British researchers shared grim projections with the White House coronavirus task force sometime last week before passing along an early report indicating that up to 2.2 million Americans could die of the virus if there is no drastic intervention.
The report, released on Monday by an epidemic modeling group at the Imperial College London, called for the social distancing of the entire population in order to help battle the spread of the virus. The report acknowledged that this will pose a challenge given that it will require social distancing—including restrictions to school, work and other social gatherings—that will need to be maintained until a vaccine becomes available, which could take up to 18 months.
“We don’t have a clear exit strategy,” Dr. Neil Ferguson, the lead author of the study told the Times. “We’re going to have to suppress this virus— frankly, indefinitely —until we have a vaccine.”
“It’s a difficult position for the world to be in,” he added.
The study states that while the interventions could be temporarily relaxed for a short period of time, restrictions will have to ramp back up if new infections begin surfacing.
“We predict that transmission will quickly rebound if interventions are relaxed,” the study noted.
The results of the study were published just as the White House encouraged more restrictions to public life, including recommending that Americans work from home and avoid unnecessary shopping trips and eating out in restaurants. These are precautions local governments have already essentially banned, prompting business closures.
The White House also encouraged Americans to avoid gatherings of more than ten people, which is a stricter stance than most recommendations imposed by local governments. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention currently recommends that gatherings should not exceed 50 individuals.
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