(Reuters) - A newly revised University of Washington model projects the U.S. death toll from COVID-19 will climb to just above 224,000 by Nov. 1, up 16,000 from a prior forecast, due to rising infections and hospitalizations in many states.
But the latest forecast from the university's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), released late on Tuesday, also predicts the death toll could be reduced by 40,000 if nearly all Americans wore masks in public.
"Use of masks is up, but not as high as it should be. If 95% of Americans wore masks each time they left their homes, infection rates would drop, hospitalizations would drop, and forecast deaths would drop," the IHME said in a statement.
The IHME's new forecast came after Alabama, Florida and North Carolina on Tuesday reported record daily increases in deaths from COVID-19, marking grim new milestones of a second wave of infections surging across much of the U.S.
The new IHME forecast - 224,089 U.S. lives lost by Nov. 1 - was revised upward from the 208,254 deaths projected on July 7.
At least 136,052 Americans have died from COVID-19, the illness caused by the novel coronavirus, while reported U.S. infections have surpassed 3.4 million, according to a tally by Reuters.
The IHME's projections have been cited in the past by the White House and are watched closely by public health officials.
(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Wilton, Connecticut; Editing by Bernadette Baum)