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Feds Changed Course After Chilling Virus Death Toll Prediction

Inaction could lead to 2.2M deaths, British researchers warned
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 17, 2020 5:35 AM CDT
Updated Mar 17, 2020 6:47 AM CDT

(Newser) – The White House announced tough new measures to fight the coronavirus outbreak Monday, apparently in response to sobering figures in a report from British researchers. The researchers warned that without action from the government, the outbreak could kill 2.2 million Americans, the New York Times reports. Dr. Deborah Birx, one of the leaders of the White House coronavirus task force, said the recommendations drew on new information in the Imperial College London report. "What had the biggest impact in the model is social distancing, small groups, not going in public in large groups," she said. "The most important thing was if one person in the household became infected, the whole household self-quarantined for 14 days. Because that stops 100% of the transmission outside of the household."

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The report's lead author, epidemiology professor Neil Ferguson, tells the Times that there is "no clear exit strategy" from the measures they recommend. "We’re going to have to suppress this virus—frankly, indefinitely—until we have a vaccine," he says. "It’s a difficult position for the world to be in." The report, which also influenced a switch to tougher measures in Britain, looked at the potential impacts of doing nothing, mitigation efforts to slow the spread of the virus, and suppression "to stop the epidemic in its tracks," the BBC reports. They concluded that to avoid health services becoming completely overwhelmed, leading to hundreds of thousands of deaths, "suppression is the only viable strategy at the current time." (Read more coronavirus stories.)

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