The US is starting to see 'glimmers' that social distancing could be slowing the spread of coronavirus -- but there's more to do, officials say

Nurse practitioner Elyse Isopo says that in the 20 years she's been working in a New York ICU, she has never seen things as bad as they are now with the coronavirus.

Posted: Mar 31, 2020 6:51 PM
Updated: Mar 31, 2020 6:51 PM

Early clues -- in places like New York, California and Seattle -- indicate social distancing may be slowing the rate at which coronavirus cases otherwise would have increased in the United States.

But health officials warn it's too early to know how well it's working -- and even if mitigation measures continue, the number of US deaths still could be hard to take.

"We're starting to see glimmers that (social distancing) is actually having some dampening effect" on the spread of coronavirus, Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told CNN on Tuesday morning.

"We hope ... that we may start seeing a turnaround, but we haven't seen it yet," he said.

Cases and deaths are soaring: At least 3,561 people have died in the United States -- more than 770 of which were reported Tuesday alone. More than 178,000 coronavirus cases have been reported in the country.

There are, however, signs that rates of case increases may have been slowed in some places. It's too early to pinpoint why, though the signs have come after federal and state officials urged people to stay at home or avoid crowds:

• New York has by far the most US cases (75,700+) and deaths (1,500+). But the state's average of day-over-day case increases for the past seven days was 17%, compared to 58% for the previous seven-day period, a CNN analysis shows.

• In Northern California, "the surge we have been anticipating has not yet come," Dr. Jahan Fahimi, medical director at the University of California San Francisco Health, told CNN. San Francisco issued the country's first shelter-in-place order two weeks ago, and officials hope it is paying off. That hope has not necessarily reached Los Angeles County, where hospitals are seeing a steady patient increase.

• In Washington state's King County, two new reports from an institute that specializes in studying disease transmission dynamics showed social distancing measures appeared to be making a difference.

Still, even if all states mandate social distancing within the next week, and then maintained this through May, some 82,000 people in the US could die from coronavirus by August, University of Washington health metrics sciences professor Christopher Murray told CNN on Tuesday, citing his modeling.

The model estimates that more than 2,000 people could die each day in the United States in mid-April, when the virus is predicted to hit the country hardest.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, has said worst-case projections show "between 1.6 million and 2.2 million deaths if you do nothing."

President Donald Trump on Tuesday said the United States would extend its set of social distancing guidelines for 30 days.

Doctors and health officials still are pleading for people to stay home, to slow the disease's spread and dampen the rush at hospitals in hot spot cities, where physicians are running low on supplies to protect themselves and equipment to support patients.

"We don't have a magic bullet (treatment) for this disease, so the best thing we can do is prevent infection," and therefore we must continue to generally stay at home, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief of infectious disease at Massachusetts General Hospital, told CNN Tuesday.

New Orleans hospitals may run out of ventilators by the weekend, Collin Arnold, director of the New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, told CNN.

"Staying at home and isolating is the way to beat this," he said Tuesday.

Your coronavirus questions, answered

Economic consequences

Signs continue to emerge that the pandemic is posing huge challenges to the US economy.

Food banks across the nation are struggling. Millions of newly unemployed people mean the food banks are seeing a flood of new clients, just as supplies start to dwindle because of growing demand from consumers stuck at home.

The investment bank Goldman Sachs, meanwhile, predicts the unemployment rate rising to 15% by the middle of the year.

'Stay at home, buy us time'

In parts of the country, walking into work feels like walking into a war zone for many medical care workers.

"There is not enough of anything," one trauma physician at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital said. "There are just so many patients who are so sick, it seems impossible to keep up with the demand."

Inside New York City's Elmhurst hospital, one doctor told CNN "we are at the brink of not being able to care for patients."

It may seem simple, another doctor says, but staying at home could also be saving those working to save patients.

"It feels like coronavirus is everywhere and it feels like we have very little to protect ourselves from getting very sick ourselves as healthcare workers," Dr. Cornelia Griggs, a pediatric surgery fellow at Columbia University, said Monday. "I want everyone at home to know that even though it seems like staying at home is futile, it's not."

"We need everyone at home to hold the line, stay at home. Buy us time, flatten the curve."

The city's police and fire personnel are struggling, too.

At the New York Police Department, 1,193 employees -- 1,048 uniformed officers and 145 civilian workers -- had tested positive for coronavirus by Tuesday morning, a law enforcement source told CNN. More than 5,600 members of the department -- about 15% of the force -- were out sick Tuesday, according to the source.

New York City Fire Department paramedic Madelyn Higueros, who works in the area near Elmhurst hospital, said her shifts have been extra hectic, responding to call after call from people with flu-like symptoms.

Her husband, also a city paramedic, has tested positive for coronavirus and is self-isolating away from the family. She doesn't have symptoms.

