Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins; Chart: Danielle Alberti/Axios

It may be counterintuitive, but it's actually better if the novel coronavirus outbreak lasts awhile in the U.S., public health experts say.

Between the lines: If everyone who is going to get sick does so at once, it would overwhelm the health care system, putting all of us — not just those with the coronavirus — at risk.

  • "Time is our friend. The longer we can spread things out, the better it is," said Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute.

The big picture: There are only so many hospital beds in the U.S., and around 70–75% of them are occupied at any given time, Jha said.

  • If around 30–40% of Americans end up infected with the coronavirus over only a few months, the hospital-bed math just doesn't work.
  • On the other hand, if we can contain the virus's spread so that it takes 12 to 18 months to work its way through the population, "then we have a shot at not completely overwhelming the health care system," Jha said.

The good news: That's why public health officials keep talking about social distancing — it can prevent this bottleneck effect.

  • "If we don't do it, you'll have tens of thousands of people dying because they cannot get hospital care. To me, it's not a close call which is worse," Jha said.

The bottom line: The coronavirus may affect our daily lives for a long time — and that may be a good thing.

Go deeper: How to beat back the coronavirus

Go deeper

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Fauci says if people won't wear masks, maybe it should be mandated

Anthony Fauci. Photo: Graeme Jennings- Pool/Getty Images

NIAID director Anthony Fauci told CNN on Friday evening that if "people are not wearing masks, then maybe we should be mandating it."

Why it matters: Fauci made the comments the same day the U.S. hit its highest daily COVID-19 case count since the pandemic began.

Harris to Black voters: Casting a ballot is about honoring your ancestors

Democratic vice presidential nominee Kamala Harris speaks at a "Get Out The Vote" rally at Morehouse College. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/AFP via Getty Images

Sen. Kamala Harris appealed to Black voters in Georgia on Friday, urging them to "honor the ancestors" by casting ballots, and again calling President Trump a "racist."

Why it matters: The U.S. saw a significant decline in African-American voter turnout between 2012 and 2016, reaching its lowest point since 2000. Higher turnout among Black Americans this year could tip the balance in favor of Democrats in key battleground states, including Georgia.

Updated 3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Politics: Fauci: Trump hasn't been to a COVID task force meeting in months.
  2. Sports: The youth sports exodus continues — Big Ten football is back.
  3. Health: U.S. hits highest daily COVID-19 case count since pandemic began —AstraZeneca to resume vaccine trial in U.S.How to help save 130,000 lives.
  4. Retail: Santa won't greet kids at Macy's this year.
  5. World: Spain and France exceed 1 million cases.

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