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The U.S. will have more than half a million deaths by February because of COVID-19

Dr. Rochelle Walensky issued a stark warning about the COVID-19 pandemic.

COVID-19 vaccination tents are set up in the north of the Toy Story parking lot at the Disneyland Resort on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif.
COVID-19 vaccination tents are set up in the north of the Toy Story parking lot at the Disneyland Resort on Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2021, in Anaheim, Calif.
Jeff Gritchen, The Orange County Register via Associated Press

Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the incoming director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said on “Face the Nation” this weekend that the coronavirus pandemic death toll will hit half a million by February.

  • “By the middle of February, we expect half a million deaths in this country,” she said.

Walensky said the deaths are only half the story as millions of people still suffer from long-term COVID-19 symptoms.

“That doesn’t speak to the tens of thousands of people who are living with a yet uncharacterized syndrome after they’ve been recovered- after they’ve recovered,” she said. “And we still yet haven’t seen the ramifications of what happened from the holiday travel, from holiday gathering in terms of high rates of hospitalizations and the deaths thereafter. So, yes, I think we still have some dark weeks ahead.

What about the new variant?

Walensky also expressed worry about the COVID-19 mutations, which have been seen in the United Kingdom, United States and Africa.

“When we see these mutations, we worry about several things. We worry about whether ... they have increased transmissibility. We worry about whether they have increased morbidity and mortality. We worry about whether they will evade our mechanisms of either treatment or our vaccines. So far, the one from the U.K. looks like it is more transmissible. We don’t have any more information about whether it evades our vaccines. We have indication that it likely does not. But what increased transmissibility means is there are more cases and therefore more deaths.”

Former FDA commissioner Dr. Scott Gottlieb said earlier in January that the new COVID-19 variant will continue to spread throughout the country and soon represent the bulk of cases in the country, as I wrote about for the Deseret News.

  • “There are some estimates that the new variant probably represents about 1% of all infections in this country. By March, it’s going to be the majority of infections.”