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NEW YORK, April 8 (Reuters) – An influential university model on the U.S. coronavirus pandemic on Wednesday scaled back its projected death toll by 26% to 60,000 but a federal health official warned of a second wave of infections if Americans relax “social distancing” practices.
The downward revision in the death toll in the University of Washington model – often cited by U.S. and state policymakers – coincides with comments by some political leaders that caseloads may have reached a plateau in certain areas.
Bing COVID-19 tracker: Latest numbers by country and state
Those assessments in recent days, including an apparent leveling out in hospitalizations in New York state – the U.S. epicenter of the pandemic – are tempered by a persistent climb in the U.S. death toll, which rose by more than 1,900 on Tuesday as some 30,000 new infections were reported.
New York Mayor Bill De Blasio told a briefing on Wednesday that coronavirus-related hospitalizations in the most populous U.S. city had stabilized and that the need for ventilators was lower than projected.
“In the last few days we’ve actually seen fewer ventilators needed that were projected,” the mayor said.
Even that revised forecast suggested months of pain ahead for the United States. All told, about 400,000 U.S. infections have been reported, along with roughly 13,000 deaths.
“What’s really important is that people don’t turn these early signs of hope into releasing from the 30 days to stop the spread – it’s really critical,” said Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, referring to guidelines aimed at reducing the spread of the virus.
“If people start going out again and socially interacting, we could see a really acute second wave,” Birx added.
The world is battling the COVID-19 pandemic.
(Pictured) Voters fill out ballots at Riverside University High School during the presidential primary election in Wisconsin on April 7.
Hospital personnel displays a thank you card after US businessperson Michael ‘BigMike’ Straumietis donated masks to the Providence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Burbank on April 7.
Signs made by prisoners pleading for help are seen on a window of Cook County Jail in Chicago on April 7.
Unused rental cars fill the Dodger Stadium parking lot in Los Angeles on April 7.
A woman exits Mount Sinai Hospital in Manhattan past messages of thanks written on the sidewalk in New York City on April 7.
A passer-by wears a mask out of concern for the coronavirus while walking past a public service sign on April 7 in Boston.
At the White House on April 7, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin (left) listens as President Donald Trump speaks during a conference call with banks on efforts to help small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic.
People practice social distancing as they wait in line to enter a grocery store on April 7 in Miami Beach, Florida.
Outside City Hall in Boston on April 7, Mayor Marty Walsh speaks at a press briefing on the city’s efforts battling the coronavirus pandemic.
A grocery store employee sprays hand sanitizer in a customer’s hands as he enters the store on April 7 in Miami Beach, Florida.
A sign in Los Angeles on April 7 encourages people to take safety precautions by not touching their faces as coronavirus infections accelerate.
A scarecrow dressed in a white coat next to a sign that reads “Thank You Healthcare Workers!” on April 7 in Owings, Maryland.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez celebrates the Chrism Mass for the faithful of the nation’s largest Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles on April 6. Without the ability to have public Mass and visitors due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels live-streams its services.
New York City nurses and health workers gather at a ‘COVID-19 Frontline Health Worker Action’ event on April 6 to demand safer working conditions, more personal protective equipment (PPE) and free virus testing.
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence (C) speaks during a briefing following a meeting of his coronavirus task force in the Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House on April 6.
Jack Graham Jr. (L) exalts in a win while playing 10,000, a dice game, with his friend William Wentworth at The Exhibition Hall at the Seattle Center on April 6 in Seattle, Washington. The space currently has 150 beds, separated six feet apart, and operated by the Downtown Emergency Service Center (DESC).
City of Sunrise employees place groceries provided by the food bank Feeding South Florida into the vehicles of the needy on April 6. Feeding South Florida has seen a 600 percent increase in the those asking for food aid during the coronavirus pandemic.
NYU Langone Health workers applaud medical staff and essential workers on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic on April 6 in New York City.
Los Angeles Archbishop Jose H. Gomez, front, celebrates the Chrism Mass for the faithful of the nation’s largest Catholic Archdiocese in Los Angeles on April 6. Without the ability to have public Mass and visitors due to the new coronavirus pandemic, the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels live-streams its services.
