President Donald Trump and his top healthcare advisers urged Americans on Tuesday to follow strict social distancing measures ahead of a “tough two weeks” in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, which could see at least 100,000 deaths in the United States.
“It’s absolutely critical for the American people to follow the guidelines for the next 30 days. It’s a matter of life and death,” Trump said during a news conference at the White House, adding the next two weeks would be “very, very painful.”
White House coronavirus coordinator Deborah Birx displayed charts demonstrating data and modeling that showed an enormous jump in deaths to a range of 100,000 to 240,000 people from the virus in the coming months.
Trump said 2.2 million people could die, according to the modeling, if no mitigation efforts had been put into place. He cited those high projections when announcing on Sunday that he planned to extend the federal guidelines rather than pursuing his earlier stated desire to get the U.S. economy moving again by Easter on April 12.
“There’s no magic bullet. There’s no magic vaccine or therapy. It’s just behaviors: Each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days,” Birx told reporters, predicting a peak in deaths in the coming two weeks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who has said previously that the pandemic could kill between 100,000 and 200,000 people in the United States, said all efforts were being made to make those numbers lower.
Makeshift hospitals, ventilators and medical staff
The surging numbers of hospitalized patients caused by COVID-19, are putting U.S. healthcare systems under strain. The U.S. government raced on Tuesday to build hundreds of makeshift hospitals near major cities to ease the shortage.
So far, more than 3,873 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States during the outbreak, more than the number who died in the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The total confirmed U.S. cases rose to 188,000, up 25,000 from Monday.
Nearly half the fatalities were in New York state, the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio pleaded for reinforcements from the Trump administration. He asked Trump last week for military medical personnel to be deployed at the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Queens, where a field hospital was being hastily built.
Meanwhile, the state has placed an order for 17,000 ventilators from China for 25,000 dollars each, but it expects to get just 2,500. California, Illinois, the federal government and Italy also ordered the same ventilators.
De Blasio told reporters that he had asked the White House for an additional 1,000 nurses, 300 respiratory therapists and 150 doctors by Sunday.
The U.S. Army has also begun calling up members of the Individual Ready Reserve on a voluntary basis to help combat the spread of the novel coronavirus,
“On March 29, Human Resources Command sent messages regarding the voluntary recall to nearly 10,000 members of the (Individual Ready Reserve) with specific medical skills,” Lt. Col. Emmanuel Ortiz told CNN in a statement.
At present the Individual Ready Reserve contains 224,841 members, according to the Department of Defense.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was searching for hotels, dormitories, convention centers and large open spaces to build as many as 341 temporary hospitals, Lieutenant General Todd Semonite told ABC News.
The corps has already converted New York City’s Jacob Javits Convention Center into a 1,000-bed hospital in the space of a week.
In Los Angeles, the city’s massive convention center was being converted to a federal medical station by the National Guard, Mayor Gil Garcetti said on Twitter.
In California, the most populous U.S. state, the number of patients with the illness has surged over the past few days, with more than 7,400 cases confirmed as of Tuesday and 150 deaths.
Hawaii reported its first death from COVID-19 on Tuesday, leaving Wyoming as the only U.S. state yet to suffer a fatality from the disease.
A Dutch cruise ship with confirmed cases of the virus and four fatalities on board sought permission to dock in Florida, despite comments by Governor Ron DeSantis that the state could not afford to take on any additional patients.
The pandemic has taken a toll on doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, who are overworked and lack the medical devices and protective gear needed.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said he would “lean towards” recommending that the general public wear face masks “if we do not have the problem of taking away masks from the health care workers who need them.”
Congress debated whether to consider another economic relief bill after passing a landmark 2.2-trillion U.S. dollar package that will send checks to taxpayers, inject cash into businesses and fund hospitals.
(With input from Reuters)