Data scientist explains dangers of trying for herd immunity 02:58

(CNN)Another 20,000 Covid-19 deaths by the end of the month are “inevitable,” according to a former director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.The estimate is based on the number of infections “that have already occurred,” Dr. Tom Frieden said Saturday, during CNN’s “Coronavirus: Facts and Fears” town hall.The United States reported 57,420 new coronavirus cases on Friday, the highest number of new daily cases since August.”Anytime we ignore, minimize or underestimate this virus, we do so at our peril and the peril of people whose lives depend on us,” Frieden said.More than 7.7 million people have been infected with the virus in the US and 214,377 have died, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.US sees highest number of daily coronavirus cases since AugustBy February, the coronavirus death toll in the US could double to about 400,000, a model from the from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington School of Medicine projected. Daily deaths will peak at about 23,000 in mid-January, the model predicted.Projections aren’t set in stone, however, and what the public does can have a big impact, another former CDC director, Dr. Richard Besser, said.Following guidance like wearing masks, social distancing, washing hands and investigating cases means “we can have a very different trajectory and we can get this under control,” he said.

Impacts could be much greater than officials think

Officials are tracking coronavirus infections and deaths, but Frieden said those numbers may be too small.The true number of coronavirus deaths in the United States is well over a quarter million, Frieden said Saturday.Florida will be ‘like a house on fire’ in weeks with loose coronavirus restrictions, infectious disease expert saysPart of the problem in determining the true impact is how deaths are listed on death certificates, especially for older patients who are more likely to have other health problems along with a coronavirus infection. Often the other health condition is listed as the cause of death, he said.”If you die from cancer, and you also have diabetes, you still died from cancer,” Frieden explained. “If you died from Covid, and you also had diabetes, you died from Covid.”The number of infections is likely closer to 40 million people, he said.”You may not get sick at all from this, but you may spread it to someone who then dies, or spreads it to someone else who dies,” he said. “That’s why we all have to recognize that we’re in this together. There’s only one enemy, and that’s the virus.”

Regaining trust in vaccines and health agencies

A wake-up call for politicians and public health officials

Former CDC directors warned that both politicians and public health officials need to take the virus seriously for the sake of the public.President Donald Trump said that Americans shouldn’t let fear of coronavirus dominate their lives, but former director Dr. Jeffrey Koplan said the country should “absolutely” be afraid.