When coronavirus first emerged in China, few knew how far the deadly infection would spread.
Many thought a worldwide pandemic to be unfathomable and as cases grew in each country, various predictions were made.
Usually experts like Dr Anthony Fauci are to be listened to.
But even as America’s foremost infectious diseases expert, his prediction was so grim, it was hard to imagine. Just another outlandish figure to scare the country.
Just after President Donald Trump said he wanted to get the US “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter on April 12, Fauci predicted that up to 200,000 Americans could die from coronavirus and millions would contract the virus.
Trump’s pledge alarmed public health experts like Fauci.
At the time, there had been 2400 virus deaths in the US, and Trump believed the country’s outbreak would reach a peak in two weeks.
Eleven days after Fauci made his prediction, when social distancing guidelines appeared to be limiting spread of the virus, he revised his forecast to say 60,000 deaths were more likely.
” … there are some glimmers of hope, particularly when you look at the situation in New York — where the number of hospitalisations, requirements for intensive care and intubation over the last few days have actually stabilised and (are) starting to come down,” he said.
“I don’t want to jump the gun on that but I think that is the case.
“I’m always very cautious about jumping the gun and saying, ‘Well, we have turned the corner’. But I think we are really looking at the beginning of that, which would really be very encouraging. We need that right now.”
At the time New York, the epicentre of the US virus outbreak, had 150,000 cases.
There are currently more than 453,000 across New York State.
When Fauci revealed his revised prediction, new modelling was out that projected 60,415 people would die in the US by August 4.
But last month, the US was well beyond that figure.
GRIM PREDICTION COMES TRUE
This month, Fauci’s original prediction has come to pass. While some world trackers indicate the US has just under 200,000 deaths, others show it has passed that figure.
And now focus has shifted to a new, even grimmer figure.
The same University of Washington projections now tip 378,321 deaths by January 1.
That figured was updated on September 18, but on September 5, it was as high as 410,000.
The latest projections mean 3268 deaths a day. If mandates eased, that figure skyrockets to 8571 deaths a day come January 1.
The data also shows that if universal masks were introduced the figure would drop to 1322.
The university says mask use can reduce transmission by more than 30 per cent.
The university’s IHME model has been cited by the White House Coronavirus Task Force throughout the pandemic.
Earlier this month it released the first global projections of the Covid-19 pandemic by nation.
It said cumulative deaths expected by January 1 totalled 2.8 million, about 1.9 million more than at the time on September 3, until the end of the year. Daily deaths in December could reach as high as 30,000.
IHME Director Dr Christopher Murray said the forecasts were “daunting”.
“We are facing the prospect of a deadly December, especially in Europe, Central Asia, and the United States,” he said.
“But the science is clear and the evidence irrefutable: mask-wearing, social distancing, and limits to social gatherings are vital to helping prevent transmission of the virus.”
A “worst case” scenario in which mask usage stayed at current rates and governments continued relaxing social distancing requirements, predicted four million deaths by the end of the year.
He said the increase was due in part to a likely seasonal rise in Covid-19 cases in the Northern Hemisphere.
“People in the Northern Hemisphere must be especially vigilant as winter approaches, since the coronavirus, like pneumonia, will be more prevalent in cold climates,” Murray said.
“Looking at the staggering Covid-19 estimates, it’s easy to get lost in the enormity of the numbers. The number of deaths exceeds the capacity of the world’s 50 largest stadiums, a sobering image of the people who have lost their lives and livelihoods.”
India would actually have the highest cumulative death total before the US with 659,537. So far the country has had 86,752 deaths, according to John Hopkins University.
John Hopkins puts the current world total at 959,565.