Coronavirus headlines: Expert report predicts up to two more years of pandemic misery

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May 1, 2020

(WJW) — As of Friday, there were 3,269,667 cases of coronavirus worldwide, including 1,070,032 in the United States.

The United States has seen 63,746 deaths and 133,000 recoveries.

In Ohio, there have been 18,027 confirmed cases of coronavirus and 975 deaths.

**For more on the stay-at-home order in Ohio, watch the video above**

10:45 p.m. update:

(CNN) — The new coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years—until 60% to 70% of the population has been infected, a team of longstanding pandemic experts predicted in a report released Thursday.

They recommended that the US prepare for a worst-case scenario that includes a second big wave of coronavirus infections in the fall and winter. Even in a best-case scenario, people will continue to die from the virus, they predicted.

“This thing’s not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people,” Mike Osterholm, who directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, told CNN.

“The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology.”

Osterholm has been writing about the risk of pandemics for 20 years and has advised several presidents. He wrote the report along with Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who is also a top expert on pandemics; Dr. Kristine Moore, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist who is now medical director for CIDRAP; and historian John Barry, who wrote the 2004 book “The Great Influenza” about the 1918 flu pandemic.

Waiting for herd immunity

Because Covid-19 is new, no one has any immunity, they said. “The length of the pandemic will likely be 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops in the human population,” they wrote.

Their predictions are different from models presented by groups such as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington or the models produced by Imperial College London, whose report predicting millions of deaths in the US and UK helped galvanize responses by both governments.

The CIDRAP-led team used those reports, historical data on past pandemics, and published reports about the medical details of Covid-19 to put together their forecast.

“I have said for a long time that when you are trying to understand how infectious disease is going to unfold, you should rely on history as well as models,” Lipsitch told CNN. For instance, pandemic infections don’t tend to die down in the summer, like seasonal flu does., he said.

Covid-19 is most comparable to a pandemic strain of influenza, they said.

“Because of a longer incubation period, more asymptomatic spread, and a higher R0, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than flu,” they wrote in the report. R0 is the average number of other people infected by each patient.

“A higher R0 means more people will need to get infected and become immune before the pandemic can end,” they add. “Based on the most recent flu pandemics, this outbreak will likely last 18 to 24 months.”

Preparing for the worst

They said government officials should stop telling people the pandemic could be ending and instead prepare citizens for a long haul.

Three scenarios are possible, they said:

Scenario 1: The first wave of Covid-19 in spring 2020 is followed by a series of repetitive smaller waves that occur through the summer and then consistently over a one- to two-year period, gradually diminishing sometime in 2021

Scenario 2: The first wave of Covid-19 is followed by a larger wave in the fall or winter and one or more smaller waves in 2021. “This pattern will require the reinstitution of mitigation measures in the fall in an attempt to drive down spread of infection and prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed,” they wrote. “This pattern is similar to what was seen with the 1918-19 pandemic.”

Scenario 3: A “slow burn” of ongoing transmission. “This third scenario likely would not require the reinstitution of mitigation measures, although cases and deaths will continue to occur.”

States and territories should plan for scenario 2, the worst-case scenario, they recommended.

“Government officials should develop concrete plans, including triggers for reinstituting mitigation measures, for dealing with disease peaks when they occur,” they advised.

Lipsitch and Osterholm both said they are surprised by the decisions many states are making to lift restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.

“I think it’s an experiment. It’s an experiment that likely will cost lives, especially in places that do it without careful controls to try to figure out when to try to slow things down again,” Lipsitch said.

Plus, he said, some states are choosing to lift restrictions when they have more new infections than they had when they decided to impose the restrictions.

“It is hard to even understand the rationale,” Lipsitch said.

A vaccine could help, the report said, but not quickly. “The course of the pandemic also could be influenced by a vaccine; however, a vaccine will likely not be available until at least sometime in 2021,” they wrote.

“And we don’t know what kinds of challenges could arise during vaccine development that could delay the timeline.”

8:15 p.m. update

GRETNA, La. (AP) — More than a dozen states let restaurants, stores or other businesses reopen Friday in the biggest one-day push yet to get their economies up and running again, acting at their own speed and with their own quirks and restrictions to make sure the coronavirus doesn’t come storming back.

People in Louisiana could eat at restaurants again but had to sit outside at tables 10 feet (3 meters) apart with no waiter service. Maine residents could attend church services as long as they stayed in their cars. And a Nebraska mall reopened with plexiglass barriers and hand-sanitizing stations but few shoppers.

