Coronavirus-related deaths are expected to fall in certain parts of the United States by next week, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said in an interview Thursday.
"Hopefully this week and next week you're going to start seeing the death rate really start to drop," CDC Director Robert Redfield said in a streamed interview with the Journal of the American Medical Association.
Redfield attributed the projected drop to people following mitigation steps to stop the spread of novel coronavirus, including adhering to social distancing measures, wearing face masks, shutting down bars, limiting dining and controlling crowd gatherings.
Redfield said it takes time for the numbers to reflect these efforts to stop the spread of the virus. "It is important to understand these interventions are going to have a lag, that lag is going to be three to four weeks," Redfield said in the JAMA interview.
The federal health agency director said COVID-19 cases are dropping in the red zones, but that the trend doesn't hold for the yellow zones, and warned that a third wave in America's heartland needs to be prevented.
"Middle America right now is getting stuck," he said. "That is why it's so important for Middle America to recognize the mitigation that we talked about “
Redfield said the Northeast has seen a significant drop in cases due to mitigation efforts and the possibility of acquired immunity against the novel coronavirus.
According to Johns Hopkins University, there have been more than 5.5 million coronavirus cases reported in the U.S. and over 174,000 deaths. Although optimistic about the COVID-19 numbers falling next week in certain regions, Redfield is concerned about the upcoming flu season combined with the coronavirus crisis.
Redfield stressed the importance of vaccinations, calling them one of the “important gifts or contributions of science to modern medicine.”
The CDC director noted during the interview that, in the fall, "nothing can be more important than to try and increase the American public’s decisions to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.” He further stated that less than 50 percent of the American public gets vaccinated.
The combination of COVID-19 and the flu can lead to “one of the most complicated winters,” Redfield warned, before adding that he is optimistic that the country may actually see “one of the best flu seasons” due to the mitigation efforts already in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, including handwashing and wearing face masks. He nevertheless noted that the public still needs to be vaccinated against the flu.
The CDC director said he wants “to take flu off the table” this winter with the goal of seeing 65 percent of the population being vaccinated. When hospital systems get overwhelmed, he said, that’s when the mortality rate increases, and getting the flu vaccine will help prevent overstraining the hospital systems during the pandemic.