New York City is currently the epicenter of the coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, and a public health expert is warning that the virus is going to spread to every other U.S. city.
“Coronavirus is going to hit every city in America,” Harvard Global Health Institute Director Dr. Ashish Jha told Yahoo Finance’s YFi PM. “There is no question about it. New York is going first. Will [the spread] be at the same ferocity? It may or may not in different cities. ... I am incredibly worried about Louisiana, and specifically New Orleans. I am very worried about Atlanta.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Louisiana, Georgia, and Florida are each showing more than 1,000 cases and rising. Out of the roughly 82,000 cases in the U.S. as of Friday, more than half are in New York.
Jha explained that while the scale of the problem New York “may be worse” than other cities, “New York has a lot of resources that a lot of other cities don’t. A lot of doctors, a lot of financial resources. So the idea that every city will be able to handle it as easily as New York is also not something we should assume.”
Despite having resources, health care professionals in New York are struggling under the surge in patients, along with a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators. Jha stressed that other cities could struggle even more with fewer patients.
“If you overwhelm your hospitals by 300% or 200% ... they are both really bad,” Jha said. “So you are going to see a lot of cities where they will it their capacity and get beyond their capacity.”
Asked about statements made by President Donald Trump, who recently argued that restrictions should be loosened by Easter Sunday, April 12, with healthy people returning to work while people who are sick remain isolated, Jha was not as optimistic.
“When you look at the data,” he said, “it does not make sense that the president is projecting opening businesses at Easter because of what could come in some of these other municipalities.”
I’m worried about emerging situations in New Orleans, Dallas, Atlanta, Miami, Detroit, Chicago, Philadelphia, among others. In China no province outside Hubei ever had more than 1,500 cases. In U.S. 11 states already hit that total. Our epidemic is likely to be national in scope. pic.twitter.com/jfN6YYRT07— Scott Gottlieb, MD (@ScottGottliebMD) March 27, 2020
Jha explained that once the U.S. has “excellent testing capacity across the country, when we can be sampling cases, testing everybody who needs to be tested and doing some population-level sampling, when we have the infrastructure... then we can start letting communities where there aren’t a lot of infections and spread relax. And you will have to monitor those communities.”
He added that he is “very comfortable with the idea that parts of America can get back to work pretty quickly,” but the only way to identify those areas is “through testing capacity. And we still haven’t quite gotten to where we need to be on testing capacity.”
Aarthi is a reporter for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami.