The patchwork of different COVID-19 mandates and the inconsistent use of masks to prevent the spread of the virus could result in the cumulative loss of more than half a million lives by the end of February, scientists say.
Researchers at the University of Washington School of Medicine have predicted that the state’s current strategies regarding social distancing, phased reopening and mask warrants could result in 511,373 deaths by February 28, 2021, according to a study published Friday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Medicine.
However, scientists also predicted that nearly 130,000 lives could be saved from late September to late February if at least 95% of the population wore masks in public. If only 85% wore masks, almost 96,000 deaths could still be prevented.
“We’re heading into a very significant fall-winter push,” said Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine. “We expect this surge to increase steadily in individual states, and nationally will continue to increase as we head towards fairly high levels of daily mortality in late December and January.”
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The report comes as the country reported more than 71,000 new cases of COVID-19 on Thursday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, marking it as one of the worst days since the peak of the summer outbreak in July.
Dr Monica Gandhi, professor of medicine and infectious disease specialist at the University of California at San Francisco, said it was unfortunate that in the United States, wearing a face mask has become a political issue or emotional rather than a scientific principle.
Minds are unlikely to change by modeling data predictions, she said, but they can be a useful tool until enough virological, epidemiological and ecological evidence is gathered to finally elevate the masking to a definitive intervention.
“Unless you take humans and put on a mask and spray them with SARS-CoV-2, which would be absolutely impractical and unethical, this study is very thorough and well done,” Gandhi said.
Bob Bednarczyk, assistant professor of global health and epidemiology at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University, said Americans could become lax as the pandemic continues.
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“Pandemic fatigue is a real thing,” he said. “(This model) is a good reminder of what can happen if we let our guard down and how it can really come back to us very quickly and really with force and lead to a lot of death and suffering.”
While model predictions are never perfect, the study results are in line with other recently published data.
A study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond found that the pandemic caused an excess of 225,000 deaths from March through July, suggesting that deaths could reach 400,000 by the end of the year, as the The University of Washington had previously predicted this.
While they may shock audiences, Bednarczyk says the projection models should serve as a wake-up call to reinforce the value of the masks so that the number of deaths does not live up to these figures.
“People have to start taking this seriously again,” he said. “We want to understand how bad it can get if left unchecked and then we can use it to hopefully go back a bit.”
There is strong data showing that wearing a face mask protects the wearer from COVID-19 and protects those around them from disease if the wearer is infected.
Public health officials have been asking Americans to wear masks for months. In July, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr Robert Redfield, said it could end the pandemic in less than two months.
“If we could get everyone to wear a mask right now, I really think over the next 4-6-8 weeks I really think we can get that under control,” he said during an interview with the editor. from the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Wearing a tissue face covering is estimated to remove between 65% and 85% of viral particles, said Dr Chris Beyrer, epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The less virus particles there are in the body, the more chance the body has to fight them.
Although fabric face coverings are not 100% effective, “wearing them means you are exposed to less virus. Fewer people come from others and you inhale less,” said Dr John Brooks, a medical epidemiologist. and the CDC. chief medical officer of the agency’s COVID-19 response.
“It’s a win-win.”
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