Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force and the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a virtual audience this week that they should not be surprised if the coronavirus casualty count ends up being near 400,000 by the end of the winter season.
Fauci was discussing the matter and other coronavirus-related topics during an event hosted by American University on Tuesday.
“The models tell us if we don’t do what we need to in the fall and winter, we could have 300,000-400,000 #COVID19 deaths,” the university quoted Fauci as saying during the event.
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The potential cost of life doesn’t have to be that high, Fauci said, implying that, if proper precautions are taken, many lives could be saved between now and then.
“Maybe 50 percent of you hate me because you think I’m trying to destroy the country,” Fauci said, referring to a number of Americans, mostly Republicans, who have shifted their views on him in recent months. “But listen to me for six weeks or so, and do what I say, and you’ll see the numbers go down.”
Fauci has long been an advocate of social distancing measures put forward by health experts like himself, including urging people to wear masks when they’re out and about, keeping six feet apart from others, and only going out in public spaces when it is necessary to do so.
The infectious diseases expert’s predictions on the potential death count by the end of winter are consistent with other health predictors, including the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model, which has been cited by the White House in the past. According to that model, the total number of American deaths from coronavirus could reach between 337,000 and 392,000 by January 1 of next year.
However, IHME also has a “universal mask projection” model, which estimates how many deaths may come about if everyone wore masks or facial coverings in a consistent way. According to those estimates, the total COVID-19 death tally by January 1 could be reduced to somewhere between 261,000 to 299,000.
The model further notes that, if nearly everyone in the U.S. wore masks, the projected daily death count in the country would be reduced by as much as 59 percent versus projections under current conditions where not everyone follows the stated health guidelines.
Trump’s ideas on coronavirus, however, stand in stark comparison to Fauci’s concerned views. The president, for instance, wrongly suggested on Tuesday morning (the day after he returned from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center where he received state-of-the-art medical care for COVID) that the virus was no worse than the flu, adding that “we are learning to live with Covid.”
The president’s comments are inconsistent with what he told journalist Bob Woodward in February, when he described the disease as being far deadlier than the flu.
As of Wednesday morning, the U.S. has over 7 million confirmed cases and more than 215,000 Americans have died from COVID-19 since the beginning of March.