The total death toll in the United States from the novel coronavirus pandemic could hit the grim figure of 2,00,000 by September and expecting a dramatic decrease in COVID-19 cases in the country will be a "wishful thinking”, an eminent Indian-American professor has warned.
Ashish Jha, the head of Harvard's Global Health Institute, told CNN that he is not trying to “scare” people to stay at home rather urged everyone to wear masks, adhere to the social distancing rules and called for ramping up testing and tracing infrastructure.
“Anybody who's expecting a dramatic decrease in cases is almost surely engaging in wishful thinking. And if it (COVID numbers) stays just flat for the next three months, we're going to hit 2,00,000 deaths sometime in September and that is just awful,” Jha said.
Jha said the 200,000 death toll is “not just a guess”. Currently 800-1000 people are dying daily in America from the virus and all data suggest that the situation is going to get worse.
“We're gonna have increases, but even if we assume that it's going to be flat all summer, that nothing is going to get worse... even if we pick that low number of 800 a day, that is 25,000 (deaths) a month in three and a half months. We're going to add another 88,000 people and we will hit 2,00,000 sometime in September,” Jha said.
The United States is by far the hardest-hit country in the global pandemic, in terms of both confirmed infections and deaths.
According to data by the Johns Hopkins University, the number of coronavirus cases in the US currently is nearly two million and about 112,900 people have died in the country, the most in the world.
When asked about an improvement in states like New York, which had been the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the US, Jha said while coronavirus cases are declining in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts, the numbers are increasing in states such as Arizona, Florida, Texas, North and South Carolina while the country as a whole is “pretty flat.”
He said, people should take measures as that will help suppress the virus and ensure people could get back outside safely but he voiced concern that this was not the situation in reality.
“We're not doing that and so we're going to unfortunately have another 25,000 deaths a month until September, and then it'll keep going. It's not going to magically disappear. We've got a turn around. This is not the future I want,” he said.
Jha said he had expected the situation to improve in the summer months but on the contrary the numbers have continued to rise even in the warm weather.
“Summer was supposed to be our better months -- warmer weather, people outside, a little less transmission. This is not the time (summer) I was expecting a lot more cases. We're seeing a lot more cases, especially in states like Arizona where the numbers look really scary,” he said.
Jha added that he was “hopeful” that maybe the summer months would “give us more of a break. I think I may have been too optimistic on that.”