US deaths from coronavirus could reach 200,000 with millions of cases, the government's top infectious diseases expert warned on Sunday as New York, New Orleans and other major cities warned they would soon run out of medical supplies.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, estimated in an interview with CNN that the pandemic could cause between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths in the United States.
Since 2010, the flu has killed between 12,000 and 61,000 Americans a year, according to the website here of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The 1918-19 flu pandemic killed 675,000 in the United States, according to the CDC.
A shortage of ventilators in several major cities worsened as the US death count crossed 2,100 on Saturday, more than double the level from two days ago. The United States has now recorded more than 123,000 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the most of any country in the world.
New York City will need hundreds more ventilators in a few days and more masks, gowns and other supplies by April 5, Mayor Bill de Blasio told CNN on Sunday.
New Orleans will run out of ventilators around April 4 and officials in Louisiana still do not know whether they will receive any ventilators from the national stockpile, the governor said.
Louisiana has tried to order 12,000 ventilators from commercial vendors and has received 192, Governor John Bel Edwards said on CBS' "Face the Nation."
"We haven't yet been approved for ventilators out of the national stockpile. I continue to press that case and I hope we will be cut in for a slice of what they have left," Edwards said. "It is the one thing that really keeps me up at night."
Doctors are also especially concerned about a shortage of ventilators, breathing machines needed by many of those suffering from the pneumonia-like respiratory ailment.
Dr Arabia Mollette, an emergency medicine physician at Brookdale and St. Barnabas Hospital in the Bronx, has started praying during the cab ride to work in the morning before she enters what she describes as a "medical warzone." At the end of her shift, which often runs much longer than the scheduled 12 hours, she sometimes cannot hold back tears.
"We're trying to keep our heads above water without drowning," Mollette said. "We are scared. We're trying to fight for everyone else's life, but we also fight for our lives as well."
On Saturday, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned residents of New York, Connecticut and New Jersey against non-essential domestic travel for 14 days.
Tests to track the disease's progress also remain in short supply, despite repeated White House promises that they would be widely available.
Since the virus first appeared in the United States in late January, President Donald Trump has vacillated between playing down the risks of infection and urging Americans to take steps to slow its spread. He said he would hold a news conference at 5pm ET (2100 GMT).