President Donald Trump during the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing March 31. (Video screen shot)

The president and top federal officials delivered grim news to the American public in no uncertain terms yesterday: the best-case scenario for the coronavirus pandemic in the United States would mean the deaths of 100,000 to 240,000 Americans in the next few weeks.

That best-case scenario requires Americans across the country to work together to stop the spread of the deadly pathogen.

“If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities,” Dr. Deborah Birx, who is leading the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said this week.

“Almost perfectly” means strict adherence to social restrictions nationwide that will continue to crush the U.S. economy at every level.

President Trump on Monday announced the extension through April 30 of social distancing guidelines. The federal guidelines are not mandatory and more than a dozen states as of yesterday had not implemented any stay-at-home order. Health officials say staying at home is the best way to slow the spread of the virus, especially since as many as 25% of the people infected with it may have no symptoms but can still transmit the virus to others, according to the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The virus that causes the disease is transmitted through droplets expelled by coughing and sneezing. People can become infected by inhaling the droplets or touching contaminated surfaces and then touching their own mouth, nose or eyes. See CDC fact sheet.

The toll of the virus in the U.S. can be much worse than the projections discussed by the White House Coronavirus Task Force if social distancing measures are not implemented and followed, Birx said.

The task force said the pandemic’s death toll is expected to peak in two weeks nationally.

LIVE UPDATES: Coronavirus coverage, closings and cancellations.

The president during the task force briefing yesterday at the White House called on “every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead.”

“We’re going to go through a very tough two weeks,” Trump said, warning “this is going to be a very painful, very, very painful two weeks.”

Birx said the task force’s independent analysis of epidemiological models and the evidence of the virus spread in U.S. to date, led it to conclusions that mirror those of researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle.

The IHME team, led by Dr. Christopher Murray, has assembled and published online a database that shows the projected state-by-state impacts of the virus: infections, deaths and the date of peak resource demand (hospital beds and ICU beds). IHME released a report of its findings March 26. See: “As coronavirus cases surge, new research projects N.Y. death toll could exceed 10,000 by end of April” (March 27)

“Nationwide, a total of 83,967 COVID-19 deaths (range of 36,614 to 152,582) are currently projected to occur through the epidemic’s first wave,” IHME said in an update yesterday.

Deaths will peak on April 15, with 2,214 deaths per day nationally (a range of 1,106 to 3,321 deaths per day), according to the researchers. It could be the end of June before COVID-19 deaths fall to under 100 per day, according to the IHME analysis.

“These estimates assume that currently enacted social distancing policies remain in place and also that social distances measures are introduced within seven days from today in states that have not already adopted them,” the institute said in the update.

IHME graph showing actual data and projections of deaths per day in New York State.

According to the IHME modeling, New York State’s peak resource use is forecast to be April 9. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said modeling being relied on by the state is still projecting the peak of the outbreak to be two weeks away.

The IHME analysis says New York will need 75,224 hospital beds including 11,621 ICU beds on the peak resource date — leaving the state tens of thousands of beds short, even with the efforts is has made and continues to make to expand hospital capacity. IHME estimates New York will need 9,294 ventilators on the peak date.

IHME projects 16,041 COVID-19 deaths in New York State by May 1 — topping out at 16,090 by May 10.

The research projects there will be more than 500 deaths per day in New York from April 3 through April 18, reaching a peak of more than 800 deaths per day at the apex of the outbreak, the four days from April 8 through April 12. There were 332 deaths in New York yesterday, up from 253 the day before. That is more than a five-fold increase over the deaths per day a week earlier.

The COVID-19 death toll in New York soared past 1,700 yesterday.

Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone yesterday reported nine more COVID-19 deaths yesterday bringing he county’s total to 53.

Bellone said yesterday there were 6,713 confirmed cases of the disease in Suffolk, with 708 COVID patients hospitalized (up 107 from March 30) and 229 of those in intensive care units, he said. See town-by-town breakdown.

New York closed down all non-essential businesses and services on March 20 and issued a stay-at-home order in place on March 22.

New York State, Suffolk County and town officials have repeatedly urged residents to stay home and adhere to New York’s social distancing and non-essential business rules. Violations should be reported by calling 311, Bellone said.

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Denise Civiletti
Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.