The White House, under pressure to level the peak of coronavirus infections, is pushing back against “frightening” high-end statistical modeling, one of which has nearly the entire planet catching the virus this year.
Dr. Deborah Birx, President Trump’s go-to expert at daily COVID-19 briefings, pointed to estimates that has 600,000 infections in the Chinese city of Wuhan and its surroundings, or that more than half of Germany will be infected.
“I know that it has become a place where people are looking at numbers rather than what is needed, because if you do these projections, when you got to those projections that said, like a Germany and others, that implied that 60 percent or 50 percent of the population would get infected, I want to be very clear,” Dr. Birx said at Wednesday’s briefing. “The only way that happens is this virus remains continuously moving through populations in this cycle, and the fall cycle, and another cycle.
She added, “I think the numbers that have been put out there are actually very frightening to people. But I can tell you, if you go back and look at Wuhan and Hubei and all of these provinces, when they talk about 60,000 people being infected, even if you said, all right, well, there’s asymptomatics and all of that, so you get to 600,000 people out of 80 million.
“That is nowhere close to the numbers that you see people putting out there. I think it has frightened the American people. I think on a freely, on a model that you just run fallout, you can get to those numbers if you have zero controls and you do nothing. And we know that every American is doing something.”
A main driver of doomsday predictions is Imperial College in London’s epidemiology center and professor Neil Ferguson.
Mr. Ferguson and a colleague posted a new report on Thursday saying that without stringent social distancing and government intervention, the world will suffer 7 billion infections out of a population of 7.8 billion, with 40 millions deaths.
Imperial college said that with decisive action those numbers could be cut in half — 20 million dead and 3.5 billion infected.
Skeptics say these numbers are unlikely. China, with more than one billion people, appears to have put a lid on the morality count at just over 3,100, if the communist regime’s numbers are to be believed. South Korean also has limited deaths to under 200.
The U.S. death count is rising fairly rapidly this week. The number doubled in four days, pushing over 1,000. There are about 70,000 confirmed cases. Coronavirus tests, at first limited, have reached a steady pace nearing 500,000 completed.
The White House’s imposed deadline for statistically showing that the infection rate is beginning to level off is this upcoming Tuesday.
The news media credits Imperial College’s drastic predictions with prompting the United Kingdom and U.S. government officials to shut down big sections of their economies to force business closures and keep people at home.
“Sobering coronavirus study prompted Britain to toughen its approach,” Reuters reported on March 18, pointing to Mr. Ferguson’s charts.
He said 2 million Americans and 500,000 in Britain would die unless severe an social separation is imposed.
“To avoid a rebound in transmission, these policies will need to be maintained until large stocks of vaccine are available to immunize the population—which could be 18 months or more,” said Imperial’s authors. “However, there are very large uncertainties around the transmission of this virus, the likely effectiveness of different policies and the extent to which the population spontaneously adopts risk reducing behaviors.”
A number of U.S officials have repeated Mr. Ferguson’s dark vision.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says as many as 80 percent of his state’s 20 million population could contract the virus.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said his strict shut-down orders are to save “thousands of lives.”
This week Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine said between 38,000 and 160,000 in the U.S. will die over the next four months, Yahoo News reported.
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