One chart shows how coronavirus deaths could surpass major wars and disease outbreaks in the US

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One chart shows how coronavirus deaths could surpass major wars and disease outbreaks in the US

WW1 deaths,   us soldier in france

Corbis via Getty Images

Red Cross worker Anna Rochester feeds a wounded soldier through a tube at a US Army evacuation hospital in Souilly, France during World War I.

  • The White House Coronavirus Task Force has estimated that, in a best-case scenario, 100,000 Americans will die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
  • The projected US death toll is far higher than other major wars and infectious disease outbreaks, including World War 1 and the 2017 flu season.
  • The number of coronavirus deaths in the US, at over 3,600, already eclipses the terror attacks on September 11, 2001.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

On Tuesday, the White House's Coronavirus Task Force released sobering estimates about the projected coronavirus death toll in the US this spring and summer.

The federal government has tapped disease modelers to predict how many more people in the US may be killed by the new virus, including experts from Harvard, Columbia, Northeastern, and Imperial colleges, Dr. Deborah Birx, US Coronavirus Response Coordinator, said at the White House on Tuesday evening.

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Originally, the data scientists estimated what might happen if nothing at all were done to slow the spread of the coronavirus across the country. In that scenario, they predicted between 1.5 and 2.2 million people would die from the novel coronavirus.

Then, the modelers took into account how many of those deaths might be prevented by widespread social distancing and better hygiene practices. Already, more than 80% of the nation has been ordered to stay at home in one way or another.

"That takes us … down to 100,000 to [240,000] deaths, which is still way too much," Birx said.

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That projection for COVID-19 deaths in the US could still be more severe for the country than Vietnam, World War I, Iraq, and, possibly, the Civil War. It could compare, roughly, to how many people die annually from Alzheimer's disease, which is one of the leading causes of death for Americans, and would be more than double the country's yearly flu deaths.

With more than 3,600 deaths so far, the COVID-19 outbreak in the US has already killed more people than the September 11, 2001 terror attacks.

Former US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden referred to the current pandemic as "World War C" on a call with reporters Wednesday.

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COVID potential US deaths compared to other events

Skye Gould/Insider

"If you look at our history, we've been through some terrible ordeals. This is tough. People are suffering. People are dying," Dr Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Tuesday at the White House. "As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it. Is it going to be that much? I hope not. And I think the more we push on the mitigation, the less likelihood it would be ... Being realistic, we need to prepare ourselves that that is a possibility that we will see."

Birx, too, was optimistic that the country may prevent more of these estimated deaths.

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"We really believe and hope every day that we can do a lot better than that," she said. "Because that's not assuming 100% of every American does everything that they're supposed to be doing. But I think that's possible."

Staying at least 6 feet apart while out in public, washing your hands frequently with soap and water, and staying home as much as possible - avoiding face-to-face contact with friends and neighbors - are some of the best ways to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

There is no vaccine yet that prevents infection, nor drug therapy to help treat COVID-19 cases, but scientists are working on both.

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