“It’s communities that will do this. There’s no magic bullet (for Covid-19), there’s no magic vaccine or therapy, it’s just behaviors,” said Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the task force. “Each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days.”
Cases and deaths are soaring: At least 3,700 people have died in the United States — almost 800 of which were reported Tuesday alone. More than 184,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in the country.
Models used by the White House predict that even with perfect adherence to social distancing guidelines, at least 100,000 Americans might die.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told reporters that Americans should be ready for such a death toll, but the task force is working to keep the number down.
“We should be prepared for it. Is it going to be that much? I hope not, and I think the more we push on the mitigation the less the likelihood it would be that number,” he said.
Fauci also told Americans not to get discouraged when the number of deaths keeps increasing because other data will show mitigation is working.
Early clues — in places like New York, California and Seattle — indicate social distancing may be slowing the rate at which Covid-19 cases otherwise would have increased in the United States.
• New York has by far the most US cases (75,700+) and deaths (1,500+). But the state’s average of day-over-day case increases for the past seven days was 17%, compared to 58% for the previous seven-day period, a CNN analysis shows.
Another model shows a lower death toll for strict social distancing.
Signs continue to emerge that the pandemic is posing huge challenges to the US economy.
‘Stay at home, buy us time’
In parts of the country, walking into work feels like walking into a war zone for many medical care workers.
“There is not enough of anything,” one trauma physician at Miami’s Jackson Memorial Hospital said. “There are just so many patients who are so sick, it seems impossible to keep up with the demand.”
Inside New York City’s Elmhurst hospital, one doctor told CNN “we are at the brink of not being able to care for patients.”
It may seem simple, another doctor says, but staying at home could also be saving those working to save patients.
“It feels like coronavirus is everywhere and it feels like we have very little to protect ourselves from getting very sick ourselves as healthcare workers,” Dr. Cornelia Griggs, a pediatric surgery fellow at Columbia University, said Monday. “I want everyone at home to know that even though it seems like staying at home is futile, it’s not.”
“We need everyone at home to hold the line, stay at home. Buy us time, flatten the curve.”
The city’s police and fire personnel are struggling, too.
At the New York Police Department, 1,193 employees — 1,048 uniformed officers and 145 civilian workers — had tested positive for coronavirus by Tuesday morning, a law enforcement source told CNN. More than 5,600 members of the department — about 15% of the force — were out sick Tuesday, according to the source.
New York City Fire Department paramedic Madelyn Higueros, who works in the area near Elmhurst hospital, said her shifts have been extra hectic, responding to call after call from people with flu-like symptoms.
Her husband, also a city paramedic, has tested positive for coronavirus and is self-isolating away from the family. She doesn’t have symptoms.
“Most of the station is out with symptoms,” she said. “The ones that are still working, we’re so tired. … We’re working over 16 hours a day.”
The city fire department had 282 members test positive for coronavirus, spokesman Jim Long said Tuesday.
States clamp down
More than two dozen governors have stepped up to combat the spread of the virus, issuing stay-at-home orders that now cover more than three-fourths of the American population — and authorities have begun cracking down on those who refuse to abide.
In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear also issued an executive order Monday barring residents from traveling to other states — with just a handful of exceptions — and directing those who are returning to Kentucky from another state to self-quarantine for two weeks.
“Right now we have more cases in other states,” he said. “What it means is your likelihood of getting infected and potentially bringing back the coronavirus may be greater in other states than ours. You need to be home anyways.”
In North Dakota, residents coming back from any of the 24 states the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified as having “widespread disease” are also required to quarantine for two weeks. Those states include California, New York, Illinois and Georgia.
Those not following orders to stay at home and keep a distance have begun facing consequences.
“Last night I made a decision to seek an arrest warrant for the pastor of a local church who intentionally, and repeatedly, chose to disregard the orders set in place by our president, our governor, the CDC and the Hillsborough County Emergency policy group,” Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said.
“His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger,” he added.
CNN’s Arman Azad, Amanda Watts, Dave Alsup, Tami Luhby, Joe Sutton, Dan Simon, Shimon Prokupecz, Mark Morales, Matthew Hoye and Dianne Gallagher contributed to this report.