During an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations on Thursday Robert Redfield is said to have provided a sobering reality check on the devastating impact of the virus through winter.
“We are in the timeframe now that probably for the next 60 to 90 days we're going to have more deaths per day than we had at 9/11 or we had at Pearl Harbor,” Mr Redfield said, according to reports.
The warning came as the country surpassed 3,000 recorded deaths in a single day as a result of the disease, its highest single-day death toll since the pandemic began.
The record number surpassed the 2,977 death toll reached during the 11 September 2001 terror attacks and the 2,403 fatalities recorded during the attack on Pearl Harbour.
Using two tragedies as an illustration, Mr Redfield conveyed the staggering loss of life the country is expected to face in the coming weeks, despite the likely authorisation of a Covid vaccine.
Amid record deaths, the Trump administration has spent a large portion of the last week celebrating the likely authorisation of Pfizer’s vaccine candidate, which is expected to receive emergency use approval as early as Friday.
On Thursday, Vice President Mike Pence said that the US is only a “few short days away” from the “beginning of the end of the coronavirus pandemic” while praising Operation Warp Speed, attributing the development of the “medical miracle" to the government programme.
Pfizer has disputed the White House’s attempts to take credit for development under Operation Warp Speed as the company did not accept US money for the development of the vaccine
While Mr Pence noted that the coronavirus cases in the US are growing, he said that “America has never been better prepared to combat the coronavirus than we are today.”
Experts have stipulated that vaccine distribution won’t stop the current surge in deaths as a result of the virus, fearing the Christmas season could only worsen the pandemic.
“The reality is the vaccine approval this week's not going to really impact that I think to any degree for the next 60 days,” Mr Redfield said of the virus’s toll, according to The Hill.
The majority of US residents are not expected to receive the vaccine until early 2021, with healthcare workers and nursing home residents being prioritised for the shot.
Last week, the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) predicted that half a million people may lose their lives by 1 April as a result of the disease, an additional 270,000 deaths from 30 November.
As of now, the public health crisis has led to the deaths of more than 290,000 people in the US, with more than 15 million confirmed infections of the disease.
Mr Redfield reportedly urged Americans to “double down” on preventive measures to stem the virus spread in the short term including mask-wearing, social distancing, and avoiding social gatherings.
“Where I think we could have done better as a nation is actually had more consistency in messaging, among all the American public, not just our political leaders, not just our governors, but all the public [around masks],” he said.
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