The new coronavirus outbreak may result in the deaths of over 1 million Americans, though the ultimate toll can still vary significantly depending on efforts taken by the U.S. government and public, says television host and heart surgeon Mehmet Oz, also known as Dr. Oz.
“We could lose more than a million Americans to the virus,” says Oz, in a newly released interview on Influencers with Andy Serwer, taped on Monday. “Now that's not written in stone. We can change that reality.”
As of Friday morning, there were 14,250 confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S., resulting in roughly 200 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University. The number of people with the disease in the U.S. has grown dramatically since March 1, when there were roughly 100 confirmed cases.
Despite the worrying trend, the range of possible outcomes is vast, Oz said, pointing to the stark contrast in the spread of the disease in South Korea and Italy.
“If you look at what happened in Korea versus Italy, you see a very real-time experience that's different — 10 times different mortality. So instead of having a million people die, you could have maybe 100,000 people die, which is only twice the flu.”
The CDC estimates that the flu has caused between 12,000 and 61,000 deaths each year since 2010.
On Thursday, the death toll from coronavirus in Italy reached 3,405, surpassing that of China, a country with a population more than 20 times larger. Meanwhile, observers have lauded the capacity of South Korea to test about 20,000 people for the coronavirus each day, a greater number than are currently being tested each day in the U.S — approximately 8,200, as of Monday, according to the Washington Post.
On Monday, a report released by a team of epidemiologists at Imperial College London found that 2.2 million Americans could die from the viral outbreak, unless action is taken by the government and public to contain it.
A model of potential outcomes in the U.S., released by the CDC last Friday, showed as many as 1.7 million Americans could die from the virus, and between 160 million and 210 million Americans could contract COVID-19. Those CDC estimates sped up and heightened the U.S. response, Oz said.
Trump on Monday urged Americans to avoid groups of 10 or more people. Meanwhile a host of states — including New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey — have closed movie theaters, casinos, and gyms, among other restrictive measures. Moreover, six Bay Area counties instituted a shut-in order that requires residents to stay in their homes as much as possible.
“That's why you're seeing a lot of the more draconian measures being offered,” Oz says. “It really scared a lot of us.”
Oz made the remarks during a conversation that aired in an episode of Yahoo Finance’s “Influencers with Andy Serwer,” a weekly interview series with leaders in business, politics, and entertainment.
Since 2009, Oz has hosted “Dr. Oz,” a daily talk show on personal and public health issues with millions of viewers. For nearly three decades, Oz has worked as a heart surgeon at New York-Presbyterian Hospital, in New York City. In 2003, he founded HealthCorps, a nonprofit that helps teenagers take care of their physical and mental health.
Ten physicians criticized Oz for providing self-care and medical advice that they say does not pass scientific muster, calling on Columbia University to end its affiliation with him. Notably, he backed a study on green coffee bean weight loss pills that was later discredited. Oz maintains his affiliation with Columbia, where he is director of the Integrative Medicine Center.
Social distancing is “the most important thing we can do” to stop the spread of coronavirus, Oz says, adding that comes down to the actions of everyday people.
“The generals can't do that for us,” he says. “Only the privates can do that — me and you.”
Since some infected people do not show symptoms of the disease, Oz urged everyone to practice social distancing, whether they’re symptomatic or not.
“Social distancing, no matter whether you have a fever or not, is critical,” he says. “Because I could be just as infectious now as I would be in three days with a fever.”