(MSN) – As many as 100,000 people are projected to die of the coronavirus in the first month of President Joe Biden’s tenure, raising the U.S. death toll above half a million, according to a forecast by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday during a White House coronavirus response team briefing that the death toll from COVID-19 is forecast to reach between 479,000 to 514,000 people by Feb. 20 – a month after Inauguration Day.
A previous forecast from the CDC updated on Jan. 14 estimated coronavirus deaths would surpass 400,000 by the time President Joe Biden was sworn into office. On Jan. 19, a day before Biden was inaugurated and roughly a year after the first case of the virus was identified in the country, the death toll in America hit 400,000.
The projections for the start of the president’s tenure come amid a frenzied national effort to distribute vaccine doses across the country. As of Tuesday, nearly 20 million people had received their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine, with more than 3.4 million people receiving both doses, the CDC reported.
Biden on Tuesday announced plans to purchase 200 million more vaccine doses from Moderna and Pfizer, raising the total U.S. vaccine order to 600 million. But the White House has itself acknowledged that the mass inoculation effort is going to take time.
According to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than 426,900 people have died in the U.S., the highest tally in the world, and the country has seen more than 25.5 million cases of COVID-19, also the highest in the world.
January, which still has five daily death tolls to be counted, has been the deadliest month of the pandemic, with more than 80,000 people dying from COVID-19. This month’s deaths surpassed December, the previous deadliest month, by more than a thousand.
And the increase of coronavirus variants – some of which seem to be more transmissible – being discovered around the world and in the U.S. has public health officials worried. Walensky said the emergence of these variants “underscores the need for public health action.” She urged people to avoid unnecessary travel and to continue to social distance and wear masks, as well as get vaccinated when it’s available.