The White House estimates that placing the country on a longer shutdown would help save two million lives from COVID-19. Federal health officials detailed the benefits of extending restrictions after President Donald Trump announced a plan to allow Americans to gather and celebrate Easter amid the pandemic.
Trump wanted to open some parts of the U.S. for Easter since shutdowns have been hurting the economy. Public health officials expressed concern that lifting stay-at-home orders early could contribute to the spread of the coronavirus.
Dr. Deborah Birx, head of the administration’s efforts against the COVID-19 pandemic, presented a new model at a White House press conference on Tuesday. It shows that the disease would kill between 1.5 million and 2.2 million people if mitigation efforts fail in the country, Business Insider reported Wednesday.
Birx said the model came from “five or six international and domestic modelers,” including Harvard University, Columbia University, Northeastern University and Imperial College London.
“It was their model that created the ability to see what these mitigations could do — how steeply they could depress the curve,” she said. “It’s very much focused on the next two weeks and the stark reality of what this virus will do as it moves through communities.”
Fortunately, Trump considered the model and decided to support continued shutdown, the New York Times reported. Federal officials hope to extend the social distancing through April 30.
“We are really convinced that mitigation is going to be doing the trick for us,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at the press briefing. “What you have is increase in new cases at a certain rate. When the increase in cases begin to level off, the secondary effect is less hospitalizations, the next effect is less intensive care, and the next effect is less deaths.”
White House officials also presented another model showing stay-at-home orders may be necessary through May. Researchers at the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington said that limiting travel and closing schools and nonessential businesses are the key steps in preventing more deaths because of COVID-19 in affected states.