As the White House looks for ways to restore normalcy in parts of the US, the government’s foremost infection disease expert says the country could experience more than 100,000 deaths and millions of infections from the coronavirus pandemic.
Speaking on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, offered his prognosis as the federal government weighs rolling back guidelines on social distancing in areas that have not been as hard-hit by the outbreak at the conclusion of the nationwide 15-day effort to slow the spread of the virus.
“I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases,” he said, correcting himself to say he meant deaths. “We’re going to have millions of cases.” But he added “I don’t want to be held to that” because the pandemic is “such a moving target.”
Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the White House coronavirus task force, said parts of the country with few cases so far must prepare for what’s to come:
“No state, no metro area, will be spared,” she said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
Fauci said he would only support the rollback in lesser-impacted areas if more testing is in place to monitor those areas. He said “it’s a little iffy there” right now.
Most people who contract COVID-19 have mild or moderate symptoms, which can include fever and cough but also milder cases of pneumonia, sometimes requiring hospitalization. The risk of death is greater for older adults and people with other health problems. Hospitals in the most afflicted areas are straining to handle patients and some are short of critical supplies.
Meanwhile, governors in other hotspots across the country were raising alarm that the spread of the virus was threatening their health-care systems.
“We remain on a trajectory, really, to overwhelm our capacity to deliver health care,” Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said on ABC’s “This Week.” “By the end of the first week in April, we think the first real issue is going to be ventilators. And we think it’s about the fourth or fifth of April before, down in the New Orleans area, we’re unable to put people on ventilators who need them. And then several days later, we will be out of beds.”
He said that officials have orders out for more than 12,000 ventilators through the national stockpile and private vendors, but so far have only been able to get 192.