Though Attorney General William Barr called current social distancing measures “draconian,” Dr. Anthony Fauci told lawmakers that the White House task force is developing a framework for what a return to normalcy will look like for Americans, a source told CNN.
But normal may not look exactly like it once did. The handshake, for example, may need to become a thing of the past, said Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).
“I think what we’re going to have embedded and imprinted in us forever is the realization that something as catastrophic as what the world is experiencing now can happen,” Fauci said.
Trends in projected deaths
Wednesday was another record day of deaths with an increase of 1,922 reported fatalities, according to data supplied by Johns Hopkins University.
And though the impact has been grave thus far, there is a glimmer of hope with models projecting lower numbers of deaths by the time the pandemic subsides.
The US will reach its highest daily number of deaths on or around Sunday, according to modeling by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington in Seattle. The peak of demand on hospital beds and ventilators is projected to hit on or around Saturday.
“What has been so remarkable, I think, to those of us that have been in the science field for so long,” Birx said, “is how important behavioral change is, and how amazing Americans are at adapting to and following through on these behavioral changes.”
CDC teams protecting areas with low transmission
Some areas have yet to see high transmission rates of the virus, and the US Centers of Disease Control and Prevention has deployed eight teams in hopes of keeping it that way, a federal official involved in the day-to-day coronavirus response told CNN.
The “community protection field teams” work directly with state and local health departments, but the official declined to say where the teams would be placed.
A second federal health official said at least one would be deployed to Wyoming.
“They have not had a lot of cases. You want to make sure it stays that way,” the senior federal health official told CNN when asked about Wyoming. “You work closely with them to make sure their public health capacity is working. Find cases, interrupt clusters, and do containment as opposed to mitigation,” the official said.
“If containment is achieved, you don’t have to have broader heavy duty mitigation restrictions.”
Philadelphia and D.C. expected to be new hotspots, official says
Philadelphia and Washington D.C. are expected to be new hotspots for the coronavirus pandemic, White House coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said in a conference call with House Democrats Wednesday, according to a source on the call.
Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that he was briefed that Philadelphia is “an area of particular concern.”
“Our message to the people of the Philadelphia area is now more than ever, practice the social distancing so that Philadelphia and to some extent even Pittsburgh do not have to endure what other communities before them have had to endure,” Pence said.
Birx added that the Philadelphia metropolitan area is seeing 1,400 cases per day and the Baltimore/Washington, DC area is seeing a 15% positivity rate with 500 cases per day in DC and 200 cases per day in Baltimore.
States say measures are working
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson lauded the state’s targeted approach and residents’ social distancing measures Wednesday, noting the state has 2.5 hospitalizations per 100,000 people.
“That makes a difference in how we get out of this, how soon we get out of this and that we beat that curve and so I want to thank everybody for paying such close attention to it and doing a good job,” Hutchinson said.
And though Kentucky saw its largest increase in reported cases Wednesday, Gov. Andy Beshear said that the state’s low numbers relative to the rest of the nation show that social distancing measures are working.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday that although the state’s cases are still growing, the trajectory of growth is lower than anticipated. But, he said, the good news should not be a sign for residents to let their guards down when it comes to social distancing and stay at home orders or cases will spike right back up.
California is a hotspot with more than 18,700 cases, but the state has seen results as well with its strict social distancing measures. Responding early to the virus has slowed the doubling of cases in Santa Clara country from three days to two weeks or longer, said Health Officer Dr. Sarah Cody.
“We cannot let up. Most of the people living in our community are still susceptible,” Cody stressed. “This is a marathon, maybe an ultra-marathon.”
Outbreaks in prisons
A jail in Chicago is now the largest known source of coronavirus infections in the US outside of medical facilities, according to the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
The Cook County Sheriff’s office said Wednesday 251 detainees and 150 staff members of the Cook County Jail have tested positive for the virus. Of the detainees sickened in the outbreak, 22 are hospitalized for treatment and 31 others have been moved to a recovery facility.
“Jails in this country are petri dishes. They’re the government equivalent of nursing homes or cruise ships,” said Toni Preckwinkle, Cook County Board president. “It’s very difficult in a jail to maintain social distancing.”
Chicago, which is in Cook County, expects a refrigerated warehouse to be operational starting Thursday to potentially store more than 1500 bodies, according to the Cook County Chief Medical Examiner Dr. Ponni Arunkumar. The medical examiner’s office had already begun using a refrigerated truck to store bodies as the coronavirus death toll went up, but they are very near capacity, Arunkumar told CNN.
In the California prison system, the number of inmates infected grew by more than seven times in a little more than a week and staff cases nearly tripled, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation said Wednesday.
“You have people in Italy dying, people in Spain dying, people in America dying, people are panic buying, people are concerned and people are scared,” Samuel Brown, an inmate at California State Prison, Los Angeles County told CNN. “And the truth of the matter is prisoners are people. So we’re also afraid.”
“And there’s a potential of us dying, too.”
CNN’s Holly Yan, Steve Almasy, Shelby Lin Erdman, Nick Valencia and Pierre Meilhan contributed to this report.