U.S. coronavirus deaths are projected to reach 180,000 by the beginning of October unless the majority of people start wearing masks, according to a report on Wednesday.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington estimates 179,106 fatalities from COVID-19 by Oct 1, although researchers said that number can be reduced by roughly 33,000 if at least 95 percent of the population wears a mask in public.
“There is no doubt that even as states open up, the United States is still grappling with a large epidemic on a course to increase beginning in late August and intensifying in September,” said IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray.
“People need to know that wearing masks can reduce transmission of the virus by as much as 50 percent, and those who refuse are putting their lives, their families, their friends, and their communities at risk.”
The projected fatalities decreased roughly 20,000 from its previous estimate in mid-June, which the IHME attributed to an increasing number of cases being detected in younger people.
COVID-19 infections in the U.S. reached their highest single-day total on Wednesday, with more than 36,000 new cases reported -- the majority coming from Texas, Florida, and California.
The previous high was recorded roughly two months earlier. Many states have also seen an increase in cases over the past several weeks.
The IHME said that while deaths aren't increasing at the same rate, they usually lag behind infections and the fatality numbers could change in the coming weeks.
In the U.S., all 50 states plus the District of Columbia have reported confirmed cases of COVID-19, tallying more than 2,381,361 illnesses and at least 121,979 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins.