A leading epidemiologist advising the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has estimated the peak of deaths in the US coronavirus pandemic will be three weeks from now, after which “most of the damage will be done,” and says it may be possible to only isolate the vulnerable, allowing many back to work.The CDC confirmed that Ira Longini, professor at the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida, is a “funded partner.” The agency said he works with them on Covid-19 modeling.
The two other experts who broadly agreed with Longini offered slight variations on his projection, and both noted that the outbreaks are hitting each US community in a different way.
Dr. William Schaffner, an infectious disease specialist at Vanderbilt University, said the peak might take three more weeks.”My notions are harmonious in that I also anticipate … (the next) three to six weeks will be critical here in the United States,” he said. He added it might take six weeks as the US is a “very diverse country with a hot spot in New York right now and warm spots. The rest of the country is warming up. In the next three to six weeks, all those areas will start to surge or will have their curve depressed or blunted by the social distancing that’s going on. The virus will tell us.”He said he was more skeptical about the United States being able to lift restrictions on only part of the population. “Asking a subset to remain sheltered in place, to remain in home, that’s more difficult to do,” he said by phone.A second expert agreed broadly. Dr. Arnold Monto, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, said by email: “I agree that by 3 weeks, we will have a better idea of what is going to happen going forward. The outbreaks seem to be hitting different communities at different times and at different intensities, so it is hard to generalize However, I agree in general. And that is why action now in terms of social distancing is so important.”Epidemiology has informed US, UK and other government policy as it provides informed guesses as to where and how fast infections are spreading. A recent sharpening of US and UK restrictions was, for example, based on modeling from the UK’s Imperial College, which significantly worsened its prediction of how many people would require intensive care in hospital, using data from Italy.
I mean, I could see New York peaking in three weeks. But for most of the nation, are we even going to be close to a peak just after Easter? Rhode Island hasn’t even suffered one death yet, for instance, and has something like 130 confirmed cases. It seems to me that we have a good bit farther to go than three weeks before we hit any kind of peak. I’m no epidemiologist and this is three experts and it’s CNN and not some looney tune site, so what do I know. But still.