The peak of the coronavirus death toll in the United States will likely be in one or two months, according to Yale University epidemiologist Dr. Kaveh Khoshnood, not in two weeks as predicted by American government and health officials.
“The peak is probably not going to be in two weeks, it is going to be longer than that - maybe in a month or two. It can vary by states,” said Dr. Khoshnood, a professor of epidemiology at Yale University's School of Public Health, in an interview with Al Arabiya English.
“The US is very much still on the upscale of this epidemic,” he added. The United States has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections in the world, at more than 160,000, and has reported over 3,000 deaths.
US President Donald Trump said on Sunday the country’s death rate from the epidemic would likely peak in about two weeks.
“The modeling estimates that the peak in death rate is likely to hit in two weeks,” Trump said during a coronavirus news briefing.
By using experts and statistical models to predict the impact of COVID-19, the White House is putting together a forecast for the outbreak, expected to be publicized soon.
Top US scientist Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated on Sunday that the coronavirus outbreak could claim up to 200,000 lives in the US, a “sobering” projection considered reliable by Dr. Khoshnood.
“That 200,000 number - as hard as it is to accept - could become the reality in a few months,” said Dr. Khoshnood.
Dr. Khoshnood warned the death toll could be much higher if preventative measures are not aggressive enough to control the spread. Trump said the modeling predicts more deaths if the country does not follow the practice of social distancing, which includes maintaining physical space between yourself and another person, and avoiding large gatherings.
Keeping deaths in the US to 100,000 would mean the government will have done “a very good job,” according to Trump, who cited the potential worse-case scenario of up to 2.2 million deaths in the country.
The US administration extended emergency restrictions on Sunday, calling on Americans to stay home and avoid social contact for another month. American federal guidelines recommend no gatherings over 10 people and particularly urge the elderly and those with existing health conditions to stay home.
Individual states in the US have implemented more severe restrictions, especially the tri-state region of New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey, which has been hit hard by the virus. Trump issued a travel warning for the area, considered the US epicenter of the virus.