The worst-case scenario for the coronavirus pandemic is too frightening to even think about, but the best-case scenario isn’t exactly a picture of sunshine, according to the predictions of the White House coronavirus task force’s coordinator.
Yesterday, Dr. Deborah Birx shared the grim outlook, saying that if we do everything “almost perfectly” when it comes to trying to combat the virus, there could still be as many as 200,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.
Dr. Birx echoed the sentiment of Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who said that there could be as many as 2.2 million deaths in the country if nothing is done. She said that the figures were calculated using data from Italy, where self-isolation helped stem the disease’s spread, but deaths have been high nevertheless. She told Today’s Savannah Guthrie that it should be clear to everyone by now just how fast the cases can climb from 50 to 5,000.
According to Dr. Birx, the best-case scenario would occur if every single American does exactly what is required. However, not everyone in the country appears to be on board and we have to factor in those places where people are continuing to have gatherings and social interaction.
She said she’s “very worried about every city in the United States” and said she feels that some metro areas were late in convincing residents to adhere to the 15-day guidelines. She also warned that even rural areas that haven’t been seeing the virus yet will see it eventually, and the outbreak could be significant when it does hit.
It’s something that other experts have been worried about as well. Although New York City is currently the coronavirus hotspot in the nation, no area will be spared and there’s no telling what could happen in places with older and less-healthy populations that also happen to have fewer hospital beds and supplies available.
It might not be the news that any of us wanted to hear, but it’s certainly something that everyone needs to hear as pictures circulate of people flouting self-isolation guidelines and getting together in large groups as if these were normal times.
In a press conference standing alongside President Trump, Dr. Fauci said that more than 200,000 deaths and infections in the millions was possible, adding, “What we’re trying to do is not let that happen.”
“It’s entirely conceivable,” he said, “that if we do not mitigate the extent that we’re trying to do, we can reach that number.”
Like Birx, he believes that social distancing, keeping businesses closed and stopping crowd gatherings are essential to keep deaths down. He praised Trump for extending national guidelines on social distancing through the end of April., calling it a “wise and prudent decision.”
Meanwhile, the peak of the outbreak in the U.S. is expected to hit in about two weeks’ time, so it’s important to continue to be vigilant. Even when the peak has passed, it’s quite possible the virus will prove to be cyclical, which means we may see it again this fall even if we manage to halt its spread this spring.
However, experts have said that a future outbreak would be a lot different because we’d be more prepared for it, with a greater ability to test for it and isolate infected people. Clinical trials for several treatments are already underway, and a dip in cases during summer could give hospitals a chance to stock up on supplies like ventilators to prepare for a future wave.
Although it’s easy to feel helpless if you’re not a medical professional, the truth is that all of us have the power to keep this problem from heading into worst-case scenario territory by following social distancing guidelines to stem its spread.
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