The Trump administration Tuesday estimated that the COVID-19 pandemic would kill 100,000 to 240,000 people in the U.S. if the public follows its social distancing guidelines.
Public health experts expect that deaths will peak at about 2,200 deaths per day on April 15. They predict the death rate to fall to about 250 per day by June, but the death toll could mount into July. Officials emphasized that social distancing is critical to reducing the death count.
"There's no magic bullet. There's no magic vaccine or therapy," said Dr. Deborah Birx, White House coronavirus response coordinator.
The numbers were staggering enough to persuade President Donald Trump to continue the national shutdown through April 30, even though he wanted people to go back to work by Easter.
Officials extended social distancing guidelines because declining rates of infection are a leading indicator. Hospitalizations will start to drop after the number of new cases levels off, followed by lower rates of intensive care and, eventually, deaths, according to White House health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci.
"Now is the time to put your foot on the accelerator," he said.
Up to 2.2 million people would have died in the U.S. without social distancing, according to the White House's coronavirus task force.