A new study forecasts that COVID-19 could kill more than 81,000 people in the United States -- in the next four months.
The University of Washington published that estimate Thursday (March 26) - which says that number is the most likely scenario.
Chris Murray led the study.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITY OF WASHINGTON'S INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION, SAYING: "With social distancing, we still expect a huge increase in the demand for health services, peaking in the second week of April.
That demand for health services is going to exceed the available capacity of beds,and particularly ICU bed days, that excess demand is variable by state but at the national level it's really quite profound.
And then we also are going tosee deaths peak in April and then decline steadily." The study uses data from governments, hospitals and other sources, it says deaths could range widely, from as low as around 40,000 to more than 160,000.
And -- some deaths may come as late as July before things wind down.
(SOUNDBITE) (English) CHRIS MURRAY, DIRECTOR OF THE UNIVERSITYOF WASHINGTON'S INSTITUTE FOR HEALTH METRICS AND EVALUATION, SAYING: "We expect the epidemic to continue with increased bed days, ICU bed days, rightthrough to the end of May.
We expect, judging by our criteria of less than 10deaths a day, that the epidemic in the U.S. will be meeting that criteria ofending by the first week of June.
That, of course, doesn't mean that there may not be a return of COVID-19 in the fall, in a second wave, that's a very different topic." If things last until July, Murray says it points to social distancing measures for longer than initially expected despite President Donald Trump pledging to get Americans back to work sooner.
The analysis also highlights the strain that will be placed on hospitals.
At the epidemic's peak, sick patients could exceed the number of available hospital beds by the tens of thousands and could require the use of around 20,000 ventilators.
Ventilators are already running short in hard-hit places like New York City.
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