CLOSE Without masks and a vaccine, we could reach Herd Immunity from COVID-19, but deaths would skyrocket. We break down the science of it. USA TODAYThe U.S. recorded more than 69,000 new cases Friday for the first time since July, andupdated virus projections are bringing the long-feared “winter surge” of COVID-19 cases into focus as health experts warn an increasing number of infections in the U.S. will soon mean more deaths.The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation’s latest model updates released this week contain spots of good news: 74,000 American lives can still be saved if mask use becomes nearly universal, and increased testing may explain why more young people are testing positive.But the influential model still projects daily U.S. deaths will surpass 2,000 in January, even with states reimposing stricter orders.The guidance also called out North Dakota specifically for its alarming death rate, following a well-documented lax approach to health mandates in the state: “North Dakota presently has one of the highest COVID-19 death rates in the world,” a briefing on the model says.The state joins South Dakota as having some of the lowest mask use rates in the nation. Rural counties across Wisconsin, North Dakota, South Dakota and Montana sit among the top in the nation for new


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