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Experts project as many as 214 million Americans could become infected, and up to 1.7 million could die

Last updated on March 23, 2020

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Those are the worst-case scenarios that experts are forecasting, but even scaled back numbers that account for the protective measures that are being implemented are still grim. Meanwhile, experts say the reason the numbers aren’t higher in the U.S. is because of a lack of testing, not because the virus isn’t here and circulating.

The New York Times: The Worst-Case Estimate For U.S. Coronavirus Deaths Between 160 million and 214 million people in the U.S. could be infected over the course of the epidemic, according to one projection. That could last months or even over a year, with infections concentrated in shorter periods, staggered across time in different communities, experts said. As many as 200,000 to 1.7 million people could die. And, the calculations based on the C.D.C.’s scenarios suggested, 2.4 million to 21 million people in the U.S. could require hospitalization, potentially crushing the nation’s medical system, which has only about 925,000 staffed hospital beds. Fewer than a tenth of those are for people who are critically ill. (Fink, 3/13)

PBS NewsHour: The Reason U.S. COVID-19 Numbers Aren’t Higher? Not Enough Tests Compared to the number of people who have been tested for COVID-19 in China, Japan, and South Korea, the U.S. has so far tested “only a tiny fraction,” said Dr. Lawrence Gostin, global health law professor at Georgetown University who also directs the World Health Organization Collaborating Center on National & Global Health Law. “We are likely to have much more testing capacity in the coming weeks, but it may be too little, too late.” (Santhanam, 3/12)

The New York Times: How The World’s Largest Coronavirus Outbreaks Are Growing Milan, Italy. Daegu, South Korea. Qom, Iran. Many of the world’s largest coronavirus outbreaks took root in and around well-traveled cities, but they have since grown to encompass entire countries. Cases have spread across Italy’s north and down to Rome, leading to a lockdown of the entire country. Iran’s capital, where leaders dismissed the virus just two weeks ago, has seen thousands infected. And cases continue to surge across Europe. (Singhvi, McCann, Wu and Migliozzi, 3/12)

The Washington Post: Coronavirus Curve Shows Much Of Europe Could Face Italy-Like Surge Within Weeks Some of the world’s top experts tracking the spread of the coronavirus predict that in a matter of weeks, much of Europe could be facing a similar surge in cases that has locked down Italy, overwhelmed its hospitals in the north and brought the country of 60 million to a standstill. The mathematical models developed by epidemiologists to track the virus show a sharp trajectory of infections in Spain, Germany, France and Britain. The modelers in Europe say a similar arc is likely in the United States, but anticipating the spread is made more difficult by the lack of widespread testing of suspected cases there. (Morris and Booth, 3/13) This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.

Kaiser Health News is a nonprofit news service covering health issues. It is an editorially independent program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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