According to a report from Business Insider, federal health authorities in the U.S. have maybe a week to get their arms around how to deal with the coronavirus pandemic that is swiftly spreading throughout the country if they hope to avoid the fate of Italy which recently saw almost 370 virus-related deaths in just one day.
In interviews and writings, health experts are raising alarms at the slow pace of mitigating the expansion of the virus that is bringing the country to a near halt.
"Experts say the moves officials and citizens make this week are crucial and will shape the COVID-19 trajectory at a national level," Business Insider's Rhea Mahbuban wrote. "The US has recorded more than 4,700 coronavirus cases and 92 deaths. Public-health experts are urging interventions that could help 'flatten the curve' of the outbreak — slow the virus' spread, in other words, so the country's healthcare system isn't overwhelmed."
According to one expert, the best way to forestall a fullscale spread of the health crisis will require "widespread, uncomfortable, and comprehensive social distancing," which will give health authorities time to come up with solutions.
As the report notes, Asaf Bitton, an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard University who is also the executive director of Ariadne Labs, took to Medium last Friday and made a dire prediction.
"We are only about 11 days behind Italy and generally on track to repeat what is unfortunately happening there and throughout much of the rest of Europe very soon," Bitton wrote before adding, "Our health system will not be able to cope with the projected numbers of people who will need acute care should we not muster the fortitude and will to socially distance each other starting now. On a regular day, we have about 45,000 staffed ICU beds nationally, which can be ramped up in a crisis to about 95,000. Even moderate projections suggest that if current infectious trends hold, our capacity (locally and nationally) may be overwhelmed as early as mid-late April."
After specifying actions the public and the government can take together (which can be read here), Bitton added a cautionary note.
"We have a preemptive opportunity to save lives through the actions we take right now that we will not have in a few weeks. It is a public health imperative. It is also our responsibility as a community to act while we still have a choice and while our actions can have the greatest impact," he wrote before concluding, "We cannot wait."