National Distancing Extended to April 30, Experts Anticipate US COVID-19 Deaths to Peak Around Easter
President Donald Trump today said he anticipates the peak of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States to happen in two weeks and is calling for an extension of national social distancing guidelines to April 30, 2020.
President Trump referent to models put together by healthcare experts saying they demonstrate that the mitigation measures that are being put into place will “significantly reduce the number of new infections and ultimately the number of fatalities.” During a Sunday press conference he said, “I want the American people to know that selfless, inspiring and valiant efforts are saving countless lives.”
“The modeling estimates that the peak in death rate is most likely to hit in two weeks,” said President Trump. “Nothing would be worse than declaring victory before the victory is won. That would be the greatest loss of all,” he said.
He urged the public to strongly follow national guidelines in the coming weeks saying, “The better you do, the faster this whole nightmare will end. Therefore, we will be extending our guidelines to April 30 to slow the spread.”
On Tuesday, The White House will be finalizing the plans and providing a summary of findings supporting data and strategy to the American people.
“We can expect that by June 1 we will be well on our way to recovery,” said President Trump. “I want every citizen in our country to take heart and confidence in the fact that we have the best medical minds in the world tackling this disease. We have the best science, the best researchers and the best talent anywhere working night and day to protect your family and loved ones and to overcome this pandemic.”
White House coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx expressed concerns with current models that show a rapid escalation in cases and deaths. “We have deep concerns about that. We’re meeting and we’ve had calls with clinicians and that has been extraordinarily helpful,” said Birx in Sunday’s press conference.
Dr. Birx noted what she called a “large confidence interval,” in the model produced by Christopher Murray, Professor, IHME Director, Chair, Department of Health Metrics Sciences. “And so, it’s anywhere in the model between 80,000 and 160,000, maybe even potentially 200,000 people succumbing to this–that’s with mitigation. In that model, they make full assumption that we continue doing exactly what we are doing–but even better–in every metro area with a level of intensity, because we’re hoping that the models are not completely right. That we can do better than what the predictions are,” said Dr. Birx.
She noted that the US has a different population than Italy or Spain, saying the US population is about eight or nine years younger. “And so, because of that, our doctors and our nurses are getting information back really quickly so that they can talk to each other about how to really combat this. We’re seeing things here that weren’t reported in other countries,” she said.
“We know still, the people with pre-existing conditions and the elderly are at particularly high risk, but we don’t want to lose any American. That’s why I think the president came to the conclusion that at a minimum we have to continue what we have been doing–but even better. To every metro area out there, we have to do better,” said Dr. Birx.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases spoke at The White House press conference this afternoon providing some additional insight.
“At the risk of offending my modeling colleagues, models are good, but models often generate the kind of anxious question that you asked, is how bad could this possibly get. As I’ve said many many times, a model is as good as the assumptions that you put into the model,” said Dr. Fauci.
He said that very often, many of these assumptions are based on a complexity of issues, that aren’t necessarily the same from one county to the other. “So when you give a model, you have the worst extreme (and) you have the best extreme.”
He explained further, “Often the worst extreme means that you don’t do anything. If you go to the lower end, that means you actually mitigated really to the utmost. So what I like to do as a scientist, a physician, a public health official, is to not ignore models, but say look at the data as its evolving and do everything you possibly can to mitigate that.”
Dr. Fauci concluded saying, “Instead of getting overly anxious, at the extremes of the model–and not to push them aside completely, but the reason the president made the announcement today about going to the end of April is because we want to make sure that we don’t prematurely think we’re going so great.”
The Hawaiʻi Department of Health reports that nationwide, there are 122,653 cases (19,332 new). Total deaths in the US now stand at 2,112 (444 new). The information provided represents cumulative totals as of 12 p.m. on March 29, 2020.
As of noon on Sunday, March 29, 2020, the state total count of positive coronavirus cases was 175, including 11 new cases on Oʻahu; 1 new case on Kauaʻi; 2 new cases on Hawaiʻi Island; 4 new cases on Maui; and 6 cases pending residency determination. Maui’s island count is now at 20.