Dr. Tom Frieden, the former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, laid out "10 plain truths" about Covid-19 on Wednesday as he spoke at a House Appropriations Committee hearing on the pandemic response.
"In my 30 years in global public health, I've never seen anything like this," Frieden, who now serves as president and CEO of Resolve to Save Lives, said. "It's scary. It's unprecedented."
Here are the 10 truths, according to Frieden:
1. "It's really bad" in New York City
"Even now with deaths decreasing substantially, there are twice as many deaths from Covid-19 in New York City as there are on a usual day from all other causes combined," Frieden said.
New York has the most confirmed coronavirus cases of any state in the country, with 321,192 total cases and 25,231 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data. In New York City alone, there are 173,288 cases with 43,676 hospitalized and 13,938 confirmed deaths.
2. It's "just the beginning"
Frieden said as bad as things seem now, he thinks we're still in the beginning phases of the pandemic.
Experts John Barry and Marc Lipsitch co-authored a new report that predicts that the coronavirus pandemic could last up to two more years, and they warn that the situation could get "considerably worse than what we've seen so far."
3. Data is a "very powerful weapon against this virus"
Frieden explained that data being used to monitor trends can help stop clusters before they turn into outbreaks. Data, he said, can help stop outbreaks from turning into epidemics.
Stanford University epidemiologist Dr. John Ioannidis has found from emerging data that coronavirus infections are more common than experts initially thought, and the risk of dying for the average person is lower than was first projected.
4. We need to "box the virus in"
While stay-at-home orders slowed the spread of the virus and flattened the curve in states such as New York and California, the virus continues to spread throughout the country with approximately 30,000 new cases a day for nearly a month.
With states across the US considering easing restrictions, the country opens itself up to infections increasing. That's why, Frieden said, we need to box in the coronavirus once the curve begins to flatten.
5. We must find the balance
The economy doesn't have to come at the expense of public health. Dr. Frieden said it is necessary to find the balance between restarting our economy and letting the virus run rampant.
A model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington has released a revised toll that suggests that 134,000 Americans could die by August, likely taking into account the impact of state openings. And a draft internal report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that was obtained by The New York Times found that the daily death toll could reach 3,000 by June 1.
6. Protect the "frontline heroes"
"We must protect the health care workers and other essential staff, or the frontline heroes of this war," Frieden said.
According to an estimate by the CDC, more than 9,200 health care workers have been infected by the coronavirus.
Health care workers and essential staff are at the most risk, and hospitals have faced shortages of essential protective gear such as N95 masks to protect them.
7. Protect our most vulnerable people, too
Eight out of 10 deaths reported in the US have been from adults that are 65 years old and older, according to the CDC. And people with weak immune systems and underlying conditions such as asthma, heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes are at more risk.
"In your everyday life, you're always fighting off pathogens," CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta said. "Most of the time you don't even realize it. If you have an underlying condition, it makes it more challenging to fight off a virus like this. You may develop a fever, shortness of breath or a cough more easily than someone who doesn't have a preexisting illness."
8. Governments and private companies need to work together
Both government and industry must collaborate to make "massive continued investments in testing and distributing a vaccine as soon as possible," Frieden said.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said in March that a vaccine could potentially be available in a year to 18 months. However, experts are skeptical.
"I don't think it's ever been done at an industrial scale in 18 months," said Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior scholar focused on emerging infectious disease at the Center for Health Security at Johns Hopkins University. "Vaccine development is usually measured in years, not months."
A coronavirus vaccine trial on humans has already begun in the UK.
9. We must not neglect non-Covid health issues
While the coronavirus pandemic has flooded and overwhelmed many hospitals with patients across the world, people are no longer suddenly immune to other diseases and sicknesses. Many elective procedures have been canceled or postponed, and patients with other illnesses wait in fear as they put treatment on hold. Many are too scared to venture out and visit hospitals out of fear of contracting the virus.
10. Preparedness is paramount
"Never again," Frieden said. "It is inevitable that there will be future outbreaks. It's not inevitable that we will continue to be so underprepared."