Coronavirus: Trump warns that the US faces ‘a very tough two weeks’

Top public health official says as many as 200,000 Americans are projected to die from coronavirus outbreak

White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Debbie Birx with president Donald Trump and Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the daily taskforce briefing. Photograph: Getty Images

White House coronavirus response co-ordinator Debbie Birx with president Donald Trump and Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, during the daily taskforce briefing. Photograph: Getty Images

 

US president Donald Trump warned Americans the country faces “a very tough two weeks” as the number of infections and deaths from the coronavirus outbreak climb.

“This is going to be a painful two weeks,” 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 Deborah Birx, the top public health official coordinating the coronavirus task force, said 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 Birx revealed was the same information that propelled Trump to retreat from ambitions to urge Americans back to work by Easter.

Trump said he envisioned some of the practices – such as refraining from shaking hands – as lasting “long into the future.”

Birx and Anthony Fauci, the leading scientists on the White House 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.

Dramatic spike

The latest projection from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation predicts the death toll will dramatically spike in April from roughly 4,500 to almost 60,000 people – even with the isolation measures in place around the country. The study indicates the pace of deaths will plateau in May and June and eventually total almost 84,000 by the first week of August. By April 15th, when the death count is expected to peak, more than 2,200 Americans will die of the disease a day, according to the model.

Trump and Birx pointed to the University of Washington study on a call with governors on Monday. The projections assume “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 that exist in New York, California, Washington and other virus hotspots.

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.

Trump said 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. – Bloomberg