“I feel like I just got out of jail!” accountant Joy Palermo exclaimed as she sat down with a bacon-garnished bloody Mary at the Gretna Depot Cafe outside New Orleans.

Meanwhile, the first drug shown to help fight COVID-19 won emergency approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. In a major study, remdesivir shortened patients’ recovery time from 15 days to 11 on average and may have also reduced deaths.

The virus has killed more than 230,000 people worldwide, including over 64,000 in the U.S. and more than 20,000 each in Italy, Britain, France and Spain, forcing lockdowns that have shuttered factories and businesses, thrown tens of millions out of work and throttled the world’s economies.

President Donald Trump said Friday that he’s hoping the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States will be below 100,000, which he acknowledged is a “horrible number.” Trump’s predictions of the expected U.S. death toll have changed over time, with his earlier 60,000 projection now being eclipsed. But he said at a White House event that “maybe millions of lives” have been saved by shutting down the economy.

With the crisis stabilizing in Europe and in many places in the U.S., countries and states are gradually easing their restrictions amid warnings from health experts that a second wave of infections could hit unless testing for the virus is expanded dramatically.

In much of Colorado, people could get their hair cut and shop at stores again, though stay-at-home orders remained in place in Denver and surrounding counties. Wyoming let barbershops, nail salons, gyms and daycare centers reopen. In Maine, golf courses, hairdressers and dentists opened.

Hotels near South Carolina beaches opened and state parks unlocked their gates for the first time in more than a month. But in Myrtle Beach, the state’s most popular tourist destination, hotel elevators will be restricted to one person or one family — a potential inconvenience at the area’s 15- and 20-story resorts.

Texas’ reopening got underway with sparse crowds at shopping malls and restaurants allowing customers to dine in, though only at 25% capacity in most places. A video posted on social media showed a city park ranger in Austin getting shoved into the water Thursday while asking people in a crowd to keep 6 feet (2 meters) apart from each other. Police charged a 25-year-old man with attempted assault.

At Gattuso’s Restaurant in Gretna, Louisiana, Kent and Doris Alimia and their daughters, Molly and Emily, celebrated Molly Alimia’s 22nd birthday at one of the outdoor tables, which were screened by plants in wooden planters 5 feet high.

“It’s a nice change of scenery to actually get out of the house,” Molly Alimia said.

Outside Omaha, Nebraska, Jasmine Ramos was among a half-dozen shoppers wandering the open-air Nebraska Crossing mall. Most wore masks.

“I do think it’s a little soon, but it’s kind of slow and there aren’t a lot of people here, so I’m not too worried,” Ramos said.

Restrictions were still in place in Arizona, but warnings from police and health officials didn’t stop Debbie Thompson from serving food Friday inside her Horseshoe Cafe in Wickenburg, a town of 6,300 people about 65 miles (105 kilometers) west of Phoenix. Cheered on by a few customers, Thompson was not arrested, but she later received a call from the state Department of Health Services telling her to stop violating Gov. Doug Ducey’s stay-at-home order.

Around the country, protesters have demanded governors reboot the battered economy. More than 100 people chanted and carried signs in front of Chicago’s Thompson Center, where Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker has an office, to call for an end to the statewide lockdown.

Pritzker has said he will not lift his order until it’s safe, and several counterprotesters expressed support for his position. Nurse anesthetist Benjamin Salazar held up a sign that read, “Stay home. We are getting tired of seeing people die.”

New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham invoked the state’s Riot Control Act as she sealed off all roads to nonessential traffic in the city of Gallup, population 70,000, to help control a surging coronavirus outbreak in the former trading post on the outskirts of the Navajo reservation.“

In the hardest-hit corner of the U.S., New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said schools and colleges will remain closed through the rest of the academic year.

In Washington state, where the nation’s first COVID-19 case was confirmed in January, Gov. Jay Inslee said Friday that he is extending the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order through at least May 31 and that he will ease the restrictions in four stages. Washington also had the first deadly cluster of cases in the U.S., at a Seattle-area nursing home.

Elsewhere around the world, Beijing’s Forbidden City, the imperial palace turned museum that is one of China’s biggest tourist attractions, started welcoming visitors again, and Bangladesh began reopening factories.

Across Europe and Asia, millions of workers marked May Day, or international labor day, struggling without jobs or worried they don’t have enough workplace protections against the virus.

