The New York Times reported Monday that a draft document from the federal government projected an estimated 3,000 coronavirus deaths per day by June — more than double prior estimates. Johns Hopkins University researchers behind the numbers used in that document later cautioned that such estimates were based on “preliminary analyses” and were meant “to aid in scenario planning — not to be used as forecasts.”
But one of the scenarios included in that planning included “the premature relaxation of social distancing,” raising the question of the dire public health impacts that may arise as some states move quickly to ‘reopen’ for regular business.
“Everybody agrees that without a big ramp-up on testing, and tracing, and isolation, if we relax restrictions, [the] number of cases are going to go up, [and the] number of deaths are going to go up,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute, speaking to Jim Braude on Greater Boston Tuesday. “So I don’t know the specific context in which Hopkins felt the need to pull back on that description, but no one I know thinks that the cases are going to miraculously just disappear on their own.”
“I would say that [there are] at least about 40 states that are either flat or going up” in terms of coronavirus cases, he said, in contrast to President Trump’s recent assertion that “almost everybody,” or almost all states, were starting to see their caseloads trend downwards.
When asked for his reaction to President Trump’s praise of states that are defying the White House Coronavirus Task Force Guidelines, Dr. Jha was straightforward.
“I think it reminds me that I need to pay less attention to what the president is saying, and focus more on helping states get through this,” he said. “Look, there’s been such erratic federal leadership, the action really has now moved to states. And by the way, having fifty states all figure out their own plan for a pandemic is not how we want to be fighting this as a country, but that’s where we are as a country.”