Experts have lowered the forecast for coronavirus deaths in the US over the next few months, despite Wednesday seeing the highest-ever daily number of confirmed new infections. The latest model from the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation forecasts a total death toll of between 159,497 and 213,715 by Oct. 1, but researchers say much will depend on how many people wear masks, USA Today reports. The average between the best-case and worst-case scenarios is around 180,000, down from an earlier estimate of 200,000. The death toll currently stands at almost 122,000, and researchers say up to 33,000 lives could be saved between now and October if the US introduced a universal mask-wearing order that at least 95% of people complied with.
"People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50%, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends and their communities at risk," IMHE Director Dr. Chris Murray said in a statement, per Reuters. The researchers noted that cases numbers have been steadily rising in several states "but deaths are not yet rising at the same rate, a trend which could change in the coming weeks." According to a study in Health Affairs, 15 states, plus the District of Columbia, prevented around 450,000 new coronavirus infections with mask orders issued between April 8 and May 15. (Read more coronavirus stories.)