In the U.S., Shani and Sergei Oveson were excited to resume dine-in seating at their small Salt Lake City restaurant, which has seen an 85% drop in sales since mid-March. Their place, the Ramen Bar, had only half the normal seating capacity because of social-distancing requirements.

“We’re really excited to be open, but at the same time we’re scared that the virus will reignite and we’ll have to close again, which would be so hard for us,” Shani Oveson said. “Owning your own business can be so scary financially, we have to risk getting sick to survive.”

5:30 p.m. update

The NBA today announced the postponement of NBA Draft Lottery 2020 and NBA Draft Combine 2020, both scheduled to take place later this month in Chicago.

More information on each event will be shared at a later date as the NBA continues to closely monitor the coronavirus pandemic and consult with infectious disease specialists, public health experts and government officials.

5 p.m. update

MIAMI (AP) — The NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball would need thousands of virus tests every week if those leagues can resume playing games. That remains the biggest challenge to address before most sports can resume, especially in a time where getting tested has been  problematic and  frustrating for many Americans. All the leagues are trying to come up with solutions that would allow them to restart play without facing massive criticism for taking up so many testing resources. Restarting sports is a key to rebooting the economy, however, none of the leagues want to be blamed for taking tests away from the general public.

3:30 p.m. update

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — President Donald Trump tweeted Friday that Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer should “give a little” and “put out the fire” a day after hundreds of conservative demonstrators, some with assault weapons, protested at the state Capitol against stay-at-home restrictions she imposed to fight the coronavirus pandemic.

The Democratic governor, in a tweet, responded with a video of former first lady Michelle Obama stating: “Our motto is: ‘When they go low we go high.’”

Whitmer late Thursday issued directives both proclaiming that the COVID-19 emergency continues and declaring new states of emergency and disaster after the Republican-controlled Legislature refused her request for a 28-day extension. The declarations are the foundation of her stay-home order and other measures to curb the spread of the virus.

GOP lawmakers, who want more input on gradually restarting the economy, also voted to authorize a lawsuit challenging her authority and actions. Whitmer in the past week let some businesses reopen and announced that commercial and residential construction can resume next week.

Trump encouraged Whitmer to “make a deal” with protesters calling her to reopen the state, attempting to strike a balance between supporting demonstrators who expressed affinity for him and minding the advice of his scientific experts.

“The Governor of Michigan should give a little, and put out the fire,” Trump said. “These are very good people, but they are angry. They want their lives back again, safely! See them, talk to them, make a deal.”

White House counsellor Kellyanne Conway said Trump was offering Whitmer assistance in opening the state.

“Here he’s weighed in and said to the governor, ’Hey I think it’s time, it’s May 1, to take a look at maybe reopening pieces of the Michigan economy and we’re here to help you do that,” she told reporters at the White House.

Some protesters — many without face coverings — entered the Capitol on Thursday and demanded to be let onto the House floor, which is not allowed. The gallery was closed to the public to allow room for representatives and reporters to spread apart. Some demonstrators in the Senate gallery were openly carrying guns, which is legal in the Statehouse. One senator said some armed men shouted at her, and some senators wore bulletproof vests.

Trump has tried to previously pressure the first-term governor, who leads a battleground state and is on presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden’s running mate list.

Whitmer said Thursday that defeating COVID-19 is an “all hands on deck moment,” and she was hopeful Republican legislators “will stop the partisan games and start working with me to re-engage our economy safely and responsibly.”

1:45 p.m. update

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — NASA and SpaceX on Friday urged everyone to stay home for the first home launch of astronauts in nearly a decade because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Top officials warned the public against traveling to Florida for the May 27 launch of two NASA astronauts aboard a SpaceX rocket to the International Space Station.

It will be the first launch of astronauts from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in nine years — ever since the last space shuttle flight in 2011. It also will be the first attempt by a private company to fly astronauts to orbit.

12 p.m. update

(CNN) — More than 30 states will have started easing social distancing restrictions for coronavirus by week’s end — and some are taking a “really significant risk” in doing so, the nation’s top infectious disease expert says.

That warning comes as a team of pandemic experts predicted in a new report that the novel virus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years.

11:45 a.m. update

(CNN) — ExxonMobil posted its first quarterly loss following its 1999 merger and Chevron pledged to further slash spending on Friday as the two largest US oil companies grapple with the crash in crude.

Exxon revealed Friday a surprise loss of $610 million during the first three months of the year. The red ink was driven by a $2.9 billion charge linked to writedowns from the collapse in oil prices.

