Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Deaths Could Exceed 200,000; Social Distancing Guidelines Extended

Coronavirus Live Updates: U.S. Deaths Could Exceed 200,000; Social Distancing Guidelines Extended

DOUBLE TRUSTYMar 30, '20

Americans were advised to avoid nonessential travel and gatherings of more than 10 people until at least April 30. Deaths nationwide approached 2,500, with more than 1,000 in New York. Spain asked the nation to go into “hibernation.”

With 18,000 deaths in Italy and Spain, and a forecast of 200,000 in U.S., nations tighten and extend lockdowns.

Faced with the grim prospect that 200,000 Americans could die even with aggressive action to slow the spread of the coronavirus, President Trump extended the guidelines on avoiding nonessential travel, staying away from work, visiting bars and restaurants and gathering in groups of more than 10 for at least another month.

“We can expect that by June 1, we will be well on our way to recovery,” Mr. Trump said on Sunday evening. “We think by June 1. A lot of great things will be happening.”

But the virus has already dashed Mr. Trump’s earlier rosy predictions, and as Americans entered their third week living in a work-from-home world, officials warned that the deepening crisis in New York was weeks from peaking.

“Thousands of people will pass away,” Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo warned.

The continuing agony in Italy and Spain showed that the peak of the outbreak could be prolonged and, in any case, by no means marked the end of the fight.

In Spain, roughly 35 people died every hour over the weekend as the death toll passed 7,000.

With residents already under orders not to leave their homes unless absolutely necessary, Madrid called on Monday for even tighter enforcement, with officials saying they wanted the country to enter a period of “hibernation.”

Italy, with nearly 11,000 deaths, saw some hopeful signs as the mortality rate dropped for the third day in a row — from 969 to 889 to 756 — and new patients requiring critical care dropped to 50, from 124.

Encouraging though the numbers were, officials cautioned that it would be some time before restrictions could be eased without risking widespread reinfection.

Elsewhere, most nations were tightening existing restrictions or adding new ones.

Russia closed border crossings on Monday and placed Moscow on lockdown.

With Prime Minister Boris Johnson of Britain in isolation after testing positive for the virus, officials there warned people to expect another six months of hardship, though the restrictions could be eased as conditions improve.

Even Mr. Trump, who for weeks sought to downplay the seriousness of the crisis, struck a decidedly more somber note over the weekend. He also revealed that a personal friend was sick.

“He’s a little older and he’s heavy,” Mr. Trump said. “But he’s a tough person, and we went to the hospital and a day later he’s in a coma.”

“The speed and the viciousness, especially if it gets the right person, it is horrible,” Mr. Trump added.

White House scientific advisers offer a grim outlook, leading to an extension of social distancing guidelines.

Two of the top doctors advising President Trump on the coronavirus pandemic warned on Sunday that as many as 200,000 Americans could die during the outbreak, even with much of the country already under stay-at-home orders and practicing social distancing.

The figures convinced President Trump to extend social distancing guidelines through the end of April, a stark reversal on earlier comments that the country would be back to normal by Easter.

Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said during a White House briefing that the grim projection on the number of deaths was based on scientific modeling and that the forecasts had convinced Mr. Trump to extend the restrictions.

“I think it’s entirely conceivable that if we do not mitigate to the extent that we’re trying to do that you could reach that number,” Dr. Fauci said.

Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the lead coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, said that even with precautions and restrictions the government’s model estimated “between 80,000 and 160,000, maybe even potentially 200,000 people succumbing” to Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.

She added that without any precautionary measures, the same models projected that 1.6 million to 2.2 million Americans could die from complications of the virus.

“Some of them predicted half of the United States would get infected,” she said.

Dr. Birx acknowledged that it was a huge sacrifice for Americans to stay home another month, but she said the measures had “potential to save hundreds of thousands of American lives.”

President Trump had clashed with public health experts around the country when he suggested that the guidelines — which urge people to stay at home and not to gather in groups of more than 10 — might be relaxed by April 12. His announcement on Sunday indicated that he had backed down from that suggestion.

A coronavirus slowdown in Seattle suggests that restrictions could be working.

The Seattle area, home of the first known coronavirus case in the United States and the place where the virus claimed 37 of its first 50 victims, is now seeing evidence that harsh containment strategies, imposed in the earliest days of the outbreak, are beginning to pay off — at least for now.

Deaths are not rising as fast as they are in other states. Significant declines in street traffic show that people are staying at home. Hospitals have so far not been overwhelmed. And preliminary statistical models provided to public officials in Washington State suggest that the spread of the virus has slowed in the Seattle area in recent days.

While each infected person was spreading the virus to an average of 2.7 other people earlier in March, that number appears to have dropped, with one projection suggesting that it was now down to 1.4.

The researchers who are preparing the latest projections, led by the Institute for Disease Modeling, a private research group in Bellevue, Wash., have been watching a variety of data points since the onset of the outbreak. They include tens of thousands of coronavirus test results, deaths and mobility information to estimate the rate at which coronavirus patients are spreading the disease to others.

The progress is precarious, and the data, which was still being analyzed and has yet to be published, is uncertain. But the findings offer a measure of hope that the emergency measures that have disrupted life in much of the nation can be effective in slowing the spread of the disease.

“We made a huge impact — we slowed the transmission,” Seattle’s mayor, Jenny Durkan, said in an interview. She cautioned that any lifting of restrictions would bring a quick rise in new cases, and that she expected distancing requirements to continue in some form for months.

“There is evidence that doing the aggressive measures can have a benefit,” Gov. Jay Inslee said in an interview, discussing the overall numbers he is seeing.

But the governor said that the state was far from turning a corner. While there are indications of improvement, he said, he has also seen numbers in the last few days that still have him worried, including a rise in positive test results statewide and new cases in rural areas.

 

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