U.S. officials on Tuesday reported more than 850 additional deaths tied to COVID-19, marking the country's highest tally of newly reported deaths in a single day so far.
US reports more than 850 new COVID-19 deaths in one day
As of Wednesday morning, state and federal officials had reported at least 188,247 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus, in the country—up from 163,575 cases as of Tuesday morning.
Officials as of Wednesday morning also had reported 3,921 U.S. deaths linked to the virus, up from 3,073 deaths reported as of Tuesday morning. According to Reuters, nearly 50% of the more than 850 newly reported fatalities tied to COVID-19 occurred in New York, which is the current epicenter of the United States' COVID-19 epidemic.
White House projects US could see up to 240K COVID-19 deaths with social distancing measures
On Tuesday, Trump administration officials during a White House press conference projected that the new coronavirus could kill between 100,000 and 240,000 Americans even with social distancing measures that are currently in place. In comparison, officials estimated that without those social distancing measures, more than 2.2 million Americans could die because of the virus.
Officials based the projections on a continuing analysis of COVID-19 cases in the United States. According to the New York Times, the projections generally align with estimates from public health researchers around the world.
Deborah Birx, a physician who is leading the White House's coronavirus task force, and Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said although the projections represent the "real number" of likely U.S. deaths due to the new coronavirus, they are committed to taking every step possible to reduce the estimated death toll.
Birx and Fauci stressed that the administration's modeling shows social distancing measures can flatten the curve of the new coronavirus' infection rate, but only if Americans strictly follow the measures. They said the number of Americans who die from the new coronavirus ultimately could be higher if Americans don't follow the federal government's social distancing guidelines, which recommend that Americans halt nonessential travel, avoid gatherings with more than 10 people, keep children home from school, stay home from work if able, and avoid bars, food courts, and restaurants, among other things.
Trump tells Americans to brace for 'a hell of a bad two weeks'
Experts have projected that the rate of new coronavirus infections in the United States could peak in about two weeks. In light of those projections and his administration's latest estimates, President Trump on Tuesday warned Americans to brace themselves for a continued spike in reported COVID-19 cases and deaths.
"I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead," Trump said. "This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we've never seen before."
Trump also urged Americans to abide by the federal government's social distancing guidelines, which Trump earlier this week extended to April 30.
Birx explained that there is "no magic bullet … vaccine or therapy" to reduce the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States. "It's just behaviors. Each of our behaviors, translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days."
Fauci said, "It's not time to take your foot off the accelerator ... but to just press it down" when it comes to social distancing.
"This is tough. People are suffering. People are dying. ... This is going to be the answer to our problems. So let's all pull together and make sure, as we look forward to the next 30 days, we do it with all the intensity and force that we can," he said (Brown/Whitcomb, Reuters, 3/31; Smith et al., New York Times, 4/1; Leary et al., Wall Street Journal, 4/1; Shear, New York Times, 3/31; Weixel, The Hill, 3/31; Madhani et al., Associated Press, 4/1).