Coronavirus could kill 200K in US, White House task force warns

National pandemic mitigation efforts to remain in place through April

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The figurative “light at the end of the tunnel” should appear in the next two weeks, President Trump said Tuesday, but it’s essential for Americans to continue following new national guidelines to slow the spread of the coronavirus over the next 30 days. And hundreds of thousands could die in the meantime, White House officials said.

“I know our citizens will rise to the occasion,” Trump said. “They already have sacrificed a lot.”

The White House coronavirus task force is advising people to work and attend school from home if possible; avoid social gatherings; don’t eat or drink out and only use drive-thru, delivery or takeout options; avoid discretionary travel and do not visit nursing homes or retirement communities.

President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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The virus’s death rate in the U.S. hit 2 percent, compared to 1.3 percent a week ago, according to a FOX News analysis of Johns Hopkins University data. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the National Institutes of Health infectious disease expert, warned that the situation could appear to worsen over the next week or so, but new cases will eventually slow, and then hospitalizations and deaths will follow.

“We cannot be discouraged by that, because the mitigation is actually going to work,” he said.

There have already been “inklings” of progress in New York, the hardest-hit state, according to Fauci. There were more than 75,000 cases 1,550 deaths in New York as of Tuesday. But other states like Washington and California, which were quicker to institute virus mitigations, have been more successful so far.

“Now is the time, whenever you’re having an effect, not to take your foot off the accelerator and on the brake, and to continue on the accelerator,” Fauci said.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the task force infectious disease adviser, said university researchers’ estimates put the number of deaths in the U.S. at as high as 2 million if the virus went unmitigated, and between 100,000 and 200,000 if it is mitigated. Officials are now using a more detailed model that’s updated daily with the latest data, and they’re hoping mass cooperation will lower the number of deaths.

Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator, speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Press Briefing Room of the White House, Tuesday. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

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“It’s very much focused on the next two weeks and the stark reality of what this virus will do as it moves through communities,” Birx said.

It’s important that everyone follows the social distancing guidelines, even people living in communities that have not yet been hit as hard as others like New York, according to Birx.

“It’s communities that will do this,” she said. “There’s no magic bullet.”

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In the meantime, Trump said the government has been distributing supplies like ventilators to states and been sending military and FEMA personnel to establish field hospitals in New York, California, Louisiana and Michigan.

The president also praised the health care workers who have been on the front lines of combating the virus, describing doctors and nurses heading into a hospital “like military people going into battle.”

“They’re very brave,” Trump said.

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