WASHINGTON • United States President Donald Trump warned Americans that the country faces “a very tough two weeks” as the number of infections and deaths from the coronavirus outbreak climbs.
“This is going to be a painful two weeks,” Mr Trump said on Tuesday at a White House briefing. “Our strength will be tested, our endurance will be tried.”
The President’s sombre manner stood in contrast to the optimistic, upbeat tone he has projected in previous briefings.
He made the comments as Dr Deborah Birx, the top public health official coordinating the White House coronavirus task force, said that as many as 200,000 Americans are projected to die from the outbreak, even with another 30 days of the most stringent public health restrictions.
The data Dr Birx revealed was the same information that propelled Mr Trump to retreat from ambitions to urge Americans back to work by Easter.
Mr Trump said he envisioned some practices – such as refraining from shaking hands – lasting “long into the future”.
Dr Birx and Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading scientists on the coronavirus task force, have said that several public studies bolster their belief the virus could exact an even greater death toll in the coming weeks.
The latest projection from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts the death toll will dramatically spike this month from roughly 4,500 to almost 60,000 – even with the isolation measures in place around the country.
The study indicates that the pace of deaths will plateau in May and June, and eventually total almost 84,000 by the first week of August.
By April 15, when the death count is expected to peak, more than 2,200 Americans will die of the disease per day, according to the model.
Mr Trump and Dr Birx pointed to the University of Washington study during a call with governors on Monday.
The projections assume that “strong social distancing measures” and other restrictions will remain in place throughout the country, even though some large states, such as Florida, have declined to put in place stay-at-home orders implemented in New York, California, Washington and other virus hot spots.
The soaring rate of infections is expected to strain hospitals that are already struggling to care for infected patients and obtain desperately needed medical supplies.
The University of Washington study projects that at the outbreak’s peak, roughly 220,000 hospital beds and 26,000 ventilators will be needed.
Mr Trump said on Tuesday that the federal government has 10,000 ventilators that it has held back in anticipation of a surge in cases over the coming weeks.
The number of deaths in the US from coronavirus has surpassed the number reported by China, where the pandemic began last December, according to a toll published on Tuesday by Johns Hopkins University.
There have been 3,415 deaths in the US from the virus, the university said, more than the 3,309 reported officially in China. Italy has suffered the most virus deaths – 12,428, according to Johns Hopkins – followed by Spain with 8,269, and then the US.
There are 175,067 confirmed coronavirus cases in the US, the university said, the most of any country in the world. Italy is next with 105,792 cases, followed by Spain with 94,417 and China with an official tally of 82,278.
Germany has 68,180 cases and 682 deaths, followed by France and its overseas territories with 45,232 cases and 3,032 deaths, Johns Hopkins said.
BLOOMBERG, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE