Dr Anthony Fauci, the leading US government infectious disease expert, offered a grim prediction Sunday: nationwide coronavirus deaths could number in the hundreds of thousands.
“I mean, looking at what we’re seeing now, I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases. But I don’t want to be held to that, because it’s – excuse me – deaths,” Fauci said Sunday morning on CNN’s State of the Union. “But I – I just don’t think that we really need to make a projection, when it’s such a moving target, that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people.”
Host Jake Tapper also asked Fauci about Trump’s discussion of quarantining New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Trump ultimately abandoned his “enforceable quarantine” idea in favor of a strong advisory urging residents of these states not to engage in non-essential travel.
“We had very intensive discussions last night at the White House with the president. As you know, the original proposal was to consider seriously an enforceable quarantine. After discussions with the president, we made it clear, and he agreed, that it would be much better to do what’s called a strong advisory,” Fauci said. “And the reason for that is that you don’t want to get to the point where you’re being – enforcing things that would create a bigger difficulty, morale and otherwise, when you could probably accomplish the same goal.”
“One of the issues is that the infection rate in New York City, in the New York City area, is about 56% of all of the new infections in the country are coming from that area. That’s terrible suffering for the people of New York, which I feel myself personally, as a New Yorker,” Fauci said.
“So what was trying to be done is to get people, unless there’s necessary travel, so, all nonessential travel, to just hold off, because what you don’t want is people traveling from that area to other areas of the country, and inadvertently and innocently infecting other individuals,” he continued.
“We felt the better part of – way to do this would be an advisory, as opposed to a very strict quarantine. And the president agreed. And that’s why he made that determination last night. And I believe he tweeted it out last night.”
Dr Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said on NBC’s Meet The Press that Covid-19 would impact the entire US.
“We’ve been raising the alert in all metro areas and in all states. No state, no metro area will be spared,” she said.
“The sooner we react, and the sooner the states and the metro areas react and ensure that they put in full mitigation, at the same time understanding exactly what their hospitals need,” Birx continued, “then we’ll be able to move forward together and protect the most Americans”.
Fauci and Birx’s comments this morning stand in contrast with Trump’s previous expressions of optimism.
His statements suggesting that parts of the US could reopen by Easter conflict with public health officials, as well as state and local authorities, who have repeatedly emphasized that things are poised to get far worse, not better, in the near future.