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UW expert predicts COVID-19 deaths could surpass Spanish Flu deaths

According to the CDC, it is estimated that the Spanish Flu pandemic killed about 675,000 people in the United States.

SEATTLE — A University of Washington global health expert said the United States could reach a coronavirus death toll higher than that of the historic 1918 Spanish Flu as the virus continues to spread at a fast rate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), it is estimated that the Spanish Flu pandemic killed about 675,000 people in the United States.

On Thursday, data from UW's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) indicated the U.S. could reach a death toll of more than 438,941 deaths by Feb. 1, 2021. If safety mandates are relaxed, the country could see nearly 514,000 deaths by early 2021.

"Our behaviors are not helping us and we are seeing a rapid increase of cases and deaths, and unfortunately we may surpass what we have seen in 1918 if we continue this behavior," said Dr. Ali Mokdad, a professor of global health at IHME.

Mokdad said December will be worse than March and April were in the U.S. with even more deaths.

RELATED: Lessons learned from the 2nd wave of the 1918 Spanish Flu in Washington

"Unfortunately, because we mismanaged COVID-19, we are at the position right now where the worst days are ahead of us, not behind us," said Mokdad. "We are going to see a rapid rise in cases and increase in deaths overwhelming our medical system."

IHME researchers predict the country will see more than 2,100 COVID-19 deaths per day this winter. Compared to the current rate of nearly 1,000 deaths per day.

"What we foresee in the future is a dark winter unfortunately in December and January unless we take aggressive measures right now, and we hit the brakes as hard as we can," said Mokdad.

He explained this means wearing a mask, practicing social distance, frequently washing hands, and refraining from gatherings as we head into the holidays.

"We don't want to bring along to a family gathering, the people that we love and care about the most, COVID-19, we don't want to infect anybody else especially our older -- our mothers, our parents, our grandparents," he said.