While many watched the coronavirus spread across the globe with disinterest for months, in the past week, most of us have finally realized it will disrupt our way of life. A recent analysis from Imperial College is now making some Americans, including many experts, panic. The report projects that 2.2 million people could die in the United States. But the analysis also provides reason for hope—suggesting a path forward to avoid the worst outcomes.
We can make things better; it’s not too late. But we have to be willing to act.
Let’s start with the bad news. The Imperial College response team’s report looks at the impact of measures we might take to flatten the curve, or reduce the rate at which people are becoming sick with COVID-19. If we do nothing and just let the virus run its course, the team predicts, we could see three times as many deaths as we see from cardiovascular disease each year. Further, it estimates that infections would peak in mid-June. We could expect to see about 55,000 deaths in just one day.
Of course, we are doing something, so this outcome is unlikely to occur. We’re closing schools and businesses and committing to social (really, physical) distancing. But as the sobering charts from the analysis show, this isn’t enough. Even after we do these things, the report predicts that a significant number of infections will occur, that more people will need care than we can possibly provide in our hospitals, and that more than 1 million could die.