As the U.S. surpasses 160,000 coronavirus deaths on Friday, University of Washington health experts forecast an even bleaker winter:
The death toll could rise to 300,000 by December 1st, but health experts say if people are scrupulous about wearing masks, 70,000 lives could be saved.
(Dr. Christopher Murray): "The effects of mask use become quite substantial in the month of November."
Dr. Christopher Murray is the Director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington's School of Medicine.
He said infections in former epicenters like Florida, Arizona and Texas seem to be falling due to modest behavioral changes like wearing masks and closing down bars and indoor dining.
"it just shows the potential of human behavioral change to at least put the brakes on the rapid exponential transmission."
But as infections drop, he's seeing more people let their guard down, causing the rate to go back up creating a roller coaster effect in the U.S.
And come wintertime, Murray says the virus will be much harder to handle:
"We expect the double hit on hospitals from flu as well as COVID…So we think that you can really reduce the death toll by 50 percent or more, (from) those behavioral changes, masks alone are 50 percent, but likely at some point in the winter, it will require more."
The university's research institute found that infections were rising in Colorado, Mississippi, Ohio and Virginia and White House health experts also warned of a slow rise in the percentage of people testing positive for the coronavirus in U.S. cities such as Boston, Chicago, Detroit and Washington DC.