Fauci: ‘It’s within our power’ to avoid projected deaths

Author: ason Hanna and Christina Maxouris, CNN
An elderly lady walks across the usually busy Columbus Drive that splits Chicago’s Grant Park in half, on the first work day since Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker gave a shelter in place order on Monday, March 23, 2020. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The nation’s top infectious disease expert stressed Thursday the US can still defy alarming projections of coronavirus deaths with aggressive measures — even as scientists warn the White House that simple exhaling may be enough to spread the virus.

Models had shown that the US death toll could be at least 100,000 with aggressive social distancing, White House experts said earlier, and as high as 2.2 million without them.

But, “it’s within our power to modify those numbers,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told “CBS This Morning” on Thursday.

“If you really push hard on mitigation … you can modify the model,” Fauci said. “We need to push and push with the mitigation to try and get that number lower than the projected number.”

As of Thursday morning, more than 216,700 people in the US have been infected and at least 5,148 have died, according to Johns Hopkins University statistics. Over 920 of those deaths were reported Wednesday — the highest number reported in the country since the beginning of the outbreak.

Fauci’s comments come after a prestigious scientific panel told the White House Wednesday night that coronavirus can be spread not just by sneezes and coughs, but also by talking or maybe even just breathing.

“While the current [coronavirus] specific research is limited, the results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing,” according to a letter written by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, chairman of a committee with the National Academy of Sciences.

With the CDC estimating 25% of coronavirus carriers have no symptoms, health officials like Fauci have said they’re considering whether to recommend the general public wear non-hospital-grade masks to prevent the virus’s spread.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti on Wednesday recommended that people there wear non-medical-grade masks, or face coverings like bandanas when they’re in public.

“Please do not get medical-grade or surgical masks, or N95 masks. We must not contribute to the shortage of these essential personal protective equipment for medical personnel and first responders,” he said.

Other developments Thursday:

• About 6.6 million US workers filed for their first week of unemployment benefits last week, data released Thursday shows — a new historic high. That’s double the record from a week earlier: 3.3 million.

• More than 2,000 ventilators in the federal stockpile are unavailable for deployment because they weren’t maintained while in storage, according to The New York Times.

• More than 110 sailors from USS Theodore Roosevelt, now at port in Guam, have tested positive for coronavirus, according to a US defense official. Some of the sailors from the Roosevelt will be quarantined in hotel rooms in Guam.

‘What are you waiting for?’ California governor says to states without stay-at-home orders
More than 96% of the US population lives in jurisdictions with general “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders. Most governors issued them statewide, and many counties and cities have them where statewide orders aren’t in place.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who in March became the first governor to issue a statewide order, argued that every state needed one.

“What are you waiting for? What more evidence do you need?” he said Wednesday “If you think it’s not going to happen to you, there are proof points all over the United States, all over the world.”

President Donald Trump said Wednesday he would not issue a national stay-at-home order because different states have different infection rates.

“You have to look — you have to give a little flexibility. If you have a state in the Midwest, or if Alaska, for example, doesn’t have a problem, it’s awfully tough to say close it down. We have to have a little bit of flexibility,” he said.

Up to 16,000 New Yorkers could die, governor says

In hard-hit New York, Gov. Andrew Cuomo ordered all non-essential workers home last month.

On Wednesday, he cited a model that showed as many as 16,000 New Yorkers could die from the virus.

“If you believe these numbers, 16,000 deaths in New York, that means you’re going to have tens of thousands of deaths outside of New York,” the governor said. “So to the extent people watch their nightly news in Kansas and say, well this is a New York problem, that’s not what these numbers say.”

“It says it’s a New York problem today. Tomorrow it’s a Kansas problem and a Texas problem and a New Mexico problem. That’s why I say to my fellow governors and elected officials across this country, look at us today, see yourself tomorrow,” he said.

New York, now the epicenter of the outbreak, has reported at least 84,025 cases and 2,219 deaths. At least 45,707 of those infections and 1,374 of the deaths are in New York City.

This week, the Federal Emergency Management Agency sent hundreds of ambulances, EMTs and paramedics to New York City to help assist first responders.

Emergency medical services received a record number of emergencies each day, with a 50% increase over normal daily call volume, the New York City Fire Department said in a news release.

On Tuesday alone, FDNY EMS responded to 6,010 medical calls, Jim Long, a spokesperson for the department, told CNN.

Medical care workers say walking inside the city’s hospitals is like stepping into a war zone.

New York City hospitals still need 3.3 million N-95 masks, 2.1 million surgical masks, 100,000 isolation gowns and 400 ventilators by Sunday, Mayor Bill de Blasio said Wednesday.

Test that could identify those who have virus may be ready this month

Doctors and nurses across the country have spoken out about the difficulty of helping an increasing number of COVID-19 patients with dwindling amounts of protective equipment, ventilators and beds.

Many hospitals have warned they’re running out of space and supplies. In Georgia, Gov. Brian Kemp said on the first day of April at least 3,520 medical surgery beds, 450 hospital beds and 1,006 ventilators were available. But he cited one study that showed the state could reach “peak hospital capacity” in about three weeks.

And healthcare experts also say staffing shortages as medical care workers test positive for the virus could slow the country’s response to patients.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response coordinator, said Wednesday a coronavirus antibody test could be available “within this month” — which could help medical care workers identify who may have immunity to the virus.

“I’ve really called on every university and every state to develop ELISAs, you can buy the antigens and the controls online, and really work to test entire health care communities in your state and support them that way.”

The ELISA, or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay, detects and measures antibodies in blood. If successful, the test could help identify those who have already had the virus, but have since recovered.

Experts have said that if a person has had the virus and developed antibodies, it will most likely mean they have built up immunity and the chances of that person being infected again drops dramatically.

That test could help identify medical workers who may have had the coronavirus and not known it, Birx said.

“I think really being able to tell them, the peace of mind that would come from knowing you already were infected, you have the antibody, you are safe from reinfection 99.9% of the time, ” she said.

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