As the number of coronavirus deaths continues to surge in the U.S., officials are warning the disease could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans, even if people continue to stay home and limit their contact with others.
Experts made the prediction at a Tuesday media briefing with President Donald Trump. But they said they hope the figure won’t soar that high if everyone does their part to prevent the virus from spreading.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” said Trump, who also extended social distancing guidelines until April 30. “We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks.”
The U.S. recorded a big daily jump of 26,000 new cases, bringing the total to more than 189,000. The death toll leaped to over 4,000, including more than 1,000 in New York City.
Worldwide, more than 850,000 people have been infected and over 42,000 have died, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Italy and Spain accounted for half of all the deaths.
Some people have chosen to ignore social distancing guidelines.
The projections presented at the White House media briefing suggested that, if no social distancing measures had been put in place across the country, between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people would have died.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, who is helping to lead the U.S. effort, said, “As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it.”
New York was the nation’s deadliest hot spot, with about 1,550 deaths statewide. Most of those were in New York City, which braced for things to get much worse in the coming weeks. Refrigerated morgue trucks were parked on the streets to collect the dead.
A 1,000-bed emergency hospital set up at the mammoth Javits Convention Center began taking non-coronavirus patients to help relieve the city’s overwhelmed health system. And a Navy hospital ship with 1,000 beds was expected to accept patients soon.
“I’ve practiced emergency medicine for a long time, and I’m seeing things that I never could have imagined in terms of the things this virus can do to all ages, including people who were previously healthy,” said Dr. Eric Wei of the city’s hospital agency.
Meanwhile, two ships carrying passengers and crew from an ill-fated South American cruise are urging Florida officials to let them dock. Dozens aboard have reported flu-like symptoms, and four people have died. Two of the deaths have been blamed on COVID-19, and nine people have tested positive.
Gov. Ron DeSantis says Florida’s health care resources are already stretched too thin. Trump said he would speak with DeSantis and “do what’s right.”