fundamental things that we’ve been speaking out, the mask wearing, the keeping the distance, the avoiding congregate settings and crowds, doing things outdoors … that’s not big stuff. It’s easy to do.”
Those simple measures could be lifesaving. According to the IHME team, 65,000 lives could be saved by March 1 if 95% of Americans wore masks.
Doctors, nurses, hospitals ask public to celebrate responsibly
“The record-shattering surge underway is resulting in uncontrolled community spread and infection that has already overburdened health systems in some areas and will ultimately consume capacity of our health care system and may reduce the availability of care in many places in our country,” they said.
“What is at stake is the increased chance of one of your loved ones becoming sick and then being hospitalized and dying around the holidays,” Dr. Henry Walke, Covid-19 incident manager for the CDC, told reporters in a conference call.
And with the CDC previously estimating at least 40% of infections are asymptomatic, officials are concerned that people could be bringing the infection with them to holiday gatherings without even knowing it and could put other, more vulnerable members of their family at risk.
“I haven’t seen my parents since January,” Walke said. “I’m staying home, and I have older parents who would like to see me and who would like to see my children.”
In the past week, similar messages have been echoed both by leading health experts and state leaders.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards warned that if residents were planning on a Thanksgiving that looks like previous ones, “you’re making a mistake.” In Utah, where hospitals are overwhelmed and about 45 ICU beds remain vacant, the governor advised that only people from the same household gather for the holiday.
More curfews, measures to curb the spread
Nonessential work and gatherings must stop between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m., the governor said, adding the order will remain in effect for one month.
A statewide curfew is also now in effect in Ohio, where Gov. Mike DeWine clarified police won’t be out pulling people over if they see them driving at night.
“We should assume they have a legitimate reason for being out,” the governor said. “But on the other hand, if there is a number of people congregating somewhere, and the police see that … certainly they’re probably going to pull over and say, ‘hey, it’s beyond the 10 o’clock, you guys need to go home.'”
In Arkansas, the governor announced an 11 p.m. closure for all businesses that are licensed to sell and allow consumption of alcohol on premises.
CNN’s Maggie Fox, Jamiel Lynch and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.