White House’s grim death prediction
US President Donald Trump has told Americans to prepare for a tough two weeks, following a prediction from the White House that nearly a quarter of a million people could die as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
The United States has fast become the country with the highest number of COVID-19 infections - more than 186,000 now, forcing three quarters of the population into some form of a stay-at-home shutdown.
However, public health experts at a briefing with the President said even if Americans continue to stay home and limit contact with others, between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths could occur over the next fortnight.
They said they hope the figure won't soar that high if everyone does their part to prevent the virus from spreading.
"I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead," Mr Trump said, following an earlier announcement social distancing guidelines had been extended until at least April 30.
This White House briefing room slide lists as "goals" 100,000 to 240,000 deaths.— Shane Goldmacher (@ShaneGoldmacher) March 31, 2020
The President, who prior to the virus' outbreak in America heavily downplayed the severity of the situation, called COVID-19 a plague and said the US were in for "three weeks like we've never seen before".
"This could be a hell of a bad two weeks," he told a White House press conference today.
"This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we've never seen before.
"When you look at night, the kind of death that has been caused by this invisible enemy, it's incredible."
New York is at the heart of America's COVID-19 outbreak, with New York City on lockdown and the number of deaths from the virus increasing so rapidly refrigerated trucks have been brought in to store bodies.
"I'm tired of being behind this virus," New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said today, adding the outbreak in the state may not peak for three weeks.
"We've been behind this virus from day one. We underestimated this virus. It's more powerful, it's more dangerous than we expected."
Mr Trump, who grew up near New York City's Elmhurst hospital in Queens, said no one can believe officials are setting up refrigerator trucks as temporary morgues outside the hospital, and accused the city of getting "a late start" in rolling out its mitigation efforts.
"I wanted as few as a number of people to die as possible," he said. "And that's all we're working on."
Co-ordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, Dr Deborah Birx, and Dr Anthony Fauci said they hope that efforts - like Americans staying at home and social distancing - will result in fewer of the projected deaths if possible.
"We have to brace ourselves. In the next several days to week or so we are going to continue to see things go up," said Dr Fauci, who is director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
"We cannot be discouraged by that because the mitigation is actually working and will work."
The death projections "are very sobering, and when you see 100,000 people, and that's a minimum," Trump said. "A hundred thousand is, according to modelling, a very low number."
He said the death toll would be even higher without any mitigation measures, with some estimates as high as 2.2 million fatalities.
"You would have had people dying all over the place. You would have seen people dying in airplanes, you would have seen people dying in hotel lobbies. How many people have even seen anybody die?" the President asked.
"You would have seen death all over."
"This is not the flu," Trump said - despite having repeatedly compared COVID-19 to the seasonal flu in the past - adding some executives with "great common sense" suggested the US "ride it out" and not do mitigation.
"This is not to be ridden out."
The President announced America now have "30 days to slow the spread", rolling out a list of directives on his Twitter.
- With AP
Originally published as White House's grim death prediction