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COVID-19 fallout is going to worsen, folks

By Jan. 1, nearly 1% of West Virginians will have been killed by COVID-19, with Ohio not far behind, predicts a scientific think tank at the University of Washington.

That translates to 1,747 people in the Mountain State and 10,270 in the Buckeye State. As of Monday, the death tolls in our states were, respectively, 337 and 4,746.

By Monday, nearly 205,000 lives had been claimed by the coronavirus throughout the United States. Expect that to double by Jan. 1, according to the think tank.

Wait a minute. Who are these people? Why should anyone accept their outrageous predictions? Good questions.

They are the university’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. You may remember them from last spring. On May 4, they were predicting nearly 135,000 U.S. deaths from the pandemic — and lots of people were making fun of them. It couldn’t get that bad.

It got worse. The IHME has credibility going back several months.

Its predictions are based on analysis of current COVID-19 trends and the effectiveness of preventive measures both nationally and in the states.

The good news is that if more West Virginians get serious about using face masks, social distancing, etc., we could save a lot of lives. If that happens, deaths here by Jan. 1 could be held down to 1,278, the IHME estimates.

In Ohio, better preventive measures could hold the Jan. 1 death toll down to 6,280, according to the institute.

The bad news is that it could be much, much worse. If everything goes south in West Virginia, as many as 3,336 victims of COVID-19 could be recorded by the new year.

Ohio is different in a disturbing way. IHME analysts say the worst-case scenario there is 10,328 deaths — just 58 more than the prediction based on the situation now. In other words, IHME scientists don’t expect Ohioans to become more effective in fighting COVID-19.

We don’t have much time to prepare for the upsurge. The IHME shows a sharp spike in the COVID-19 death toll beginning around Nov. 1. I presume the scientists expect colder weather to be a boon to the coronavirus.

How will we react? Mass school closings? More “stay at home” orders?

How about more personal responsibility? Our kids are hurt intellectually every day they are not in class. Our economy can’t take another shutdown. We haven’t recovered from the first one.

Most scientists seem to agree that the most effective thing we Americans can do to stop COVID-19 is universal use of face masks.

Will we?

Myer can be reached at: mmyer@theintelligencer.net. The Intellinger Wheeling-News Register is a sister newspaper of the Columbiana County’s Salem News, The Review and the Morning Journal which are part of the Ogden Newspaper Group.

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