Coronavirus deaths expected to go down before a sharp rise in September

Medical workers walk outside a special coronavirus area at Maimonides Medical Center in the Borough Park neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City.
Medical workers walk outside a special coronavirus area at Maimonides Medical Center in the Borough Park neighborhood of the Brooklyn borough of New York City. (2020 Getty Images)

The United States surpassed 2 million confirmed coronavirus cases as experts predicted Thursday that tens of thousands more people will get infected and die in the months ahead.

Nearly 113,000 people have died from COVID-19 nationwide, according to Johns Hopkins University.

An influential model cited by the White House issued the dire prediction, saying the US death toll could reach 169,890 by October 1, with a possible range of about 133,000 to 290,000 deaths.

Daily deaths are expected to decrease through June and July, then remain relatively stable through August before rising sharply in September, the model forecasts.

“If the US is unable to check the growth in September, we could be facing worsening trends in October, November and the following months if the pandemic, as we expect, follows pneumonia seasonality,” said Dr. Christopher Murray, director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine.

Many states have loosened restrictions that began in March to stop the spread of the virus. But with no vaccine, more people congregating in public places and recent protests for racial justice in major cities, one health expert predicted that the nation’s coronavirus death toll will nearly double by September.

"I think right now, most Americans are not ready to lock back down, and I completely understand that. ... I understand people are willing to live alongside this virus. It means that between 800 and 1,000 Americans are going to die every single day," Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN.

"We're going to get another 100,000 deaths by September. So, that's a catastrophic cost," Jha said. "We really do have to try to figure out how to bring the caseloads down from these scary levels."

Hospitalizations are up in some states

Since Memorial Day, the number of coronavirus hospitalizations has gone up in at least a dozen states, according to data CNN aggregated from the COVID Tracking Project between May 25 to June 9.

In Arizona, officials are telling hospitals to activate emergency plans.

At its previous peak, the state's intensive care unit beds were 78% in use. As of this week, 79% were occupied. Arizona's Director of Health Services Dr. Cara Christ asked that hospitals "be judicious" in elective surgeries to ensure bed capacity.

“We know COVID-19 is still in our community, and we expect to see increased cases,” the Arizona Department of Health Services tweeted.

Bed capacity and medical resources were among the top concerns in treating the coronavirus pandemic when the nation first reached a peak. Health experts say it is a matter of when -- not if -- the country sees another surge in cases that could overwhelm health care systems once more.

Fears of another spike are not limited to any particular region.

North Carolina recently broke its record with 780 coronavirus hospitalizations by early Thursday, according to the North Carolina Healthcare Association.

Though there is plenty of hospital capacity left, state officials are concerned about increased trends in hospitalizations when restrictions first eased, then again after Memorial Day weekend.

The number of Covid-19 hospitalizations since Memorial Day has gone up in Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, North Carolina, Oregon, South Carolina, Texas and Utah, according to data aggregated from the Covid Tracking Project.

Overall, the new data mark an increase in several states that began in the past couple weeks. The lag period between when people are exposed to the virus to the time that they may actually get tested and come back with a confirmed infection can be about two to three weeks.