The strain on hospitals from the coronavirus — and the number of deaths — will likely start to fall off by the end of May, Dr. Deborah Birx said this weekend.
“We believe that both the hospitalizations, the ICU need and, frankly, the number of people who have succumbed to this disease will be dramatically decreased by the end of May,” Dr. Birx told Fox News’ Jesse Watters, according to The Hill.
However, Dr. Birx told NBC that social distancing will likely be necessary through the summer.
Birx: Pandemic could ease by late May
Birx’s comments come as various states have started opening up their economies. Governors in many other states say that it’s too soon to end draconian lockdowns that have devastated the economy, at least until more widespread testing is possible, citing fear of a “second wave.”
On a positive note, Vice President Mike Pence said last week that the pandemic could be largely “behind us” in time for Memorial Day, although social distancing will remain a priority through the summer. Birx echoed that confidence in interviews this weekend, telling Watters that hospitalizations, ICU admissions, and deaths will likely drop off in May — although cases will keep rising as testing expands to identify those who have mild or no symptoms.
“The cases are a different issue because now, as we’re expanding more and more testing and – remember, our testing was very much prioritized to people who really needed it for decision-making to people who were in the hospital, people who were sick, frontline responders and nurses,” Birx said, according to Fox.
She went on: “As we expand testing more and more into the greater community with much less symptoms, we’ll see cases — and additional cases but we believe that those will be identifying the cases that may have been and are currently circulating in the community, but maybe in that more asymptomatic or very mild state that we really want to understand.”
Social distancing to continue
Birx also told NBC’s Meet the Press on Sunday that the White House is tracking “every single outbreak” in America — and that the data gives “great hope” that the virus is trending down in hard-hit areas like Detroit and Louisiana. By way of a caveat, Birx also said that social distancing “will be with us through the summer” and emphasized the need for more antigen testing, saying a “breakthrough” would help “screen large numbers of individuals quickly.”
Some preliminary evidence from antibody testing, which is a different diagnostic method than antigen testing, suggests that the virus may have spread more widely than previously known. For example, CBS News reports that in the epicenter of New York, testing indicates that millions of residents could already have been infected, much more than the known number of some 290,000.
As of Monday, America had almost a million known cases of the coronavirus and some 55,000 deaths, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
Dr. Birx was also pressed over the weekend about President Trump’s Thursday comments about injecting disinfectant, and by Sunday, she seemed fed up with the drama, telling CNN’s Jake Tapper in a polite way that it “bothers” her that the media is wasting time on a non-story. She also told Watters that journalists have been “slicey and dicey” with some of their recent reporting, The Hill noted.
“And I think the responsibility that the press has is to really ensure that the headlines reflect the science and data that is in their piece itself,” she added.