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We are 3 weeks away from the ‘peak’ of COVID-19 in a worst-case scenario

Researchers said in early December that the worst-case scenario shows a COVID-19 peak in January.

Administrative worker Sander Edmondson, left, hands a COVID-19 testing kit to a woman at a testing site in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020
Administrative worker Sander Edmondson, left, hands a COVID-19 testing kit to a woman at a testing site in Los Angeles, Sunday, Dec. 27, 2020
Jae C. Hong, Associated Press

A team of researchers said at the beginning of December that the worst-case scenario for COVID-19 cases could lead to a peak around Jan. 20, 2021, CNBC reports.

What that looks like

The worst-case scenario would see daily COVID-19 cases reach more than 1 million, according to a projection from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), which is a global research center at the University of Washington.

The Jan. 20 peak reflects “the worst-case scenario in our modeling, if states do not re-impose any social distancing mandates,” according to a IHME spokesperson, CNBC reports.

  • The number reflects what would happen if a vaccine rollout leads to 3 million doses per day for 90 days, which would begin on Dec. 15 for Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Dec. 22 for the Moderna vaccine and Jan. 7 for the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine, according to CNBC.

A more rapid COVID-19 vaccine rollout — say 6 million vaccines over 45 days — and added social distancing mandates would lead to 526,000 daily infections by Dec. 26, according to the projections.

  • It seems the U.S. is trailing behind those projections with fewer cases, Specifically, the U.S. saw 185,756 new COVID-19 cases on Dec. 26. This could be due to a testing lag related to the holidays since the U.S. saw about 200,000 cases per day in the days leading up to Christmas.

The worst is still yet to come

Dr. Anthony Fauci recently told CNN the worst is still yet to come in the pandemic.

  • “We very well might see a post-seasonal — in the sense of Christmas, New Year’s — surge.”
  • “We’re really at a very critical point. If you put more pressure on the system by what might be a post-seasonal surge because of the traveling and the likely congregating of people for, you know, the good warm purposes of being together for the holidays, it’s very tough for people to not do that. “