Epidemiologist Advisor to CDC: Virus Peak Might Hit Two to Three Weeks From Now

A man crosses the street in a nearly empty Times Square, which is usually very crowded on a weekday morning, Monday, March 23, 2020 in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has ordered most New Yorkers to stay home from work to slow the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

As we reported on Wednesday, the statistics out of Italy might hold some positive signs not only for them but for us as well.

According to Dr. Deborah Birx, the response coordinator for the White House Task Force dealing with the Wuhan coronavirus, she highlighted that Italy may have hit its peak on Saturday. Since then, the procession of new cases and new deaths has gone slowed.

Now, a leading epidemiologist, Ira Longini, who has been advising the CDC on the virus says that he has estimated that the peak of deaths from the virus may hit about two to three weeks from now. After that, he says, “most of the damage will be done” and then they might be able to adjust strictures on isolation/stay at home to folks who are more at risk and let many of the other folks out to work.

According to CNN, Ira Longini, professor at the Center for Statistics and Quantitative Infectious Diseases at the University of Florida, is a “funded partner” of the CDC and the CDC says he works with them on COVID-19 modeling. CNN did note that there were dissenting opinions to Longini’s projections as well as those who supported it.

Longini said: “I would guess the US will hit a peak in deaths in the next two-three weeks, as the doubling time seems to be about two-three days.” He added: “Maybe a partial lifting of the shelter-in-place for those less vulnerable may make some sense, in about three weeks. By then, much of the damage will have been done.”

Asked if there could be a risk of a relapse when the virus circulated again in the following weeks, he said: “If it were limited, and we continued to protect the most vulnerable, that may be acceptable for now. Also, let’s see what happens in the next two-three weeks. We can also keep an eye on China as they begin to relax restrictions there.”

This may be why President Donald Trump has been talking about the possibility of having a change at the end of the month and a greater return to normality by Easter. This may support that position.

Of course, as everyone involved from Trump to Longini are all cautious to note, their statements are estimates and projections and it depends on how the virus reacts to the measures that have been taken.

CNN did cite two other experts who agreed generally with Longini, with one noting that different areas in the US might hit peak at different points, as well one modeler who claimed one couldn’t predict peaks because it depended on how effective the lockdown measure were or that there might be many peaks over the life of the virus as it rolled out over time.

While it’s obviously cautionary and dependent on a lot of factors, it’s hopeful news and that’s something we surely need at this time.