Doctors say death rates will grow if COVID-19 infections continue at the same rate

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MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- The rising COVID-19 death toll has doctors worried about what the next few weeks will look like.

In a little over a week, Wisconsin has set two records for newly reported deaths, and the deaths could leave lasting trauma for loved ones impacted.

Doctors say if the trajectory of infections and hospitalizations continue the way they are, then it’s a guarantee rising death rates will follow.

Deaths will always follow, I don’t think I see a scenario where that will not be the case,” said Dr. Nasia Safdar, medical director for infection prevention at UW Health.

More than 2,000 US deaths were reported Tuesday, Nov. 24 by John Hopkins University, the highest since May. The state also set a record high with 104 COVID-19 deaths the same day, the previous high reported by DHS was just last week on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 92 deaths.

“If there are those among us that are not yet convinced that we are in a crisis, I think the current numbers leave us in no doubt of that reality,” added Dr. Safdar.

“That’s 104 people who won’t celebrate at the Thanksgiving table next year,” said Dr. Ben Weston, medical director at Milwaukee County Office of Emergency Management.

The 80-89 age group represents nearly a third of COVID-19 deaths in Wisconsin.

“The immediate sort of visceral reaction I think is immense sadness, these are individuals who have suffered through this pandemic and have given their lives for it,” said Dr. Safdar.

Dr. Safdar says on top of age playing a factor, people who typically develop complications are those with little cardiac reserves and co-morbidities.

“Even a minor case of COVID, for instance, could make them, you know, not able to cope with it and succumb to it,” Dr. Safdar said.

Mental health experts say it’s important to acknowledge you’re grieving after losing a loved one to COVID-19.

“I think it’s really important for you to accept support through the grieving process, be realistic about expectations for yourself, care for yourself,” said Dr. Maria Inosencia Amarante with the Multicultural Trauma and Addiction Treatment Center of Wisconsin.

Dr. Amarante has seen an increase of individuals struggling and experiencing isolation.

“If you find yourself isolating yourself from others, dealing with an array of emotions, anger, guilt associated with grief, then it’s a good time for you to reach out,” she says.

Dr. Safdar says if we end up successfully flattening the curve even just a little bit, then we’ll start to see the number of deaths come down.

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