Dr. Diana Sedler, a periodontist, puts on a mask made by a 3D printer and designed at her family’s business, Burbank Dental Lab, on April 6 in Burbank, Calif. The lab, which typically makes dental products such as dentures, night guards and appliances, has shifted some of its efforts to making masks for health care workers dealing with shortages of protective equipment.
Aerial view of light traffic, amid the coronavirus pandemic, during evening rush hour on South Figueroa Street and the 110 freeway in Los Angeles on April 6.
People walk down a St. Louis street wearing face coverings on April 6. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention now recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings after recent studies have shown a significant portion of the population can transmit the coronavirus without showing any symptoms.
Oklahoma state Rep. Harold Wright, left, R-Weatherford, presides over a special session of the Oklahoma House, as the House limits the number of members allowed on the floor due to COVID-19 concerns on April 6, in Oklahoma City.
Passengers from the Coral Princess cruise ship board a charter flight at Miami International Airport during the coronavirus outbreak on April 6, in Miami.
Stuffed toys (mostly teddy bears) are being placed in windows or under porches to give children a fun and safe activity while walking around their neighborhood with parents in Washington, on April 6.
A Texas Department of Public Safety State Trooper talks with a driver at a checkpoint in Orange, Texas, near the Louisiana state border on April 6. The troopers are checking motorists crossing the border between Louisiana and Texas on I-10 to determine if they need to self-quarantine for 14 days to comply with an executive order from Gov. Greg Abbott due to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
Jim Carpenter protests Tuesday’s scheduled election amid the coronavirus pandemic on April 6, in downtown Milwaukee.
A medical worker carries out patient samples to be tested for the coronavirus in a cooler marked with “NIH” on the side at a walk in testing site at George Washington University on April 6, in Washington.
A sign stretches across a footbridge being used as a control point to screen workers for coronavirus symptoms before entering the Dell Seton Medical Center at the University of Texas in Austin, on April 6.
A sign at The Anthem music venue reads “We’ll Get Thru This” at the wharf, which is almost completely empty because of the coronavirus outbreak on April 6, in Washington..
A visibly distraught woman leans against a wall outside of Wyckoff Hospital in the Bushwick section of Brooklyn Apr. 5, in New York.
Eliza Cazarez, 9, restocks her neighborhood food pantry she and her family provides for neighbors in need due to the coronavirus pandemic, April 5, in Laveen, Ariz. Her father, Orlando Cazarez, of Carver Mountain Woodcraft, helped her and her brothers build the pantry out of reclaimed wood, license plates and other materials.
Australian citizens, who were aboard the MS Zaandam and Coral Princess cruises, now cleared to fly after quarantining, wait in line to receive their boarding passes for a specially chartered United Airlines flight to take them home to Australia at San Francisco International Airport as efforts continue to help slow the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in San Francisco, California, April 5.
A view of a room inside the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center as they prepare for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients in New Orleans, Louisiana, April 5.
U.S. President Donald Trump speaks about the administration’s response to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak during the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, April 5.
Sisters Sylvia (R), Stephanie Falcomer and grandson Peter Henry hold a ‘socially distant’ 94th birthday party in their driveway for their mother and grandmother Marcella Falcomer, who came to America from Italy in 1955, as they say hello to their relatives on a Zoom video conference call during the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in West Nyack, New York, April 5.
New Yorkers with face masks, as a precaution against the new type of coronavirus (COVID-19), in front of graffiti walls in New York City, on April 5.
Priest Melake Genet Komos Aba Teklehaimanot from the Worcester Debre Genet Kidist Kidane Meheret Tewahedo Orthodox Church rides in the back of a pickup truck offering blessings amid the pandemic, in Worcester, Massachusetts, on April 5.
People embrace as a band plays at Cafe 247 in Lucerne Valley, California, on April 5.
An aerial picture shot with a drone shows owner Reggie Haskins and Lead Tech Emmanuel Walker of Bio Aftermath Solutions clean all of the patrol vehicles for the Southwestern District of the Baltimore Police Department, in Maryland, on April 5. After at least one officer tested positive for coronavirus, Police Commissioner Michael Harrison ordered the entire district closed for cleaning and ordered the quarantine of the entire district’s personnel. Each remaining district sent one sergeant and eight officers to staff the district’s policing responsibilities.
