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The model projects that 16,732 Pennsylvanians will die from COVID-19 by Jan. 1, 2021. Credit: Kylie Cooper

A new projection from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington shows Pennsylvania's current COVID-19 death toll may double by the end of the year. 

The IHME model currently predicts that 16,732 Pennsylvanians will die from COVID-19 by January 1, 2021. The model also projects the state's death toll under different government policies —  the state's end-of-year death toll could climb to as high as 22,709 if social distancing mandates are eased or could drop to 10,122 under universal mask use. 

There have been more than 7,855 deaths and 144,658 cases of coronavirus in Pennsylvania to date, according to The New York Times

Officials have pointed factors such as increased mobility and decreased compliance with mask mandates as driving the rise in projected cases and deaths in many states. Despite the state's mask-wearing order, IMHE currently estimates that slightly less than half of Pennsylvanians are always wearing masks in public.

Ali Mokdad, Chief Strategy Officer for Population Health at the University of Washington, told Lehigh Valley Live last week that 95% mask-wearing can save many lives in Pennsylvania and warned of a potential shortage of ICU beds in the state.  

As cases began increasing in university campuses in Philadelphia and across the United States, the Philadelphia Department of Public Health released a new statement on Aug. 29 recommending students to avoid "all social gatherings" with people outside their household to limit the spread of the virus. 

The Pennsylvania Department of Health stressed continued vigilance as a key factor in curbing the spread of the virus and saving lives. 

“Wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and following the requirements set forth in the orders for bars and restaurants, gatherings, and telework will help keep our case counts low,” Pennsylvania Health Secretary Rachel Levine said in a public statement last week.  

IHME, an independent global health research center, models its coronavirus projects assuming that mask compliance will continue at current rates and that social distancing mandates will be gradually eased and reevaluated as new data becomes available.