Donald Trump on Tuesday said the US coronavirus death toll could quickly reach almost a quarter of a million people as the president warned Americans to prepare for a “very, very painful two weeks”.
“This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before,” Trump said at a White House press conference Tuesday. White House officials are projecting between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S. with coronavirus fatalities peaking over the next two weeks. “When you look at night, the kind of death that has been caused by this invisible enemy, it’s incredible.”
The release of the government projections marked something of a turning point for the White House, which until recently had shied away from the most dire predictions and had suggested the country could return to normality in a matter of days.
In a sign of how seriously Mr Trump had taken the data — which aides said formed the basis of his decision to extend federal lockdown recommendations — he repeatedly ceded the White House podium to his two medical experts and listened intently.
“I’m tired of being behind this virus. We’ve been behind this virus from day one,” the governor said in Albany. “We underestimated this virus. It’s more powerful, it’s more dangerous than we expected.”
Trump, who grew up near New York City’s Elmhurst hospital in Queens, said no one can believe officials are setting up refrigerator trucks as temporary mortuaries outside the hospital. Trump said New York “got a late start” in rolling out its mitigation efforts.
Deborah Birx, a physician who is coordinating the White House coronavirus task force, delivered a slide-show marking a stark difference in the spread of the virus in New York and New Jersey, where the number of cases has spiked, and in the other 48 states and the District.
Birx said the federal government’s goal over the next month is to control the outbreak in New York and New Jersey while staving off outbreaks in other states and metropolitan areas.
“If you had more New Yorks and New Jerseys — you know, Chicago, Detroit, L.A., Dallas, Houston, all of our major cities modeled like New York — that’s what gets us into trouble,” she said.
The death projections “are very sobering, and when you see 100,000 people, and that’s a minimum,” Trump said. “A hundred thousand is, according to modeling, a very low number.” The death toll would be even higher without any mitigation measures with some estimates as high as 2.2 million fatalities, Trump said.
“This is not the flu,” Trump said. He said some executives with “great common sense” suggested that the U.S. “ride it out” and not do mitigation. “This is not to be ridden out.”
Coronavirus Outbreak in the United States
The coronavirus death toll surged past 4,000 in the United States on Tuesday, eclipsing the total from the 9/11 terror attacks as New York City traded “Ground Zero” for “epicenter.”
The United States had more than 189,500 confirmed cases late Tuesday night, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard. Worldwide, more than 858,000 people have been infected with the virus and more than 42,100 have died.
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