Early easing could push up Covid-19 fatalities by 10K, warn US researchers

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Researchers behind a widely cited mortality model on Tuesday revised their projection for Covid-19 deaths in the United States to more than 147,000 as restrictions continued to be relaxed around the country sometimes prematurely.(Reuters file photo)

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Researchers behind a widely cited mortality model on Tuesday revised their projection for Covid-19 deaths in the United States to more than 147,000 as restrictions continued to be relaxed around the country sometimes prematurely. It is 10,000 more than the previous estimate.

The new estimates from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) of the University of Washington came just hours after the Trump administration’s top public health officials had warned lawmakers at a US senate hearing of “little spikes that might turn into outbreaks” because of premature reopening.

The IHME bluntly attributed the “higher” projection to “changes in testing and mobility, as well as easing of distancing policies”.

Public health officials and experts are urging caution as many states have allowed some businesses to reopen and lifted restrictions on public life and others re under increasing pressure to follow, egged on by President Donald Trump who is eager to change the narrative and move on. “We have met the moment and we have prevailed,” he told reporters Monday.

But his own public health experts and officials have a distinctly different assessment of the battle against the epidemic, which had 82,389 people till Wednesday morning (up by 1,674 over the past 24 hours) and infected more than 1.37 million people.

“It depends on what you mean by containment,” Anthony Fauci, the top US epidemiologist and member of the White House task force on the coronavirus, said at the senate hearing when asked if the outbreak had been contained. “If you think we have it completely under control, we don’. But he added the US is “going in the right direction”.

“We are not out of the woods yet,” Robert Redfield, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and also a member of the task force, told senators.

Both Fauci and Redfield were among the four public health officials who testified, all remotely, along with Stephen Kahn, head of the Drug and Food Administration, and Admiral Brett P. Giroir, an assistant secretary of health.

In a separate but related development, some Republican senators moved a legislation that seek to authorize the president to impose sanctions against China for not giving a full accounting of the coronavirus outbreak. “The Chinese Communist Party must be held accountable for the detrimental role they played in this pandemic,” said Senator Jim Inhofe, one of the sponsors of the “COVID-19 Accountability Act.”, said in a statement.

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