Coronavirus

‘It’s not going to magically disappear’: Harvard doctor expects COVID-19 deaths will rise to 200,000 in September

“We’ve got to turn this around.”

A Harvard doctor is warning that the United States is on track to see another 100,000 deaths from the coronavirus by sometime in September.

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Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Wednesday that at the moment, the country sees between 800 and 1,000 deaths every day from COVID-19 and the models he’s seen suggest that there will be increases in the coming months.

“But even if we assume that it’s going to be flat all summer, that nothing is going to get worse, we’re going to stay flat all summer — even if we pick that low number, 800 a day — that’s 25,000 a month,” Jha pointed out. “In three and a half months, we’re going to add another 87-, 88,000 people, and we will hit 200,000 sometime in September.”

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Jha’s interview on CNN followed a day after Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said at a conference held by BIO, the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, that scientists are still “at the beginning of really understanding” the virus and that he expects the world isn’t anywhere near the end of the pandemic.

“In a period of four months, it has devastated the whole world,” Fauci said. “And it isn’t over yet.”

The U.S. death toll from the coronavirus surged above 100,000 by the end of May and is believed by experts to be an undercount of the number of people who have lost their lives to the virus.

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Jha said anyone who still thinks the summer will bring a dramatic decrease in cases is “engaging in wishful thinking.” Coronavirus cases and associated hospitalizations may be falling in Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, he said, but cases are surging in Arizona, Texas, Florida, and the Carolinas. The Harvard professor of public health said he is not trying to scare people into staying home by raising concerns about the number of deaths he’s predicting.

“What I want is for people to wear masks, I want them to do social distancing, and what I want, what I’ve always wanted, was for us to ramp up a testing and tracing infrastructure so we could get back outside safely and suppress the virus,” he said. “And we’re not doing that. So we’re going to unfortunately have another 25,000 deaths a month until September. And then it will keep going. It’s not going to magically disappear then. We’ve got to turn this around, Chris. This is not the future I want.”

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