A doctor has advised hospitals to prepare for up 96 million coronavirus infections and 500,000 potential deaths as a worst-case scenario for the potential extent of the outbreak, leaked documents reveal.
Dr James Lawler, a professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Centre, shared a series of slides with attendees about what his “best guess” was when estimating how the outbreak could impact hospitals and health officials. His webinar, titled “What healthcare leaders need to know: Preparing for the COVID-19”, was presented on 26 February.
He estimated 96 million could become infected, and of those people 480,000 could die from the coronavirus based on how the virus might spread.
Leaked documents from his presentation also showed the expert anticipated the virus would hit the elderly population the hardest.
People aged 80 and over have a 14 per cent chance of dying if they have the infection, Dr Lawler estimates.
Those aged 70 to 79 and 60 to 69 have an estimated mortality rate of 8 per cent and 3.6 percent if they contract the virus.
Medical conditions can also influence someone’s risk. Dr Lawler estimates those with heart conditions would have a one and 10 chance of dying from the disease.
For people without any pre-existing medical conditions, there is only a one in 100 chance they could die.
Dr Lawler reported his estimates to encourage hospitals to prepare for high numbers so each facility can limit those who die.
A spokesperson for Nebraska Medicine told Business Insider the figures Dr Lawler presented represent his views and “interpretation of the data available”.
“It’s possible that forecast will change as more information becomes available,” the spokesperson added.
The AHA also told the publication the views were that of Dr Lawler.
“The American Hospital Association said the webinar reflects the views of the experts who spoke on it, not its own,” a statement said.
Dr Lawler served as a member of the Homeland Security Council for President George W. Bush and as a member of the National Security Council for President Barack Obama. In recent weeks, he’s helped treat US patients with the coronavirus who travelled from China and the Diamond Princess cruise ship.
Response to the coronavirus has heightened in recent days with Mr Trump signing an $8.3bn emergency funding package on Friday to go towards combating the spread.
New York state announced a state of emergency after the total number of cases increased to 76 on Saturday.
The US death toll from the virus has also increased with 19 people dying, 16 of whom lived in Washington state. In total, the US has experienced more than 400 cases of the coronavirus. Globally, the number of cases has increased to more than 105,000 with over 3,500 deaths.