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April 6, 2020

'The hardest and saddest week': US Covid-19 death toll surges to nearly 10,000

Daily Briefing

    The number of reported U.S. deaths from the new coronavirus spiked over the weekend, nearing 10,000, and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams on Sunday warned Americans to brace themselves for one of the "the hardest and saddest" weeks of their lives as the United States' Covid-19 case and death counts are expected to grow.

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    Reported US Covid-19 deaths near 10K—but actual death toll likely is higher

    As of Monday morning, U.S. officials had reported 336,776 cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus—up from 244,228 cases as of Friday morning.

    U.S. officials as of Monday morning also had reported 9,655 U.S. deaths linked to the virus—up from 6,257 deaths as of Friday morning.

    However, U.S. officials and public health experts believe the actual number of deaths linked to the virus is likely higher than the official count, the Washington Post reports. U.S. officials and public health experts have said a number of factors are leading to an undercount of Covid-19 deaths, including false-negative test results, limited testing for infection, inconsistent standards, and scarce resources.

    "Based on the best recent information about limited testing and sizable false-negative rates of testing, we are likely underestimating the number of deaths," said Clay Marsh, West Virginia's coronavirus czar and VP and executive dean for health sciences at West Virginia University.

    CDC spokesperson Kristen Nordlund said, "We know that [the official count] is an underestimation." To improve estimates of the official death toll, CDC late last week released guidance directing officials to report deaths of patients who tested positive for Covid-19 and, in the absence of testing, to attribute deaths to the virus "if the circumstances are compelling within a reasonable degree of certainty."

    U.S. officials have said they do not expect to publish a final tally of deaths from the new coronavirus before 2021, when the federal government will release an annual report on the leading causes of death in the United States.

    US surgeon general says Americans should prepare for 'hardest and saddest week' of their lives

    Nevertheless, U.S. officials expect the number of U.S. cases of and deaths from the new coronavirus will continue to rise rapidly over the next week.

    U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams during a Fox News interview on Sunday warned Americans, "This is going to be the hardest and saddest week of most Americans' lives, quite frankly." He continued, "This is going to be our Pearl Harbor moment, our 9/11 moment, only it's not going to be localized. It's going to be happening all over the country."

    CDC recommends Americans cover their mouths in public to slow viral spread

    On Friday, President Trump announced new CDC guidance aimed at slowing the spread of the virus by recommending that Americans use homemade cloth face coverings when they are in public.

    Trump during a press briefing at the White House said, "CDC is recommending that Americans wear a basic cloth or fabric mask that can be either purchased online or simply made at home, probably [with] material that you'd have at home." Trump noted that CDC does not recommend that Americans wear surgical masks or N95 respirator masks, which U.S. officials want to preserve for health care providers treating patients with Covid-19.

    Trump also noted that the new guidance does not replace CDC's existing guidelines on social distancing, which recommend healthy people remain six feet away from others when in public, 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 says administration will pay hospitals to treat uninsured patients with Covid-19

    In addition, Trump on Friday announced that his administration plans to use funds from a recent federal stimulus package to compensate hospitals for providing care to uninsured patients with Covid-19, as long as the facilities agree not to bill the patients or send them any unexpected charges for the care.

    The administration will issue the payments from a more than $100 billion fund that was earmarked for hospitals and community health centers affected by Covid-19. Under the plan, the administration would reimburse hospitals treating uninsured patients with Covid-19 at current Medicare rates for the care.

    The administration currently is determining how to distribute the funds to hospitals, according to a person familiar with the administration's planning  (Brown et al., Washington Post, 4/5; Kliff/Bosman, New York Times, 4/6; Ansari et al., Wall Street Journal, 4/6; Stanley-Becker et al., Washington Post, 4/5; Facher/Joseph, STAT News, 4/3; Politico Pro Staff, Politico, 4/3; Abelson/Sanger-Katz, New York Times, 4/3; Armour, Wall Street Journal, 4/3; New York Times, 4/6).

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