COVID-19 Death Toll Surpasses 200,000 in the U.S. After Virus Becomes Third Largest Killer of Americans

The death toll from the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in the United States has surpassed 200,000.

The first reported case of the deadly virus in the U.S. came in January, and by March COVID-19 had the nation's attention as Americans and others across the world were thrust into quarantine to prevent its spread.

Now, eight months later since that first case, more than 6.9 million people have been infected with COVID-19 in the U.S., and more than 200,000 have died after contracting the virus, according to data from the New York Times.

The death toll has reached the number feared by leading health experts back in March and stands the risk of increasing two-fold.

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 COVID-19 in March. Now, it seems that the toll will be much higher as cases continue to rise in many areas of the country.

A new model from the the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine showed that the country is at risk of possibly seeing at least 415,000 deaths from COVID-19 by January.

In the IHME's "worst-case scenario" model from their report, 4 million people could die worldwide from COVID-19, with 620,000 of those people dying 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 and 327,775 possible 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," PEOPLE previously reported.

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

The U.S. has the most cases of COVID-19 worldwide, according to data from the New York Times. More than 300,000 new cases have been reported around the world in the last week alone.

To prevent the spread of COVID-19, the World Health Organization recommends regularly washing your hands, practice social distancing, and wear a face mask in public.

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 the WHO and local public health departments. PEOPLE has partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for the COVID-19 Relief Fund, a fundraiser to support everything from frontline responders to families in need, as well as organizations helping communities. For more information or to donate, click here.

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