NEW YORK: The coronavirus is spreading from America’s biggest cities to its suburbs, and has begun encroaching on the nation’s rural regions. The virus is believed to have infected millions of citizens and has killed more than 34,000.Yet President Donald Trump this past week proposed guidelines for reopening the economy and suggested that a swath of the United States would soon resume something resembling normalcy.

More than 20 experts in public health, medicine, epidemiology and history shared their thoughts on the future during in-depth interviews. The scenario that Trump has been unrolling at his daily press briefings — that the lockdowns will end soon, that a protective pill is almost at hand, that football stadiums and restaurants will soon be full — is a fantasy, most experts said.

“We face a doleful future,” said Dr. Harvey Fineberg, a former president of the National Academy of Medicine. He and others foresaw an unhappy population trapped indoors for months, with the most vulnerable possibly quarantined for far longer.

“My optimistic side says the virus will ease off in the summer and a vaccine will arrive like the cavalry,” said Dr. William Schaffner, a preventive medicine specialist at Vanderbilt University medical school. “But I’m learning to guard against my essentially optimistic nature.”

The epidemiological model often cited by the White House, which was produced by the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, originally predicted 100,000 to 240,000 deaths by midsummer. Now that figure is 60,000. The institute’s projection runs through Aug. 4, describing only the first wave of this epidemic. Without a vaccine, the virus is expected to circulate for years, and the death tally will rise over time.

The limited data from China is discouraging. Its epidemic has been halted — for the moment — and virtually everyone infected in its first wave has died or recovered. China has officially reported about 83,000 cases and 4,632 deaths, which is a fatality rate of over 5%. The Trump administration has questioned the figures but has not produced more accurate ones.

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