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HIGHLIGHTS | What the numbers tell us

  • The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation published a report forecasting 500,000 deaths by March 2021 due to COVID-19 in the United States.
  • The authors report that universal mask use could prevent nearly 130,000 of those deaths.


masked person handing masked to another masked person

Credit: Brendan Mcdermid/Reuters (The New York Times)

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) forecast 500,000 deaths by March 2021 due to COVID-19 in an article published in Nature Medicine and reported on by The New York Times. But it’s not all grim, IHME also predicted that universal mask use — at least 95% of the population — could prevent almost 130,000 deaths caused by COVID-19. Here’s what you need to know.

Infection rates

Over 80,000 new cases were reported in the U.S. on Friday, Oct. 23, setting the record for most cases in a single day.

And based on IHME’s predictions, the numbers will continue to increase through spring 2021, bringing the predicted death toll to roughly 500,000 between September 2020 and March 2021, even with physical distancing mandates.

Mask rates

According to IHME’s new analysis, universal mask use could help contain a second wave of COVID-19 infection in the U.S.

But as of Sept. 21, only 49% of Americans reported that they always wear a mask in public. If 95% of the population wore a mask, we could save 129,574 lives by Feb. 28, 2021.

While 95% mask use across the population seems challenging to meet and maintain, the study reports that this level has already been observed on a neighborhood scale in areas of New York.

An important reminder

Wearing your mask makes a difference.



Read about IHME’s recent predictions on The New York Times or Nature Medicine.