On March 31, the United States reported a total of 939 deaths related to COVID-19, its highest reported death toll in a single day since the start of the outbreak. The Mar 31 deaths have pushed the national total to 4,080.
Deaths in the US have spiked in the last week, up from 780 on Mar 24, an increase of 3,100 deaths in a week. But new projections from health experts believe thousands of more deaths are on the horizon.
On Tuesday, the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force revealed forecasts that predict 100,000 to 240,000 Americans may die as a result of COVID-19. Speaking at the White House’s daily briefing, Dr Deborah Birx said mitigation strategies like social distancing will help drive down the potential deaths from the millions to the 100,000 to 240,000 range.
She said that the virus, without mitigation, projected to kill 1.5 million to 2.5 million Americans, but by inputting data on social distancing and other mitigation strategies, that projected number is driven down to 100 to 200,000 deaths, “which is still way too much,” Birx said.
When asked if Americans need to prepare themselves for six figure totals in fatalities, NIAID director Dr Anthony Fauci said yes. “The answer is yes, as sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” explained Fauci. “Is it going to be that much? I hope not and I think the more we push on the mitigation, the less likelihood it would be that number. But being realistic, we need to prepare ourselves that that is a possibility.”
According to Johns Hopkins University data, the US now has 189,624 known cases of coronavirus, which accounts for 22.0% of all COVID-19 infections worldwide (860,181). In fact, the US has more cases alone than 169 other nations combined.
Globally, known infections have reached 860,181 in 175 nations, but the brunt of infections are concentrated in the US, China, Iran, Turkey, and about a dozen European nations.
Of the 13 nations that have reported more than 10,000 cases, nine are in Europe, led by Italy (105,792) and Spain (95,923).
In New York City, 43,119 known cases have been reported, by far the most in the US and more than all but six nations across the world. (Soon to be only five nations with more cases than NYC as the city’s total will pass Iran’s total on Wednesday.) Meanwhile, New Jersey has 18,997 known infections, which would put it at #9 in the world if it were its own nation.
While New York and New Jersey’s cases have soared, Dr Birx pointed to mitigation efforts in California and Washington State as proof that social distancing can indeed flatten the curve.
“We all remember Washington state, it was just a month ago that they started to have the issues in Washington state but they brought together their communities and their health providers, and they put in strong mitigation methods and testing,” Birx said.
Though California and Washington’s cases grow at a slower rate, states like Illinois, Michigan and Louisiana are seeing their infections spike. Michigan, for instance, has surged to the fourth-most reported COVID-19 cases (7,615) and to the third-most coronavirus-related deaths (259). The upward trend will continue as US cases are projected to peak in mid-April, Fauci and Birx said.
“We need to brace ourselves,” Fauci said. “In the next two weeks we’re going to continue to see things go up. We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work.”