Joe Biden‘s coronavirus advisor has warned that the healthcare system will collapse and COVID-19 patients could die in waiting rooms if cases continue to rise in the coming weeks as a new model suggests that up to 150,000 more people could die before the president-elect’s January inauguration.
Biden has pledged to make controlling the coronavirus a top priority and is likely to push for mask wearing mandates and more fiscal stimulus to keep businesses and workers afloat when he assumes office next year.
But in the two months until inauguration day on January 20, skyrocketing infections could add more than 8 million more cases and 70,000 deaths, representing a potential 80 per cent increase in infections and a 29 per cent rise in deaths, according to Reuters calculations.
Biden’s coronavirus advisor, Dr Michael Osterholm, also told Meet the Press on Sunday that the US is in a ‘very dangerous period’ and that the health care system is on a ‘tipping point’.
Skyrocketing infections could add more than 8 million cases, representing a potential 80 per cent increase in infections, according to Reuters calculations (depicted)
The new model suggests that up to 150,000 more people could die before the president-elect’s January inauguration
‘My worst fear is what we saw happen in other countries where people were dying on the streets. People literally were dying in the waiting room of emergency rooms after spending 10 hours just waiting to be seen,’ Osterholm said.
‘That I hope will not be the way that we finally decide to reduce our risk… I think it is the healthcare systems breaking, literally breaking, that will unfortunately bring us to a sense of reality of what we must do in the short term.’
Osterholm then predicted that health care systems across the US could collapse in just ‘a few more weeks’ if COVID-19 cases continue to surge.
The only ways to change the outcome, experts said, are for President Donald Trump’s outgoing administration to alter its strategy or state governments to introduce stricter and more coordinated measures. Colder weather adds to the challenge.
‘The epidemic is going to be worse than it was in the spring, and worse than it was for the everyday American,’ said Gregg Gonsalves, a professor in epidemiology at Yale University and a health care activist.
According to Reuters, the US could report between 8 million and 13 million more cases of COVID-19 between now and the inauguration.
The calculations, which were based on early November daily case count and percentage growth trends, also show that at the current daily rate of deaths, another 70,000 to 150,000 Americans may die between now and Inauguration Day.
As of Sunday, there are more than 245,000 COVID-19 deaths recorded in the United States.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) has a similar estimate of just over 360,000 coronavirus deaths on January 20 without any changes in mandates, an increase of 117,000 from November 12.
Economists and analysts have been reluctant to calculate how the third wave of infection could impact the US economy if it continues unchecked, citing too many variables from the possibility of fiscal stimulus to renewed lockdown measures.
Meanwhile, Biden’s coronavirus advisor, Dr Michael Osterholm (left) predicted that health care systems across the US could collapse in just ‘a few more weeks’ if COVID-19 cases continue to surge
There are nearly 11 million confirmed cases of the virus in the United States
The economy is likely to re-accelerate next spring, many predicted, when a coronavirus vaccine is expected to be introduced, ushering in a new boom in consumer consumption.
Between now and then, though, the tone is increasingly grim.
Trump has shown less involvement in the White House coronavirus task force in recent weeks as he focused on his re-election campaign and an effort to challenge votes in several states after the November 3 election.
Trump’s coronavirus task force has been superseded by a multitude of regional task forces, ‘which is probably the least efficient solution, but better than nothing,’ said Greg Daco, chief economist from Oxford Economics.
US states and cities announced a patchwork of new restrictions this week aimed at slowing the virus’s spread.
A White House spokesman said the president’s task force remains ‘focused on saving lives,’ and is ‘in constant contact with state and local jurisdictions and health care providers, and continues to promote common sense mitigation measures’.
Since an election night party indoors at the White House where guests were mostly unmasked, several top Trump allies, including chief of staff Mark Meadows, have tested positive for coronavirus.
Meanwhile, it is looking less likely that Congress will pass significant additional fiscal stimulus before Biden takes office.
Infectious disease experts say the US federal government should be doing much more right now.
‘We could be trying to figure out how to give people support to stay home’ rather than go to work, said Gonsalves.
‘We could pay them to stay home, we could send out masks to every American household.’
The first wave of the coronavirus in spring hit big coastal cities and nursing homes, and a second spread through more rural states.
The third wave is spreading virtually unchecked throughout much of the US, which neared 11 million cases this week.
‘The pace of recovery is likely to get worse before it gets batter,’ Goldman Sachs analysts said in a note on Thursday. Fiscal support has ‘largely dried up’ the analysts wrote, shrinking disposable income for the rest of the year.
If nothing changes between now and the presidential inauguration on January 20, ‘we may be in a very concerning, very alarming situation,’ Oxford’s Daco said.