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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 TODAY

The United States was on the verge Sunday of surpassing 200,000 coronavirus deaths as experts warned the total could double by year’s end.

The news comes as states grapple with opening restaurants, small businesses — and crucially, schools — amid signs that new cases are on the rise in some areas. Fatigue for social distancing, colder weather and continued contention over mask-wearing and reopening may compound COVID-19 cases and deaths as the year goes on.

“It’s hard for me to think of a positive scenario where things are going to get better in October and November,’’ said Dr. John Swartzberg, professor emeritus of infectious diseases and vaccinology at the University of California-Berkeley. “I don’t see behavior changing adequately. I don’t see testing ramping up.