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Health Officials Fear COVID-19 Toll in December

October 06, 2020

With models suggesting a worst-case scenario of 600,000 COVID-19 deaths by the first of the new year, Hartford HealthCare experts say it’s too early to predict what the second wave of the virus holds.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington offered several estimates for COVID-19 fatalities by Jan. 1. December, the group indicates, could be especially tragic.

“When we look ahead with seasonality kicking in, people becoming clearly less vigilant — you know mask use is down, mobility is up in the nation — and we look like we’re going to have a very deadly December,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.

In Connecticut, which peaked mid-April at more than 500 new cases a day, COVID-19 numbers fell dramatically through midsummer. In August, there were nine days with fewer than than 100 new cases.

Dr. Virginia Bieluch, chief of infectious disease at The Hospital of Central Connecticut, said the real test will come when temperatures drop and seasonal flu creeps in, but she noted the virus has not shown signs of mutating, which allows it to spread easier.

“Thus far, we don’t think the virus has changed much,” she said.

Any change in infection rates then would result from human behavior – being less vigilant with masks and physical distancing, moving indoors where there is less fresh air and viruses linger longer, and children returning to school.

“The power to control it is ours,” Dr. Bieluch said.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, also is urging continued adherence to public health guidelines to contain COVID-19 levels likely to go back up.

“We need to hunker down and get through this fall and winter because it’s not going to be easy,” he said.

This comes at the same time as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials acknowledged growing evidence that the coronavirus can spread further than the 6 feet originally thought, especially in poorly-ventilated, enclosed spaces. For that reason, other health officials suggested people continue to wear masks even when spaced six feet apart.

According to other CDC data:

  • The number of people who have been infected with COVID-19 could be far greater than originally believed. Many may not have known they had Covid-19: CDC officials said about 40 percent of those infected don’t have symptoms.
  • Up to 90 percent of people who were sick were not tested due to lack of available testing early in the pandemic, so they were never counted toward COVID-19 totals.
  • Non-symptomatic children as young as 8 months old are transmitting the virus, according to contact-tracing data from three Utah child care centers from April to July.
  • College campuses in all 50 states have reported infections.