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Experts see grim possibility of 200,000 coronavirus cases a day — and an inevitable rise in deaths

Cars lined up at a coronavirus testing site in hard-hit El Paso, Texas, on Oct. 31.
Cars lined up at a coronavirus testing site in hard-hit El Paso, Texas, on Oct. 31.Cengiz Yar/Photographer: Cengiz Yar/Getty I

Experts say the resurgence of coronavirus in the United States could soon result in 200,000 cases daily — and that increase will result in rising deaths.

The United States will likely reach the 200,000-case milestone before Thanksgiving, Dr. Michael Mina, an epidemiology professor and a core member of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, said Tuesday on Twitter.

More than 100,000 cases per day have been reported recently.

“These numbers have become normalized. But they are sad and distressing and comprise people in our hospital beds who never leave” or leave with long-term problems, he tweeted.

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“Deaths are obviously following,” Mina said in a Sunday tweet, noting that the country has also recently logged more than 1,000 deaths per day from the virus.

Mina warned a month ago of a “perfect and terrible storm” ahead as winter loomed on the horizon.

Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Tuesday on MSNBC, “We’re going to be hitting 200,000 or more cases per day.”

“What America has to understand is that we are about to enter COVID hell,” Osterholm, who is one of president-elect Joe Biden’s coronavirus advisers, told CNBC Monday. “It is happening.”

Dr. Ashish Jha, dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, estimated that the rising number of cases could drive the number of deaths up to 2,500 a day, even accounting for improvements in treatments.

He said that before the Jan. 20 inauguration of Biden, who has promised to move swiftly to control the virus, another 100,000 people could die from the virus.

He suggested that people ask their representatives in Washington to send more money to states for testing, and ask their governors to advocate for masks, expand testing, and limit indoor gatherings. He also urged people to be careful with get-togethers.

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“We will have safe, effective vaccines in 2021. Keep people safe until then,” he tweeted Tuesday.

Angela Rasmussen, a virologist at the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, tweeted Sunday, “The alarming rise in cases is going to lead to an unacceptable number of deaths. We could be at 300-350k+ lives lost by the end of 2020. We need to take action now to curb the pandemic and we all need to do our part: federal aid, more tests, masks, no indoor gatherings.”

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb warned on CNBC Monday that the virus is “about to explode. We’re going to have a really significant epidemic wave across the entire nation.”

“We’re in for some hard months ahead, unfortunately. We need to start taking steps right now to slow the spread,” he said.

Even New England, which was spared a summertime surge, is now seeing rising cases.

Biden on Monday implored Americans to wear masks and practice social distancing as he warned of a “dark winter” ahead of surging cases.

“It doesn’t matter your party. It doesn’t matter who you voted for,” he said. “We can save tens of thousands of lives if everyone would just wear a mask.”

More than 238,000 people in the United States have already died from the pandemic that has swept across the nation and around the world, according to Johns Hopkins University.

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The closely watched University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model foresees the coronavirus killing a total of around 400,000 Americans by Feb. 1.

Material from Globe wire services was used in this report.


Martin Finucane can be reached at martin.finucane@globe.com.