Citizen Action Monitor

2.2 million in US could die from COVID-19 without benefit of drastic action, says alarming scientific report

Parallels drawn to 1918 flu outbreak that killed 675,000 in the US and tens of million worldwide

No 2602 Posted by fw, March 18, 2020

“An alarming [20-page] scientific report compiled by British researchers and shared with the Trump White House warns that, in the absence of drastic and coordinated government action, the novel coronavirus could kill as many as 2.2 million people in the United States alone. The new research (PDF), led by epidemiologist Dr. Neil Ferguson and published Monday by the Imperial College of London, shows that merely acting to slow rather than completely stop the spread of COVID-19 would ‘still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over.’ …. In an interview with CNN Sunday, Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch said the coronavirus crisis ‘was foreseeable, and foreseen, weeks and months ago. Only now is the White House coming out of denial,’ said Lipsitch, ‘and heading straight into saying it could not have been foreseen.’”Common Dreams

Below is my slightly abridged repost of Common Dreams short article, supplemented by my repost of a Summary excerpted from the 20-page scientific report cited in the above passage. As well, at the bottom of this repost are links to three related articles by Common Dreams.

Alternatively, read the complete article on the Common Dreams website by clicking on the following linked title.

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‘Terrifying’ New Research Warns 2.2 Million Could Die From Coronavirus in US Without Drastic Action by Jake Johnson, Common Dreams, March 17, 2020

Only now is the White House coming out of denial and heading straight into saying it could not have been foreseen.”

2.2 million in the US could die from coronavirus

An alarming [20-page] scientific report compiled by British researchers and shared with the Trump White House warns that, in the absence of drastic and coordinated government action, the novel coronavirus could kill as many as 2.2 million people in the United States alone.

Slowing rather than stopping the virus will still result in hundreds of thousands of deaths

The new research (PDF), led by epidemiologist Dr. Neil Ferguson and published Monday by the Imperial College of London, shows that merely acting to slow rather than completely stop the spread of COVID-19 would “still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over.”

Suppression of the virus is the preferred policy option, which could take 18 months or more

For countries able to achieve it, this leaves suppression as the preferred policy option,” the researchers wrote. “In the U.K. and U.S. context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases, and household quarantine of their family members. This may need to be supplemented by school and university closures.”

Successful suppression of the virus could take a significant amount of time, the researchers noted—”potentially 18 months or more.”

Trump initially downplayed the threat posed by the outbreak

The New York Times reported late Monday that the researchers’ “terrifying” projection of as many as 2.2 million possible deaths in the U.S. was shared with the White House’s coronavirus task force last week, when President Donald Trump was still downplaying the threat posed by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Suppression will have to continue until a vaccine is available

We don’t have a clear exit strategy,” Ferguson told the Times. “We’re going to have to suppress this virus—frankly, indefinitely—until we have a vaccine. It’s a difficult position for the world to be in.”

The 1918 flu outbreak killed 675,000 in the US and tens of million worldwide

Ferguson likened the possible health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic to those caused by the 1918 influenza outbreak, which killed an estimated 675,000 people in the United States and tens of millions more worldwide.

Eight to nine percent of US people aged 80 and older could die if infected

The team of researchers “also shared its fatality estimates with the CDC,” according to the Times, “including that eight to nine percent of people in the most vulnerable age group, 80 and older, could die if infected.

On Monday Mar 16, Trump falsely claimed news of the virus only broke about a month ago

During a press conference on Monday, Trump falsely claimed that “nobody ever thought about” the coronavirus threat a month ago.

This is a bad one,” said Trump, who on Sunday recommended that people in the U.S. avoid gathering with more than 10 people. “This is a very bad one. This is bad in the sense that it’s so contagious. It’s just so contagious.  Sort of, record-setting-type contagion.”

But a Harvard prof challenged Trump’s lie saying “Only now is the White House coming out of denial”

In an interview with CNN Sunday, Harvard University epidemiology professor Marc Lipsitch said the coronavirus crisis “was foreseeable, and foreseen, weeks and months ago.”

Only now is the White House coming out of denial,” said Lipsitch, “and heading straight into saying it could not have been foreseen.

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Impact of non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) to reduce COVID-19 mortality and healthcare demand, by Imperial College COVID-19 Response Team, March 16, 2020

Summary

The global impact of COVID-19 has been profound, and the public health threat it represents is the most serious seen in a respiratory virus since the 1918 H1N1 influenza pandemic. Here we present the results of epidemiological modelling which has informed policymaking in the UK and other countries in recent weeks. In the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, we assess the potential role of a number of public health measures – so-called non-pharmaceutical interventions (NPIs) – aimed at reducing contact rates in the population and thereby reducing transmission of the virus. In the results presented here, we apply a previously published microsimulation model to two countries: the UK (Great Britain specifically) and the US. We conclude that the effectiveness of any one intervention in isolation is likely to be limited, requiring multiple interventions to be combined to have a substantial impact on transmission.

Two fundamental strategies are possible: (a) mitigation, which focuses on slowing but not necessarily stopping epidemic spread – reducing peak healthcare demand while protecting those most at risk of severe disease from infection, and (b) suppression, which aims to reverse epidemic growth, reducing case numbers to low levels and maintaining that situation indefinitely. Each policy has major challenges. We find that that optimal mitigation policies (combining home isolation of suspect cases, home quarantine of those living in the same household as suspect cases, and social distancing of the elderly and others at most risk of severe disease) might reduce peak healthcare demand by 2/3 and deaths by half. However, the resulting mitigated epidemic would still likely result in hundreds of thousands of deaths and health systems (most notably intensive care units) being overwhelmed many times over. For countries able to achieve it, this leaves suppression as the preferred policy option.

We show that in the UK and US context, suppression will minimally require a combination of social distancing of the entire population, home isolation of cases and household quarantine of their family members. This may need to be supplemented by school and university closures, though it should be recognized that such closures may have negative impacts on health systems due to increased absenteeism. The major challenge of suppression is that this type of intensive intervention package – or something equivalently effective at reducing transmission – will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available (potentially 18 months or more) – given that we predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed. We show that intermittent social distancing – triggered by trends in disease surveillance – may allow interventions to be relaxed temporarily in relative short time windows, but measures will need to be reintroduced if or when case numbers rebound. Last, while experience in China and now South Korea show that suppression is possible in the short term, it remains to be seen whether it is possible long-term, and whether the social and economic costs of the interventions adopted thus far can be reduced.

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