According to a new analysis by a consortium of researchers advising the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the delta surge appears to be peaking nationally, and cases and deaths are expected to steadily decline through the spring without a significant winter surge.
The latest update released on Wednesday combined nine different mathematical models from different research groups to get an outlook on the projectory of the pandemic over next six months.
“Any of us who have been following this closely, given what happened with delta, are going to be really cautious about too much optimism,” says Justin Lessler at the University of North Carolina. “But I do think that the trajectory is towards improvement for most of the country,” he says.
The research modelers looked at four different potential scenarios, taking into account the success of childhood vaccinations and new variants.
The most likely scenario, says Lessler, is that children do get vaccinated and no super-spreading variant emerges. In that case, the combo model forecasts that new infections would slowly, but fairly continuously, drop from about 140,000 today now to about 9,000 a day by March.
Deaths from COVID-19 would fall from about 1,500 a day now to fewer than 100 a day by March 2022.
Those numbers would be approximately at the level of cases and deaths in late March 2020 at the beginning of the pandemic.
Lessler cautions of uncertainty in the models and says it’s plausible but unlikely that cases will increase to 232,000 before declining.
William Hanage, an epidemiologist at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health, cautions about being overly optimistic.
He agrees that overall the pandemic will be “comparatively under control by March,” but says “there could be a number of bumps in the road.”
Getting everyone who is eligible vaccinated is still key to preventing further deaths. Even in this optimistic scenario, the U.S. is projected to reach a cumulative total of more than 780,000 deaths by March.
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