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Johns Hopkins professor estimates at least 50,000 people have coronavirus in US

A medical professor at Johns Hopkins University urged Americans not to believe low numbers of confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States, warning the actual number of people walking around with the virus could be “between 50,000 and half a million.”

Dr. Marty Makary told Yahoo Finance's "On the Move" on Friday that he believes the number of coronavirus cases is much higher than the 1,600 confirmed cases and 41 deaths that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has reported.

“Don’t believe the numbers when you see, even on our Johns Hopkins website, that 1,600 Americans have the virus,” Makary said. “No, that means 1,600 got the test, tested positive. There are probably 25 to 50 people who have the virus for every one person who is confirmed.” 

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The professor noted that American hospitals will be overwhelmed by the massive influx of people, saying most intensive care units are already operating near full capacity.

“We only have 100,000 ICU beds in the United States. We could see 200,000 new patients that need critical care up to 2 million,” he said.

Statistical models meant to project the potential reach of COVID-19 suggest more than a million Americans could die if the nation does not take swift action to stop its spread.

Makary, who has been a contributor for The Hill, pointed to the shortage of coronavirus testing kits from the CDC as a reason for low case numbers.

“The CDC did admit to a mistake in the rollout of the testing and let’s face it — they went with the wrong testing system,” Makary said. “It was an early decision. It lived deep within the CDC and they have acknowledged that mistake.”

Between Jan. 18 and March 12, there were 13,624 tests for COVID-19 conducted in the United States, Yahoo noted from CDC data. During that same period, South Korea conducted more than 100,000 tests and the U.K. administered nearly 25,000.

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President TrumpDonald John TrumpNearly 300 former national security officials sign Biden endorsement letter DC correspondent on the death of Michael Reinoehl: 'The folks I know in law enforcement are extremely angry about it' Late night hosts targeted Trump over Biden 97 percent of the time in September: study MORE vowed to overhaul the coronavirus testing approach in the U.S. on Friday, blaming former President Obama for the slow CDC process.

"For decades the @CDCgov looked at, and studied, its testing system, but did nothing about it,” Trump tweeted. "It would always be inadequate and slow for a large scale pandemic, but a pandemic would never happen, they hoped," he added. "President Obama made changes that only complicated things further."

Trump said 500,000 additional tests will be available next week, with drive-thru testing locations being announced Sunday night.

Trump also declared a national emergency over the coronavirus, freeing up additional resources and funding for the federal, state and local governments fighting the disease. 

The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved an emergency authorization for a faster coronavirus test made by diagnostics maker Roche.