How bad will Covid-19 get in US before Joe Biden is sworn in? Up to 150K more Americans may die, warns report

Infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci said delaying the presidential transition is not good from a public health perspective as daily Covid-19 cases continue to surge in the US


                            How bad will Covid-19 get in US before Joe Biden is sworn in? Up to 150K more Americans may die, warns report
(Getty Images)

President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris have drawn up a seven-point plan to beat Covid-19. However, before Biden’s inauguration day on January 20, 2021, surging infections could lead to another 70,000 to 150,000 deaths, and 8-13 million more cases, according to an analysis. 

“If the current level of around 1,035 additional daily fatalities remains constant, about 70,000 more people will die from Covid-19 by the January 20 inauguration. At a 2% fatality rate, based on current growth in cases, the number of additional deaths could approach 150,000,” suggests Reuters calculations. It is based on early November daily case count and percentage growth trends.

The report further says: “The US added about 110,000 cases per day, on a 7-day average basis from November 1 to 11. At that pace, another 8 million Americans will be infected by the swearing-in. Projected on a percentage growth basis, infections will reach 23 million.”

The Covid-19 tracker of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that as of November 15, 10,846,373 infections have been reported to the agency, including more than 155,708 new cases. An estimated 244,810 Americans have died in the Covid-19 pandemic, including over 1,252 new deaths, it adds. 

Coronavirus cases and deaths reported to the CDC as of November 15 (CDC)

The Johns Hopkins coronavirus tracker suggests that the US has recorded over 246,200 deaths and more than 11,032,090 cases as of November 16. According to another projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IMHE) at the University of Washington’s School of Medicine, 438,941 Americans could die in the pandemic by March 1. 

Dr Michael Osterholm, who is part of Biden’s coronavirus task force, recently warned that the US is headed toward “Covid hell”. “We are entering this period that I call Covid hell. Back on Labor Day, we were at about 23,000 cases of new coronavirus infection every day. Today, we’re going to be in the 130,000 to 140,000 again. And that number is going to keep rising rapidly. And we have been predicting this. It is a combination of pandemic fatigue, people just being tired of trying to avoid public and places that put you at increased risk, (and) pandemic anger,” he said. 

On Sunday, Dr Osterholm again cautioned that the US is in a “very dangerous period,” and that the healthcare system is at a “tipping point.” Stating that “our future’s in our hands,” the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota emphasized that unless action is taken now, “we’re going to see these numbers grow substantially.”

Dr Michael Osterholm, who is part of Biden’s coronavirus task force, warned that the US is in a “very dangerous period,” and that the healthcare system is at a “tipping point” (Getty Images)

“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...That I hope will not be the way that we finally decide to reduce our risk,” Osterholm told NBC’s Meet the Press.

Transition delay not helpful, says Fauci

Leading infectious disease expert Dr Anthony Fauci, meanwhile, said President Donald Trump’s refusal to cooperate with Biden’s transition team is hurting public health as daily Covid-19 case numbers continue to soar across the country. The presidential transition process has not officially started because of Trump’s refusal to accept the results and concede the election. Dr Fauci, who has served under six presidents, compared the transition process to “passing a baton in a race.” 

Dr Anthony Fauci, who has served under six presidents, compared the presidential transition process to “passing a baton in a race” (Getty Images) 

“I have been through multiple transitions now, having served six presidents for 36 years. And it’s very clear that that transition process that we go through, that time period of measured in several weeks to months, is really important in a smooth handing over of the information, as well as -- it’s almost like passing a baton in a race -- you don’t want to stop and then give it to somebody. You want to just essentially keep going. And that is what transition is. So, it certainly would make things more smoothly if we could do that,” Dr Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) told CNN’s “State of the Union.” 

Asked whether he thinks it would be a good idea if his team could start working with the Biden-Harris transition team now, Dr Fauci responded, “Of course, that is obvious. Of course, it would be better if we could start working with them.”

Commenting on IHME’s Covid-19 projection, the expert said it is possible that another 200,000 in the US may die in the next four months. “The issue is, the models, as I have said so often, are as good as the assumptions you put into the model. And we have got to change those assumptions. We have got to say, we are going to turn it around very, very vigorously adhering to the public health measures. And we don’t need to get to that number. That is a model number if we act in a certain way. We can turn that around, that plus the fact that we are going to start getting doses of vaccines available for the highest-priority individuals sometime in mid-to-late-December,” said Dr Fauci. He added, “And then, as we get into January, we will get more vaccine doses available. I think, when we put those two things together, vaccines, plus strong adherence to the fundamental public health measures, we can blunt that. We don't have to accept those large numbers that are so terrifying.”

For more information and statistics on the coronavirus pandemic, click on the Newsbreak tracker here