United States President Joe Biden speaks about his administration’s plans to respond to the economic crisis during a Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) Response in the State Dining Room of the White House in Washington on January 22, 2021.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President Joe Biden painted a dire picture of the coronavirus outbreak in the nation in his early days in office, warning that it will be months before the course of the pandemic changes and that the death toll is expected to be over the next several weeks will increase dramatically.
“A lot of Americans hurt. The virus is on the rise. We have 400,000 deaths that are expected to reach well over 600,000,” Biden said Friday, before signing two executive orders that reduce hunger and amid workers’ rights the pandemic should strengthen.
The US exceeded 400,000 total Covid-19 deaths on Tuesday, a quarter of them in the past 36 days. This is based on data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. On Biden’s first full day as president on Thursday, he told reporters after meeting his Covid-19 advisors, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation is likely to top 500,000 Covid-19 deaths in February.
Biden warned Friday that the outbreak continues: “There is nothing we can do to change the course of the pandemic over the next few months.” The President has repeatedly warned that the situation is likely to get worse before it improves.
Although it wasn’t immediately made clear which projections Biden was referring to, a key projection by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimates that the US could reach 600,000 Covid-19 deaths by March if states relaxed social distancing mandates. However, the model’s current projections show that Covid-19 deaths will be just over 560,000 Covid-19 deaths by the end of April.
A spokesman for the Biden administration was not immediately available to comment on the president’s projections.
The United States has reported a drop in Covid-19 cases in the past few days, a glimmer of hope after a surge since the fall and during the winter holiday season. According to a CNBC analysis of Johns Hopkins data, the US reports an average of around 187,593 new Covid-19 cases every day, a 22% decrease from the previous week.
However, the nation is still “in a very grave situation,” Fauci said during his first press briefing at the White House under the new administration on Thursday, noting the country’s high death toll and overstretched hospital capacity.
Fauci said the daily number of cases appears to be plateauing and is turning around based on the weekly average. It’s possible the decline is still due to reduced reporting after the holidays, he added.
“When we see that we think it’s real,” said Fauci.
Biden’s warnings come as the country races to get 100 million Covid-19 vaccine shots administered within the first 100 days of its administration. The introduction of the vaccine in the nation has been slow to start, despite health experts having said Biden’s goal of 100 million shots is feasible.
The rate of vaccinations has increased over the past week. The US administered 1.6 million Covid-19 vaccines between Thursday and Friday. This is based on recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 100 million shots in 100 days would be a viable target if this daily count continued.
Biden has dismissed the idea that the target might be too low a threshold, claiming that he was told before he took office that the target might be too high. Biden’s spokesman did not respond to CNBC’s question regarding the president’s comments.
“I find it fascinating that yesterday the press asked, ‘Is 100 million enough?’ The week before they said, “Biden, are you crazy? You cannot make 100 million in 100 days, “said the president during the press conference on Friday.” God willing, we will not just do 100 million, we will do more than that. “
– CNBC’s Jacob Pramuk and Nate Rattner contributed to this report.