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The U.S. has reached 200,000 deaths from the coronavirus. Now experts are looking ahead, and the forecast for the fall and winter isn’t good.

USA TODAY

The United States reached yet another dark milestone Tuesday: 200,000 coronavirus deaths.

The news comes as states grapple with opening restaurants, small businesses, and schools; and cases are peaking in Montana, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming, according to a USA TODAY analysis of Johns Hopkins data. Social distancing fatigue and continued contention over mask-wearing threaten to compound COVID-19 cases and deaths as the year goes on.

In March, President Donald Trump said keeping the death toll between 100,000 to 200,000 people would have indicated that his administration had “done a very good job.”  As the number has continue to climb, Trump has sought to reshape the significance of the death tally.

“If we didn’t do our job, it would be three and half, two and half, maybe three million people,” Trump said Friday, leaning on extreme projections of what could have happened if nothing at all were done to fight the pandemic. “We have done a phenomenal job with respect to COVID-19.”

COVID-19 deaths have outpaced projections made as recently as May, when experts at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at University of Washington predicted around 180,000 deaths by October. That model now predicts 378,000 deaths by January. The U.S. reached 100,000 cases in May.

As Americans mourn the lives of 200,000 people, public health experts are concerned more lives are at risk as the country nears the beginning of flu season, which is associated with tens of thousands of deaths each year.

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“It’s hard for me to think of a positive scenario where things are going to get better in October and November,” said Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California, Berkeley. “I don’t see behavior changing adequately. I don’t see testing ramping up. I see political winds continue to be oppressive to doing the right things.”

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Dr. James Fortenberry, chief medical officer at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, explains what parents should look out for as kids go back to school.

USA TODAY

Contributing: Jorge L. Ortiz and Joshua Bote, USA TODAY; Julie Pace, Associated Press. Follow Adrianna Rodriguez on Twitter: @AdriannaUSAT.

Health and patient safety coverage at USA TODAY is made possible in part by a grant from the Masimo Foundation for Ethics, Innovation and Competition in Healthcare. The Masimo Foundation does not provide editorial input.

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