The chart shows forecasted cases through the end of January. Photo courtesy of Washington University in St. Louis
Nov. 23 (UPI) -- COVID-19 cases in the United States could reach 20 million before President-Elect Joe Biden is inaugurated, researchers project in a study published Monday in Scientific Reports.
According to a new model, current social distancing reflects an approximate 60% return to normalcy.
At that level, the number of cases will likely increase to 20 million cases before the end of January, when Biden is inaugurated, up from more than 12.2 million currently.
Olin Business School's Meng Liu, Raphael Thomadsen and Song Yao developed the Washington University in St. Louis COVID-19 forecasting model, which accurately forecast the growth of COVID-19 cases over the summer.
Social distancing, the researchers say, has been key to controlling the virus.
If social distancing is eliminated there could be a massive increase in cases, the paper found.
By contrast, if social distancing went back to levels reached in April, "we could effectively squash out the COVID growth within a few weeks," Thomadsen said.
For the study, researchers used a modified model that looked at interconnected social networks that found that COVID-19 cases would not have exponential growth for a long period, as the classic model predicted, Thomadsen added.
At more than 12.2 million cases, the United States already has the most cases of any country, and as well as the most deaths of any country at more than 256,000, according to Johns Hopkins University's COVID-19 tracker.
This month alone, the United States has reported more than 3 million new infections and reached record numbers of hospitalizations.
On Friday, the United States Food and Drug Administration granted emergency authorization for the use of monoclonal antibodies to treat COVID-19 as more than 195,000 new infections were reported nationwide, with a surge in cases in nearly every state.
President Donald Trump received the antibody treatment last month after he was diagnosed, but the the drug is expected to be in short supply initially.
The country recently tallied another million cases within six days for the second week in a row, up from 11 million cases on Sunday, Nov. 15, and up from topping 10 million cases on Nov. 9.
The United States also recently set another record for the most COVID-19 cases in a single day and added its highest daily death toll.