The United States could record 100,000 to 200,000 deaths and millions of infections, according to current but rapidly evolving projections, White House coronavirus task force member Anthony S. Fauci said Sunday.
Appearing on CNN’s “State of the Union,” Fauci offered that estimate reluctantly, cautioning the figures are a “moving target” that will be heavily affected by ever-changing factors, including the intensity of isolation and testing measures.
He noted the scientific models that calculate projected death or infection totals are “only as good and as accurate as your assumptions.” Because of that, he said, the estimate “could easily be wrong.”
Fauci’s comments came as another prominent member of the task force, Deborah Birx, offered a similarly grim assessment on another morning show: “No state, no metro area, will be spared.”
With confirmed cases surging in New York — and new hot spots rapidly developing in Detroit, New Orleans and other parts of the country — Birx said on NBC News’s “Meet the Press” that state and local officials should act now to inventory supplies and prepare for the eventuality that the outbreak could wreak similar havoc on their communities.
“Every metro area should assume they could have an outbreak equivalent to New York,” Birx said. By the time these regions see an influx of patients in their intensive care units, she added, it is likely the virus would have “been spreading from days to weeks.”
To that end, she repeatedly dodged questions about the White House’s response — including the extent to which the federal government might take over procurement for much-needed medical supplies at a moment when state officials say they are competing against one another for masks and ventilators.
Asked about her recommendation for reopening the country, given Trump’s proposed Easter target date, Birx said she wanted to “share it with the president and vice president first.”
Fauci, however, expressed doubt such a timeline was plausible.
“My own opinion, looking at the way things are, I doubt if that would be the case,” he said, while stressing the conversation was ongoing and any decision would be made by the task force. “If we need to push the date forward, we’ll push the date forward.”
Ultimately, reopening parts of life that have shut down amid strict distancing measures in many places will depend on the availability of rapid testing, Fauci said.
“When we get those tests out that you can do right away — rapid point of care — then I think we’re going to be closer,” he said. “To put a timeline on it, it’s going to be a matter of weeks; it’s not going to be tomorrow, and it’s not going to be next week. It’s going to be a little bit more than that.”