Dr. Anthony Fauci says that the U.S. may only see 60,000 deaths due to the coronavirus, slashing the estimate to less than half of what the White House estimated last week.
According to Fauci, who is one of the nation’s top disease experts and a member of the White House coronavirus task force, social distancing and other mitigation efforts are beginning to have a positive impact. The results could mean that instead of over 200,000 deaths, the country could see far fewer, as Bloomberg reports.
“The real data are telling us it is highly likely we are having a definite positive effect by the mitigation things that we’re doing, this physical separation,” said Fauci, in an interview with Today.
The director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases also said that Americans need to continue their efforts — like obeying stay-at-home directives and wearing masks in public — against COVID-19. He said that now isn’t the time to be relaxing efforts even though social distancing may be starting to have an impact.
“I believe we are going to see a downturn in that, and it looks more like the 60,000, than the 100,000 to 200,000” deaths, he said. “But having said that, we better be careful that we don’t say: ‘OK, we’re doing so well we could pull back.'”
Fauci says that he’s cautiously optimistic that the country has turned the corner on the pandemic.
“I’m always very cautious about jumping the gun and saying we have turned the corner, but I think we are really looking at the beginning of that,” he said.
Watch @savannahguthrie’s full interview with Dr. Anthony Fauci, who talks about efforts to control the spread of coronavirus, and how much longer social distancing will last. pic.twitter.com/GLZAy5Ox39
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) April 9, 2020
As a result, Fauci said that there is a possibility that life could return to something more normal by the summer.
On March 31, during a coronavirus press conference, Dr. Deborah Birx said that as many as 240,000 people could die as a result of the outbreak, which has so far claimed nearly 15,000 lives in the United States alone. She added that an estimate of 100,000 deaths would constitute the low end of the scale at the then-current rate of spread.
As of Wednesday, there were over 434,000 confirmed cases of the disease in the U.S.
Despite the good news, Fauci has said in the past that he doesn’t see the world ever returning to what it was before the novel coronavirus began spreading. He said that it is likely to be a disease that will return each year, much like the seasonal flu, though once there is a vaccine, the impact will be mitigated.
He also said that the disease may make shaking hands a thing of the past.