Americans are looking for hope as COVID-19 continues to devastate the country — and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top diseases expert, tried to offer some this week. The director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said Tuesday that nationwide lockdowns may be having a “dampening effect” on the so-called curve of the coronavirus outbreak, The Hill reported.
“We’re starting to see glimmers that that is actually having some dampening effect,” Fauci told CNN on Tuesday, according to The Hill. “But that does not take away from the seriousness of what you’ve described on this show.”
Fauci’s assessment came the same day that President Donald Trump, in a sobering press conference, told Americans to prepare for upwards of 240,000 deaths from the disease.
A “glimmer” of hope
By official numbers, America now has more cases than China, where the virus originated; the country’s death rate has quadrupled from 1,000 to over 4,000 in just a week or so, according to reports. At the same time, many Americans are going stir crazy or worse — suffering sudden joblessness — because of massive government quarantines.
In New York, deaths and infections have surged as reports from the city’s overwhelmed hospitals inspire horror all over the country. As of Wednesday, the city had nearly 1,400 deaths from the coronavirus, according to the New York Post, but Fauci said that the military’s transformation of New York’s Javits Center into a hospital and the arrival of a Navy hospital ship in New York should help “decompress the surge,” CNBC reported.
Although the number of cases is going up, Fauci said Tuesday that he saw “inklings” that the number of new hospitalizations in New York may be starting to “flatten out,” according to CNBC.
“We are still in a very difficult situation. We hope, and I believe it will happen, that we may start seeing a turnaround, but we haven’t seen it yet,” Fauci said, according to The Hill. “We’re just pushing on the mitigation to hope that we do see that turnaround.”
A “critical time” ahead
Fauci also said Tuesday that the next couple of weeks are a “critical time” for slowing down the virus’ spread — a rather calm way of describing what may lie ahead. President Trump has started to use much starker language than previously, warning Americans that the coming days will be “horrific” at a Wednesday press conference.
“We are going to have a couple of weeks starting pretty much now but especially a few days from now that are going to be horrific,” Trump said, according to Fox.
The evening before, Trump had said that a death toll of anywhere from 100,000 to 240,000 Americans was possible in the coming weeks even with social distancing, Fox reported. Trump has extended federal social distancing guidelines to April 30, in another remarkable reversal, after he had previously hoped to open up the economy by Easter.
Trump also said Wednesday that he may consider halting domestic flights from “hot spots” to slow the spread, Fox noted, in another indication of a shift. Still, critics have accused Trump of overruling Dr. Fauci and not taking the virus seriously.
For his part, Fauci said Wednesday that the current “mitigation” stage may be painful, but Americans can’t expect to return to normal without more rigorous testing, which would enable a pivot to a more focused “containment” approach.
“If you have a really good program of containment, that prevents you from ever having to get into mitigation,” he said, according to The Hill. “We’re in mitigation right now.”