U.S. COVID-19 Death Toll Nears 200,000, Making the Virus the Third Largest Killer of Americans

The novel coronavirus has killed nearly 200,000 people in the United States — making the deadly virus the third-largest killer of Americans.

As of Saturday, there are at least 198,000 confirmed coronavirus-related deaths in the country, according to the coronavirus databases from the New York Times and John Hopkins.

The death toll is expected to surpass over 200,000.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the leading causes of death for Americans per year are heart disease (647,457) and cancer (599,108). The third-leading cause of death per year, accidents (169,936), has been surpassed by COVID-19.

In March, Dr. Anthony Fauci and Dr. Deborah Birx — the lead health experts on the White House’s coronavirus task force —  predicted that 100,000 to 200,000 Americans could die from the COVID-19 outbreak.

At the time, Birx said if Americans “do everything perfectly” and follow strict stay-at-home orders, the 100,000 to 200,000 estimate is likely. “I think everyone understands now that you can go from five to 50 to 500 to 5,000 cases very quickly,” she said in a March interview with Today.

Tom Frieden, former director of the CDC, told NBC News on Saturday that the U.S. had the chance to avoid the astronomical number of COVID-19-related deaths. "Tens of thousands of people would not have died if the U.S. response had been more effective," he told the outlet.

Now, the country is at risk of possibly seeing at least 415,000 deaths from COVID-19 by January, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine

In the IHME's "worst-case scenario" model from their report, four million people could die worldwide from COVID-19, with 620,000 of those people in the U.S.

In the "best-case scenario" model, two million people could be dead across the globe by the end of 2020, with somewhere between 257,286 to 327,775 COVID-19 fatalities in the U.S.

IHME Director Dr. Christopher Murray also warned that the U.S., as well as Europe, Central Asia, are "facing the prospect of a deadly December."

"The worst is yet to come," he said.

A coronavirus vaccine is not expected to be widely available for distribution until mid-2021 at the earliest, CDC director Dr. Robert Redfield said on Wednesday while testifying before the Senate.

Redfield's predictions clash with claims made by President Donald Trump, who alleged Americans will be able to get vaccinated starting in October — just before the election.

"If you're asking me when is it going to be generally available to the American public, so we can begin to take advantage of vaccine to get back to our regular life, I think we're probably looking at third, late second quarter, third quarter 2021,” Redfield told the Senate Appropriations Committee, CNN reported.

Redfield also encouraged Americans to continue wearing masks, which have been proven via scientific studies to be effective in reducing the spread of COVID-19.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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