Fauci says coronavirus deaths in US could top 100,000
NEW YORK - The coronavirus outbreak could kill 100,000 to 200,000 Americans, the U.S. government’s top infectious-disease expert warned on Sunday as smoldering hotspots in nursing homes and a growing list of stricken cities heightened the sense of dread across the country.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, made the dire prediction of fatalities on CNN, adding that millions in the U.S. could become infected.
By midafternoon, the U.S. had over 135,000 infections and 2,300 deaths, according to the running tally kept by Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases is thought to be considerably higher because of testing shortages and mild illnesses that have gone unreported.
Worldwide, more than 710,000 infections were reported, and deaths topped 33,000, half of them in Italy and Spain, where hospitals are swamped and the health system is at the breaking point.
New York State - where the death toll closed in on 1,000, up by more than 200 from the day before - remained the epicenter of the U.S. outbreak, with the vast majority of the deaths in New York City. But spikes in infections were recorded around the country, not only in metropolitan areas but in Midwestern towns and Rocky Mountain ski havens.
“This is not going to get better soon,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said.
The virus is moving fast through nursing homes, assisted living facilities and other places that house elderly or otherwise vulnerable people, spreading “like fire through dry grass,“ Cuomo said.
Since the U.S. saw its first major outbreak of the coronavirus earlier this month - centered at a nursing home in Kirkland, Washington - a stream of facilities have battled infections among residents and staff.
A week ago, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 147 nursing homes in 27 states had patients with COVID-19. The problem has only worsened since.
In Woodbridge, New Jersey, an entire nursing home relocated its residents after two dozen were confirmed infected and the rest were presumed to be. In Louisiana, at least 11 nursing homes, largely in the New Orleans area, have reported cases. In Mount Airy, Maryland, a death linked to the virus was recorded in a home where 66 people were confirmed infected.
Residents’ loved ones are being kept away to try to slow the spread of the virus.
“I have a feeling that I very likely may never see my mother again,” said James Preller, whose 94-year-old mother, Ann Preller, is a resident at Peconic Landing, a retirement community near Green Point on New York’s Long Island where seven have died in the past two weeks.
Brian Lee of Families for Better Care, an advocacy group for those living in long-term care facilities, said in a nursing home, “when we see an outbreak that’s uncontrolled, it’s practically a death sentence.” But he also said the way residents are being walled off from the outside world is as much of a concern as the virus itself.
In New York, the virus is overwhelming some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods, with data showing high rates of infection in densely packed areas with big non-English-speaking populations.
Dr. Craig Smith, who heads the surgery department at New York-Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Center, said the hospital will probably be forced into “apocalyptic scenarios” in the coming weeks in which ventilators and intensive care unit beds will need to be rationed.
“Yesterday tried my soul,” he wrote in an online posting.
Worry for the poorest was being echoed around the world.
In India, a lockdown covering the country’s 1.3 billion people has put untold numbers out of work and left many families struggling to feed themselves. Tens of thousands in New Delhi were forced to flee their homes, with no way to pay the rent, journeying back to their native villages. Women in saris held babies on their hips. Others toted their belongings in bags normally used for cement.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi apologized for the hardships that the lockdown brought but said, “These tough measures were needed to win this battle.”
Though the U.S. leads the world in reported cases, five other countries have higher death tolls: Italy, Spain, China, Iran and France.
Italy reported more than 750 new fatalities Sunday, bringing the country’s total to nearly 10,800. But the number of new infections showed signs of easing, with officials expressing cautious optimism that the most severe shutdown in the industrialized West is showing results.
Italy’s civil protection agency said more than 5,200 new cases were recorded in the last 24 hours, the lowest number in four days, for a total of almost 98,000 infections.