In the predawn hours of March 30, Dr. Deborah Birx stepped in front of the camera on the White House lawn and made an alarming prediction about the coronavirus, which had, by then, killed fewer than 3,000 people in the United States.
“If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we can get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities,” Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, told Savannah Guthrie of NBC News’ “Today” show.
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“We don’t even want to see that,” she added, before Guthrie cut her off.
“I know, but you kind of take my breath away with that,” Guthrie said. “Because what I hear you saying is that’s sort of the best-case scenario.”
“The best-case scenario,” Birx replied, “would be 100 percent of Americans doing precisely what is required.”
On Saturday, Birx’s prediction came true, as the number of lives lost to Covid-19 in the U.S. topped 200,000.
Experts like Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it didn’t have to be this way.
“Tens of thousands of people would not have died if the U.S. response had been more effective,” said Frieden, now president of Resolve to Save Lives, a global public health initiative.
Michael Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, said Birx’s prediction in late March was “very sobering.” That was the time, he said, to develop and implement a plan to stop or at least slow the spread of the virus.
That didn’t happen then, and it hasn’t happened since. “Where is our national plan?” Osterholm asked. “How are we this far along and we don’t have one?”
“We have a long way to go,” he added.
Indeed, the country still faces many challenges in overcoming the pandemic, including agreeing on even the most basic facts. Americans are still fighting over whether to wear masks, whether the virus is serious and to what extent it’s safe to reopen certain businesses and to resume certain activities.
In short, 100 percent of Americans — government officials included — still aren’t doing precisely what is required.
Another ominous prediction
Now, many experts are making another ominous prediction: A surge in the number of new infections in the fall and winter, combined with growing fatigue over social distancing and other public health measures, could result in more than 415,000 deaths in the U.S. by January, according to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, or IHME, at the University of Washington.
The prediction comes even as doctors are growing more adept at treating patients and clinical trials are finding that treatments like remdesivir and dexamethasone can help. And as the pandemic has spread, it has moved into younger,…