U.S. Coronavirus Cases Jump 40% Overnight As Health Officials Brace For Potential Influx Of Patients

Coronavirus Testing in Somerville

Medical professionals work in the coronavirus testing tent at Somerville Hospital in Massachusetts.

Photo by David L. Ryan/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Topline: The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the U.S. continues to grow, jumping over 40% to more than 9,400 as of Thursday morning, as officials prepare for a range of forecasts in the number of people who could possibly need medical attention as a result of the virus.

  • As of Wednesday morning there were more than 6,500 cases in the U.S., according to data from Johns Hopkins University; as of Thursday morning, over 9,400 cases were reported, an increase of over 40%.
  • Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, had warned Wednesday that the number of confirmed cases would increase as more tests were performed.
  • CNN reported Thursday that it had obtained a 100-page federal government report that said officials are preparing for the pandemic to last 18 months or longer and cause “multiple waves of illness.”
  • According to a Friday New York Times report, the Centers for Disease Control created four forecasts of how the virus could impact the American healthcare system, with one forecast showing as many as 21 million people possibly needing hospitalization.
  • These forecasts—referred to as models by the scientific community—should be treated with caution, according to Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, who told Congress on March 12 that “all models are as good as the assumptions that you put into the model.”
  • Containment and mitigation will determine the total number of cases in the U.S., according to Fauci.

Big number: According to the CDC forecasts obtained by the Times, between 160 million and 214 million people could be infected by coronavirus, causing between 200,000 to 1.7 million deaths. The Times reported that behavioral changes, such as testing, tracing contacts for confirmed patients and stopping gatherings of people (including working from home and mass travel) can lower the forecasted numbers.

Crucial quote: “Even as important is that [Americans] have a responsibility, a society responsibility, to protect the vulnerable,” Fauci told CNN Wednesday night, adding, “And you do that, interestingly, by not letting yourself get infected, because you need to make sure that you don’t inadvertently pass on the infection to someone who would not fare as well as you.”

Key background: The coronavirus pandemic has upended American life and tanked the economy, sparking a wave of unemployment as businesses shutter and people stay home to prevent the spread of the disease. As of Thursday, 140 people have died in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University data. President Trump, whose administration has been heavily criticized for its response to the outbreak, signed into law on Wednesday a coronavirus relief bill that includes free testing and paid sick leave, among other measures. State officials are working to prepare for an influx of patients, with New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday telling his brother, CNN’s Chris Cuomo, “They all talk about flattening the curve. I don’t see a curve. I see a wave. And the wave is going to break on the healthcare system…it is going to be a tsunami.”

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