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Dr. Fauci estimates 100k-200k Americans could die from coronavirus

President Donald J. Trump listens as Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony S. Fauci delivers remarks during a coronavirus update briefing Sunday, March 29, 2020, in the Rose Garden at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)
March 30, 2020

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and one of the leading members on the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, said Sunday that the number of coronavirus deaths in the U.S. could hit a range of between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths.

Fauci said during an interview on CNN’s State of the Union that there could be millions of cases and between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the U.S. alone. Fauci raised the number with the caveat that such a projection is a “moving target” and there’s an easy chance of being wrong.

Fauci added further during a Sunday press briefing at the White House that the 100,000 to 200,000 deaths is a likely number of fatalities if mitigation efforts like social distancing are not kept in place.

“The number I gave out is, you know, based on modeling and I think it is entirely conceivable that if we do not mitigate to the extent that we’re trying to do, that you could reach that number,” Fauci said. “Yeah, it’s possible. You could make a big soundbite about it, but the fact is it’s possible. What we’re trying to do is not let that happen. So instead of concentrating on the upper and the lower, we’re saying that we’re trying to push it all the way down.”

Fauci’s comments at the White House came as President Trump announced an extension of social distancing guidelines through April 30. Fauci said he believes mitigation efforts are having an effect at slowing the transmission of the virus, though it can be difficult to quantify.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator for the White House coronavirus task force, discussed the death tolls further in an NBC interview Monday.

“If we do things together well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities,” Birx said. We don’t even want to see that.”

Birx said the best-case scenario is “100 percent of Americans doing precisely what is required” in the social distancing and mitigation efforts being discussed, but Birx said much of the uncertainty comes from how many people are actually following the guidelines and how closely they are adhering to social distancing practices.

“So we also have to factor that in,” Birx said. “Cities that don’t social distance, that don’t stay at home, that believe you can have social interactions, that believe you can have gatherings of homes of 20 and 10 people even, that is going to spread the virus, even if everyone looks well.”

Birx said the disease is dangerous because of the high number of asymptomatic and mild cases, where people show no signs of having the virus and people only take its transmission seriously once it has reached the most vulnerable parts of the population and its severity becomes visible.

“By the time you see [coronavirus cases], it has penetrated your community pretty significantly,” Birx warned.