FRIDAY, Aug. 7, 2020 (HealthDay News) — As the U.S. COVID-19 case count neared 5 million on Thursday, a new model predicted that nearly 300,000 Americans could die of COVID-19 by December if more people do not wear masks or practice better social distancing.

Researchers from the University of Washington Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) on Thursday issued a forecast of 295,011 deaths from COVID-19 by Dec. 1. However, if 95 percent of people were to wear a face mask in public, some 66,000 lives could be saved, they added.

“We’re seeing a rollercoaster in the United States,” institute director Christopher Murray said in a statement. “It appears that people are wearing masks and socially distancing more frequently as infections increase, then after a while as infections drop, people let their guard down and stop taking these measures to protect themselves and others which, of course, leads to more infections. And the potentially deadly cycle starts over again.”

His team’s model also identifies which states will need to reimpose mask mandates between now and the winter to slow the spread of transmission.

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