US COVID-19 death toll hits 80,000 as top leaders quarantine

May 12, 2020

The U.S. death toll due to COVID-19 has surpassed 80,000, according to a tracker maintained by The New York Times. At least 1,350,000 cases have been confirmed in the country, including more than 80,000 deaths.

The death toll has already surpassed the most optimistic epidemiologic model, the one produced by the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, which projected 64,000 deaths by August 1. That model has since been adjusted to consider the easing of social distancing measures, and now projects 137,000 U.S. deaths by August 1.

The United States has the most reported deaths and cases of the novel coronavirus with New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Illinois, and California as the hardest-hit states. But cases in the first three states are declining and have remained mostly stagnant in recent days in Illinois and California.

Over the weekend, Anthony Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, joined Robert Redfield, MD, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and Stephen Hahn, MD, commissioner of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as the latest top coronavirus officials to voluntarily self-isolate after being exposed to White House personnel who have tested positive for the virus in recent days.

On May 12, Fauci and Redfield will testify, via video, at a Senate hearing on the coronavirus response. Tennessee Senator Lamar Alexander, the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, has mandated the hearing will take place remotely, as he is also self-quarantining after coming into contact with infected staffers.

The testimonies will be focused on how states should reopen economies after six to eight weeks of sheltering in place mandates, which are still in place in about two dozen states. Though the CDC recommended states wait until 14 days of sustained case declines, many states have opened with case counts increasing to stave off further economic disaster.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said social distancing guidelines put in place in his state will ease on May 15 in some parts of upstate New York, but New York City should expect to stay mostly shuttered until June.

New York officially has over 342,000 cases and nearly 27,000 deaths from the novel coronavirus, in an outbreak that has accounted for much of the virus activity across the country. But according to a new study in the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the death toll in that state, and explicitly in New York City, is likely an underestimate.

The CDC said more than 32,000 people died in New York City from March 11 to May 2 this year, representing an increase of over 24,000 deaths beyond seasonal averages.

The deaths may have been caused by untested COVID-19, or delays in accessing healthcare among non-COVID-19 patients who did not want to seek medical care during the pandemic, the authors said.

Cuomo also warned other states to be on the lookout for a rare inflammatory condition similar to toxic shock and Kawasaki disease in children who may have been infected with COVID-19. There are now 85 suspected cases of the condition in New York, including three deaths.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles also issued a new statement on what officials are calling pediatric inflammatory multisystem syndrome (PIMS) and noted an increase in Kawasaki diagnoses made in the month of April. Serology tests have shown that three of those pediatric patients had antibodies to COVID-19.

Visit CIDRAP for more news