Washington: US deaths from coronavirus could reach 200,000 with millions of cases, the government's top infectious diseases expert warned on Sunday as New York, New Orleans and other major cities pleaded for more medical supplies.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated in an interview with CNN that the pandemic could cause between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the United States.
Since 2010, the flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans a year, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 1918-19 flu pandemic killed 675,000 in the United States, according to the CDC.
The U.S. coronavirus death toll topped 2,300 on Sunday after deaths on Saturday more than doubled from the level two days prior. The United States has now recorded more than 130,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the most of any country in the world.
Jason Brown, who was laid off from his job in digital media due to the pandemic, said Fauci's estimate was scary.
"I feel like it's just growing, growing, growing," said Brown, who is 27 and lives in Los Angeles, one of the epicentres of the outbreak. "There's no vaccine. It seems like a lot of people don't take it seriously in the U.S. so it makes me believe that this would become more drastic and drastic."
Erika Andrade, a teacher who lives in Trumbull, Connecticut, said she was already expecting widespread deaths from the virus before Fauci's estimate on Sunday.
"I wasn't surprised that he said the numbers were coming. They were lower than what I actually expected," said Andrade, 49. "I'm worried for my mother. I'm worried for the people I love."
New York state reported nearly 60,000 cases and a total of 965 deaths on Sunday, up 237 in the past 24 hours with one person dying in the state every six minutes. The number of patients hospitalized is slowing, doubling every six days instead of every four, Governor Andrew Cuomo said.
One bright spot on Sunday was Florida reporting about 200 more cases but no new deaths, with its toll staying at 56.
President Donald Trump has talked about reopening the country by Easter Sunday, April 12, despite many states such as New York ordering residents to stay home past that date. On Saturday, he seemed to play down those expectations, saying only "We'll see what happens."
Tests to track the disease's progress also remain in short supply, despite repeated White House promises that they would be widely available.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, whose state has become one the fastest growing areas for the virus, especially in the county that includes Detroit, called the rapid spread "gut-wrenching."
"We have nurses wearing the same mask from the beginning of their shift until the end, masks that are supposed to for one patient at one point in your shift. We need some assistance and we're going to need thousands of ventilators," Whitmer told CNN.
New York City will need hundreds of more ventilators in a few days and more masks, gowns and other supplies by April 5, Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN on Sunday.
New Orleans will run out of ventilators around April 4 and officials in Louisiana still do not know whether they will receive any ventilators from the national stockpile, the governor said.
Louisiana has tried to order 12,000 ventilators from commercial vendors and has received 192, Governor John Bel Edwards said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"We haven't yet been approved for ventilators out of the national stockpile. I continue to press that case and I hope we will be cut in for a slice of what they have left," Edwards said. "It is the one thing that really keeps me up at night."
Doctors are also especially concerned about a shortage of ventilators, breathing machines needed by many of those suffering from the pneumonia-like respiratory ailment.
Dr Arabia Mollette, an emergency medicine physician at Brookdale and St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, has started praying during the cab ride to work in the morning before she enters what she describes as a "medical warzone." At the end of her shift, which often runs much longer than the scheduled 12 hours, she sometimes cannot hold back tears.
"We're trying to keep our heads above water without drowning," Mollette said. "We are scared. We're trying to fight for everyone else's life, but we also fight for our lives as well."