Deaths attributed to the coronavirus will likely begin to drop over the next week, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dr. Robert Redfield said Thursday.
Daily new cases of the coronavirus have been on a sustained decline since the end of July, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Deaths, which lag behind new cases as people fall ill, become hospitalized and die, have remained stubbornly high, at roughly 1,000 new Covid-19 deaths per day, on average, according to a CNBC analysis of Hopkins data.
Redfield added that he'd like to bring the number of daily new deaths below 250, a figure the country came close to reporting on one day in early July.
"You and I are going to see the cases continue to drop. And then hopefully this week and next week, you're going to start seeing the death rate really start to drop again." Redfield said in an interview with Dr. Howard Bauchner of the Journal of the American Medical Association. "I think we're going to start to see a decline in mortality across the country now next week as we continue to get control of these cases."
Redfield added that the U.S. is beginning "to turn the tide on what I call the southern outbreak in the nation." He said Arizona, Texas and other states that were hit particularly hard by the virus over the summer have implemented appropriate public health guidelines, encouraging face coverings and closing indoor bars and restaurants.
He added, however, that daily new cases still remain high and he'd like to bring that number down below 10,000 new cases per day. He said he'd like to get to the point where the percent of all tests coming back positive across the country everyday is below 3%. Over 6% of all tests are currently coming back positive, based on a seven-day average, Assistant Secretary for Health Adm. Brett Giroir told reporters earlier this week.
Even as some state make strides in bringing the virus under control, Redfield said others are still reporting worrying figures, particularly in "Middle America," such as Nebraska and Oklahoma.
"We're starting to see some of the cases now in the red zone areas are falling, but if you look at those states that are in what we call the yellow zone, between 5% and 10%, they're not falling, so middle America right now is getting stuck," he said. "This is why it's so important for middle America to recognize the mitigation steps that we talked about, about masks, about social distancing, hand washing, closing bars, being smart about crowds."
He said cases are not rising substantially in the region, but the fact that cases appear to be plateauing could be cause for concern, especially as the country enters the colder months of the year and seasonal influenza spreads. Redfield has repeatedly warned that the confluence of a major flu outbreak along with the Covid-19 pandemic could overwhelm hospitals and cause preventable deaths. He encouraged Americans to get this year's flu vaccine as soon as it's available to mitigate the risk of an overwhelming flu season.
"We don't need to have a third wave in the heartland right now," he said. "We need to prevent that particularly as we're coming to the fall."