Forecasts compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention predict that Massachusetts will likely see at least 15,000 total COVID-19 deaths by mid-February while the pandemic’s death toll nationwide could surpass half a million.
The CDC released the new projections this week after receiving forecasts on deaths from more than three dozen modeling groups, including several universities tracking the pandemic.
Most of the forecasts submitted to the CDC show the Bay State hitting at least 15,000 deaths before Feb. 15. News of the forecasts come as Massachusetts and several other states have detected a highly contagious variant of the virus which is now the dominant source of transmission in the United Kingdom.
As of Wednesday, at least 13,547 Massachusetts residents have died due to COVID-19 since the pandemic began.
Deaths statewide had been steadily climbing for 11 weeks; many public health officials noted they expected rising deaths as a result of holiday season travel and gatherings. But deaths in Massachusetts leveled out two weeks ago and showed a slight decline last week. Hospitalizations had also been on the rise, but have leveled out in the past week.
According to Johns Hopkins University, more than 406,000 Americans have died throughout the pandemic. More than 24.4 million Americans have contracted the virus, which represents more than a quarter of the entire world’s 97 million confirmed cases.
Nationwide forecasts predict the COVID-19 death toll will reach between 465,000 and 508,000 by Feb. 13, according to the CDC.
Dr. Rochelle Walensky told CBS News this week that the nation should expect half a million deaths by mid-February. She added that the country hadn’t yet seen the full “ramifications of what happened from the holiday travel, from holiday gathering in terms of high rates of hospitalizations and the deaths thereafter. So, yes, I think we still have some dark weeks ahead.”
President Joe Biden, who was sworn in on Wednesday, has pledged to tackle the virus right away by ramping up vaccination plans and providing greater relief to Americans. He is also calling for a national mask mandate when traveling.