View of the Wharf after Washington DC Mayor orders it closed to contain the pandemic after evidence of overcrowding on previous day, in Washington, D.C. on April 5.
View of deserted Times Square in New York City, on April 5 as New York has turned into the epicenter of the pandemic in the country with over 4,000 deaths.
A group of people takes pictures of the sunrise at the Sunny Isles Pier on April 5, in Sunny Isles Beach, Florida.
Two women practice social distancing while talking on Commonwealth Avenue Mall on April 4 in Boston.
A medic of the Elmhurst Hospital Center medical team reacts after stepping outside of the emergency room on April 4 in the Queens borough of New York.
Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauc speaks during the daily briefing on the COVID-19 at the White House on April 4 in Washington, DC.
An aerial view from a drone shows the cruise ship Coral Princess after it docked at Port Miami on April 4 in Miami, Florida. Reports indicate that there are passengers and crew members aboard that have tested positive for COVID-19.
Members of the media tour the field hospital setup for coronavirus (COVID-19) patients at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center on April 4 in New Orleans, Louisiana. The convention center will start taking patients tomorrow with room for 1,000 COVID-19 positive patients to alleviate stress on local hospitals.
The Rev. Michael Amadeo stands in front of the altar following communion during the broadcast and recording of the Palm Sunday Mass at Our Lady’s Immaculate Heart Catholic Church for parishioners to watch online on April 4 in Ankeny, Iowa. Sunday Masses continue to be available online in response to the new coronavirus outbreak.
A man wearing a face mask carries vegetables at the Joshua Tree Certified Farmers’ Market amid an outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) on April 4 in Joshua Tree, California.
Gallery by photo services
The pandemic has upended American life, with 94% of the population ordered to stay at home and nearly 10 million people losing their jobs in the past two weeks.
Hospitals have been inundated with cases of COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, resulting in shortages of medical equipment and protective garments.
The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model is one of several that the White House task force has cited. It now projects U.S. deaths at more than 60,000 by Aug. 4, down from the nearly 82,000 fatalities it had forecast on Tuesday.
The White House coronavirus task force has previously projected 100,000 to 240,000 Americans could die.
The institute also moved up its projected peak in the number to U.S. deaths to this Sunday, when it predicted 2,212 people will succumb to the disease. The revision moves forward the projected peak by four days, suggesting the strain on the country’s healthcare system will begin to abate a little sooner than previously expected.
AT-HOME DEATHS UNTRACKED
New York’s de Blasio estimated an undercount in the death toll of 100 to 200 people per day who are dying at home but excluded from the city’s rapidly growing coronavirus count. So far the city’s announced death toll has reflected only COVID-19 diagnoses confirmed in a laboratory.
But after a spike in the number of people dying at home, the city will now try to quantify how many of those died from coronavirus-related causes and add that to the its official death toll, New York’s health department said.
“Every single measure of this pandemic is an undercount. Every. Single. One,” Mark Levine, chairman of the City Council’s health committee, wrote on Twitter. “Confirmed cases? Skewed by lack of testing. Hospitalizations? Skewed by huge # of sick people we are sending home because there’s no room in ERs. Deaths? Massive undercount because of dying at home.”
The state of New York accounts for more than a third of U.S. confirmed coronavirus cases, and nearly half the cumulative death toll.
Authorities in various states in recent days have disclosed data showing that the pandemic was having a disproportionate impact on African Americans, reflecting longstanding racial inequities in health outcomes in the United States.
De Blasio said there were “clear inequalities” in how the coronavirus is affecting his city’s population.
In New York, long weeks of fighting the pandemic were taking a toll on hospital staff, some of whom are coming down with the disease they have been fighting.
One resident doctor at New York-Presbyterian Hospital said he had been surprised by the number of hospital workers infected.
“There are people around the hospital who are sick and now they’re showing up on our patient list. … It’s hard not to see yourself in them,” the resident said. “A lot of us feel like we are being put in harm’s way.”
(Reporting by Peter Szekely, Doina Chiacu, Susan Heavey and Gabriella Borter; Writing by Daniel Trotta and Will Dunham; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)