"Most of the station is out with symptoms," she said. "The ones that are still working, we're so tired. ... We're working over 16 hours a day."

The city fire department had 282 members test positive for coronavirus, spokesman Jim Long said Tuesday.

States clamp down

More than two dozen governors have stepped up to combat the spread of the virus, issuing stay-at-home orders that now cover more than three-fourths of the American population -- and authorities have begun cracking down on those who refuse to abide.

In Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear also issued an executive order Monday barring residents from traveling to other states -- with just a handful of exceptions -- and directing those who are returning to Kentucky from another state to self-quarantine for two weeks.

"Right now we have more cases in other states," he said. "What it means is your likelihood of getting infected and potentially bringing back the coronavirus may be greater in other states than ours. You need to be home anyways."

In North Dakota, residents coming back from any of the 24 states the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have classified as having "widespread disease" are also required to quarantine for two weeks. Those states include California, New York, Illinois and Georgia.

Those not following orders to stay at home and keep a distance have begun facing consequences.

A popular Florida pastor was arrested Monday for continuing to hold large services and charged with unlawful assembly and violation of public health emergency rules, both second-degree misdemeanors.

"Last night I made a decision to seek an arrest warrant for the pastor of a local church who intentionally, and repeatedly, chose to disregard the orders set in place by our president, our governor, the CDC and the Hillsborough County Emergency policy group," Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said.

"His reckless disregard for human life put hundreds of people in his congregation at risk, and thousands of residents who may interact with them this week in danger," he added.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 306538

Reported Deaths: 5435
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion41953849
Lake26872453
Allen17621295
Elkhart16905219
St. Joseph16524223
Hamilton12696167
Vanderburgh9552115
Tippecanoe844927
Porter813785
Johnson6231165
Vigo597979
Hendricks5944156
Monroe530349
Clark504077
Madison4858121
Delaware4820103
LaPorte457194
Kosciusko455739
Howard334975
Warrick319572
Floyd311477
Bartholomew308462
Wayne301367
Cass295831
Marshall293744
Grant262949
Noble249846
Hancock246551
Boone240254
Henry240237
Dubois234631
Dearborn215730
Jackson212633
Morgan204443
Gibson181725
Knox181419
Shelby178254
Clinton177821
Lawrence174047
DeKalb172829
Adams166422
Wabash158020
Miami157814
Daviess154643
Fayette147733
Steuben143513
Jasper142111
Harrison141824
LaGrange140129
Montgomery139027
Whitley133412
Ripley128114
Decatur124643
Huntington123510
Putnam123027
Randolph120719
Wells120428
White120321
Clay119822
Posey119616
Jefferson116216
Scott103219
Greene101353
Jay96413
Starke90621
Sullivan88916
Fulton83518
Jennings83214
Spencer8198
Perry81521
Fountain7738
Washington7417
Franklin68626
Carroll67913
Orange66628
Vermillion5993
Owen5987
Parke5606
Newton55312
Tipton55226
Rush5317
Blackford51912
Pike50318
Pulaski37710
Martin3515
Benton3362
Brown3353
Crawford2881
Union2671
Switzerland2555
Warren2382
Ohio2307
Unassigned0266

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 371840

Reported Deaths: 6100
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin50231667
Cuyahoga36047741
Hamilton29931372
Montgomery20065228
Butler14769146
Lucas14317414
Summit13388316
Stark8792197
Warren819175
Mahoning7276299
Lake682666
Lorain643499
Clermont577248
Delaware556436
Licking549276
Fairfield538464
Trumbull5305147
Greene522364
Clark511464
Allen465485
Marion465251
Wood4491107
Medina447756
Miami425867
Pickaway399348
Columbiana347297
Portage344872
Tuscarawas328658
Wayne318793
Richland316638
Mercer289945
Hancock241337
Ross240759
Muskingum240210
Auglaize231031
Putnam224749
Erie224266
Darke223559
Ashtabula223253
Geauga203351
Scioto195915
Union19118
Shelby190615
Lawrence189438
Athens18864
Seneca180018
Belmont164929
Madison158918
Sandusky154229
Preble152621
Huron152318
Defiance139522
Holmes139139
Logan127816
Knox126318
Fulton124525
Washington121927
Crawford121516
Ottawa121130
Clinton106714
Williams10579
Ashland105222
Highland101317
Jefferson10124
Henry100023
Brown9925
Champaign9475
Jackson93112
Hardin91019
Fayette90317
Van Wert8976
Morrow8882
Guernsey83914
Coshocton82613
Perry78712
Adams78313
Pike7451
Gallia73513
Wyandot71216
Paulding64611
Hocking62616
Noble60223
Carroll45710
Meigs39012
Monroe31821
Morgan2575
Vinton2195
Harrison2023
Unassigned00
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