The number of coronavirus (Covid-19) cases in the US could reach more than 228,000 by the end of March, according to an epidemiology expert.

Analytics company GlobalData says this figure is a conservative estimate — and will depend on how well the US carries out social distancing measures, testing and containment.

Without these pandemic protocols, the country could experience a “high growth rate”, and could experience almost two million infections over the next two weeks.

However, the landscape of the pandemic over the same timeframe could be drastically different if the US implements widespread lockdown measures, and improves testing availability to quickly identify and quarantine the infected.

In this scenario, Kasey Fu, director of epidemiology at GlobalData, believes a much lower growth rate — and a “very optimistic” estimate of about 18,600 cases by the end of March — is also possible.

Fu added: “These three scenarios considered by GlobalData provided such varied results due to us not having all the data about this virus.

“The insufficient testing in the US does not provide a clear understanding of the number of infected.

“In addition, the inconsistent mitigation measures being implemented around the country make it difficult to determine the potential growth rate of infections.

“In a high-risk transmission scenario, around 10% of coronavirus cases will require hospitalisation, equating to 200,000 people needing hospital-level care. This is significantly more than the US capacity.”


US attempts to prevent rapid increase in coronavirus cases

There has been an exponential increase of coronavirus cases in the US since the beginning of March — from less than 70 to more than 4,000, according to GlobalData.

To prevent this rate of growth from increasing further, President Donald Trump restricted travel to all 26 European countries in the Schengen area for 30 days on 12 March.

On 15 March, this travel ban was extended to the UK and Ireland — one day after Trump had declared the coronavirus pandemic a “national emergency” giving the US access to $50bn in federal aid.

us coronavirus cases
GlobalData calculated three distinct outbreak scenarios (Credit: GlobalData)

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recommended cancelling events of more than 50 people, while the White House has suggested gatherings of more than 10 people should be prohibited.

School closures also vary by state, county, and sometimes even among school districts within the same county.

GlobalData also estimates that improvements in testing ability, which is “much needed” in the US, will also increase the number of confirmed cases.

There are reportedly more than 7,700 infections and 120 coronavirus-related deaths in the country as of 18 March.