House Republicans were warned by a public health expert in a closed-door briefing last week that most Americans will eventually be exposed to the novel coronavirus, according to a new report from the Daily Beast. The news comes as President Donald Trump continues to downplay the danger from the virus and public health officials grow increasingly concerned about the United States healthcare system’s ability to deal with a large number of future patients.
Rajeev Venkayya, a former White House public health adviser under former President George W. Bush and current executive at the pharmaceutical giant Takeda, gave a private briefing on Capitol Hill last week to Republican members of Congress as well as Vice President Mike Pence, who reportedly left the meeting before the note about potential nationwide exposure. Attendees reportedly described the briefing as “sobering.”
Venkayya, who confirmed to the Daily Beast that he gave the briefing, said that most Americans will be exposed to the new coronavirus, but stressed that doesn’t mean everyone will get sick. Many cases of the disease have been mild or even asymptomatic, especially in children. The U.S. currently has 1,039 cases of the virus and 29 deaths. At least 19 deaths have been tied to a single nursing home just outside of Seattle where dozens of employees may also have the disease.
The House and Senate passed an emergency $8.3 billion coronavirus spending bill last week, but there will likely need to be some kind of fiscal stimulus to keep the economy afloat as lockdowns, like we’re seeing in Italy, become a possibility in the U.S.
Public health experts have previously estimated that anywhere from 40 to 70 percent of the world’s population could contract COVID-19, the disease caused by the novel coronavirus strain. German Chancellor Angela Merkel announced today that she believes roughly 70 percent of Germans could be infected with COVID-19, an estimated 58 million people. Germany currently has over 1,600 confirmed cases of the virus and two deaths.
There have been numerous reports over the past 24 hours about the handling—or mishandling—of this public health crisis at the federal level:
- U.S. coronavirus testing threatened by shortage of critical lab materials
- Email crash impeded HHS response to coronavirus
- Face mask shortage prompts CDC to loosen coronavirus guidance
- ‘It’s just everywhere already’: How delays in testing set back the U.S. coronavirus response
But the president doesn’t seem too concerned about the public health crisis, aside from what it’s currently doing to the stock market.
“The testing has gone very well,” Trump told reporters on Tuesday. “And when people need a test, they can get a test. When the professionals need a test, when they need tests for people, they can get the test.”
Needless to say, that statement did not match up to the situation on the ground.