Public health may be US election loser as coronavirus surges

Regardless of the presidential election outcome, a vexing issue remains to be decided: Will the U.S. be able to tame a perilous pandemic that is surging as holidays, winter and other challenges approach?

Public health experts fear the answer is no, at least in the short term, with potentially dire consequences.

Donald Trump’s current term doesn’t end until Jan. 20. In the 86 days until then, 100,000 more Americans will likely die from the virus if the president doesn’t shift course, said Dr. Robert Murphy, executive director of the Institute for Global Health at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, echoing estimates from other public health experts.

As of Wednesday, the race was too close to call, with several key battleground states still counting votes.

The U.S. death toll is already more than 232,000 and the seven-day rolling average for new daily deaths is rising. Total confirmed U.S. cases have surpassed 9 million and new daily infections are increasing in nearly every state.

“Where we are is in an extremely dire place as a country. Every metric that we have is trending in the wrong direction. This is a virus that will continue to escalate at an accelerated speed and that is not going to stop on its own,” said Dr. Leana Wen, a public health expert at George Washington University.

Dr. Susan Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said there are things Americans can do now to help change the trajectory.

“Regardless of the outcome of the election, everyone in America needs to buckle down,″ Bailey said.

“A lot of us have gotten kind of relaxed about physically distancing, not washing our hands quite as often as we used to, maybe not wearing our masks quite as faithfully. We all need to realize that things are escalating and we’ve got to be more careful than ever,” she said.

Polls showed the public health crisis and the economy were top concerns for many Americans.

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