The biggest US oil company, Exxon has never reported a quarterly loss since its mega merger with Mobil in November 1999. Shares fell 4% Friday morning.

6:20 a.m. update

(CNN) — The new coronavirus is likely to keep spreading for at least another 18 months to two years—until 60% to 70% of the population has been infected, a team of longstanding pandemic experts predicted in a report released Thursday.

They recommended that the US prepare for a worst-case scenario that includes a second big wave of coronavirus infections in the fall and winter. Even in a best-case scenario, people will continue to die from the virus, they predicted.

“This thing’s not going to stop until it infects 60 to 70 percent of people,” Mike Osterholm, who directs the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy (CIDRAP) at the University of Minnesota, told CNN.

“The idea that this is going to be done soon defies microbiology.”

Osterholm has been writing about the risk of pandemics for 20 years and has advised several presidents. He wrote the report along with Harvard School of Public Health epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch, who is also a top expert on pandemics; Dr. Kristine Moore, a former Centers for Disease Control and Prevention epidemiologist who is now medical director for CIDRAP; and historian John Barry, who wrote the 2004 book “The Great Influenza” about the 1918 flu pandemic.

Waiting for herd immunity

Because Covid-19 is new, no one has any immunity, they said. “The length of the pandemic will likely be 18 to 24 months, as herd immunity gradually develops in the human population,” they wrote.

Their predictions are different from models presented by groups such as the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington or the models produced by Imperial College London, whose report predicting millions of deaths in the US and UK helped galvanize responses by both governments.

The CIDRAP-led team used those reports, historical data on past pandemics, and published reports about the medical details of Covid-19 to put together their forecast.

“I have said for a long time that when you are trying to understand how infectious disease is going to unfold, you should rely on history as well as models,” Lipsitch told CNN. For instance, pandemic infections don’t tend to die down in the summer, like seasonal flu does., he said.

Covid-19 is most comparable to a pandemic strain of influenza, they said.

“Because of a longer incubation period, more asymptomatic spread, and a higher R0, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily than flu,” they wrote in the report. R0 is the average number of other people infected by each patient.

“A higher R0 means more people will need to get infected and become immune before the pandemic can end,” they add. “Based on the most recent flu pandemics, this outbreak will likely last 18 to 24 months.”

Preparing for the worst

They said government officials should stop telling people the pandemic could be ending and instead prepare citizens for a long haul.

Three scenarios are possible, they said:

Scenario 1: The first wave of Covid-19 in spring 2020 is followed by a series of repetitive smaller waves that occur through the summer and then consistently over a one- to two-year period, gradually diminishing sometime in 2021

Scenario 2: The first wave of Covid-19 is followed by a larger wave in the fall or winter and one or more smaller waves in 2021. “This pattern will require the reinstitution of mitigation measures in the fall in an attempt to drive down spread of infection and prevent healthcare systems from being overwhelmed,” they wrote. “This pattern is similar to what was seen with the 1918-19 pandemic.”

Scenario 3: A “slow burn” of ongoing transmission. “This third scenario likely would not require the reinstitution of mitigation measures, although cases and deaths will continue to occur.”

States and territories should plan for scenario 2, the worst-case scenario, they recommended.

“Government officials should develop concrete plans, including triggers for reinstituting mitigation measures, for dealing with disease peaks when they occur,” they advised.

Lipsitch and Osterholm both said they are surprised by the decisions many states are making to lift restrictions aimed at controlling the spread of the virus.

“I think it’s an experiment. It’s an experiment that likely will cost lives, especially in places that do it without careful controls to try to figure out when to try to slow things down again,” Lipsitch said.

Plus, he said, some states are choosing to lift restrictions when they have more new infections than they had when they decided to impose the restrictions.

“It is hard to even understand the rationale,” Lipsitch said.

A vaccine could help, the report said, but not quickly. “The course of the pandemic also could be influenced by a vaccine; however, a vaccine will likely not be available until at least sometime in 2021,” they wrote.

“And we don’t know what kinds of challenges could arise during vaccine development that could delay the timeline.”

Continuing coverage on the coronavirus pandemic, here, including the latest news from Ohio.

Coronavirus resources

  • Click here for more about coronavirus and animals
  • Click here for coronavirus symptoms
  • Click here for coronavirus basics
  • Click here for more on how COVID-19 spreads
  • The Ohio hotline for coronavirus questions is 1-833-4-ASK-ODH

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