As the U.S. braces for what health experts and President Donald Trump say will be an especially devastating week in the nation’s battle against the novel coronavirus, “positive signs” are emerging in some of the areas hardest hit by the virus.
While Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, was quick to caution that the U.S. still has much work to do amid this public health emergency, he pointed to “good signs” from New York, citing data saying the numbers of hospitalizations, ICU admissions and requirements for intubations over the last three days have started to level off.
“Everybody who knows me know I’m very conservative about making projections, but those are the kind of good signs that you look for,” Fauci said during Monday’s coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. “You never even begin to think about claiming victory prematurely, but that’s the first thing you see when you start to see the turnaround.”
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Fauci stressed the importance of continued mitigation and social distancing.
“That tells me — instead of saying, ‘Hmm, that’s pretty good’ — it’s we got there through mitigation. We cut off the stream of people who, ultimately, required hospitalization, required intubation, required all of the kinds of extreme methods,” he said.
“So, we’ve just got to realize that this is an indication, despite all the suffering, and the death that has occurred, that what we have been doing has been working. So, the call that I say every time I get to this podium is just keep it up. Because this is gonna get us out of it. This is our best and only great public health tool.”
Dr. Deborah Birx said she and others are starting to see the impact of the social distancing measures being enacted nationwide, “But we have to do even more right now because that will predict where we are two or three weeks from now.”
There were nearly 11,000 deaths and more than 368,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus in the U.S. late Monday night, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
Birx said she and Fauci believe “if we work as hard as we can over the next several weeks that we will see potential to go under the numbers that were predicted by the models.”
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Fauci said he believes the country can get under the 100,000 to 200,000 deaths predicted by models as recently as last week, with Birx crediting “the extraordinary compliance of the American people.”
A group of leaders in states hit hard by the spread of coronavirus said Monday they were seeing positive signs. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said deaths and hospitalizations showed signs of “plateauing,” though he added hospitals are still at maximum capacity.
Governors in Louisiana and Washington also provided promising updates. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said his state will return more than 400 ventilators received from the Strategic National Stockpile. In Louisiana, Gov. John Bel Edwards said the state may have reached its peak of coronavirus infections.
“I don’t think anyone has every mitigated the way I’ve seen people mitigate right now,” Fauci said. “This has never happened in this country before. So, I am optimistic — always cautiously optimistic — that if we do what I’ve been talking about over the past few minutes, we can make that number go down.
“I don’t accept, every day, that we’re going to have to have 100,000 to 200,000 deaths. I think we can really bring that down, no matter what a model says.”
Contributing: Greg Hilburn, Monroe (La.) News-Star.