Adm. Brett Giroir, a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, said Sunday that the increasing number of hospitalizations related to COVID-19 were “very concerning,” and he warned there would be an increase in deaths stemming from the spike in cases.
“We expect hospitalizations to continue to go up,” Giroir said on ABC News’ “This Week.” More hospitalizations mean more Americans will die from the virus “over the next two or three weeks before this turns around.”
Giroir said the overall mortality rate should remain lower than it was during the initial surge in cases in March and April because medical professionals know more about caring for COVID-19 patients and have seen benefits from the drug remdesivir. “Even though the death rate, if you get it, is going down, your chances of surviving are much better, we do expect deaths to go up.”
Many of the states seeing a rise in cases were among the first to lift restrictions meant to slow the spread of the virus. President Donald Trump and others who argued the lockdowns carried too great an economic cost cited the declining number of daily coronavirus deaths as evidence that the restrictions were unnecessary. Experts warned deaths were a lagging indicator and would increase in the coming weeks, and the number of daily deaths began to rise for the first time in months.
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“It’s consistently picking up. And it’s picking up at the time you’d expect it to,” William Hanage, a Harvard University infectious diseases researcher, told The Associated Press.
He was optimistic that the steps taken in the states that saw large increases in the number of people infected would stop the spread, “but we won’t reap the benefits for that for a few weeks.”
Giroir, who oversees the nation’s coronavirus testing efforts, said the United States is in a “better place” to respond to the outbreak because expanded testing quickly identifies the “hot spots” where the virus is spreading.
“This is not out of control, but it requires a lot of effort. And everybody’s going to have to do their part,” Giroir said. The keys to stopping the spread were closing bars, limiting restaurant capacity, washing hands, physical distancing and wearing masks.
“For this to work, we have to have like 90% of people wearing a mask in public in the hot spot areas. If we don’t have that, we will not get control of the virus,” Giroir said.
When asked whether states should consider reinstating lockdowns, Giroir said, “You know, everything should be on the table.”