HOLLYWOOD (CBSLA) — Closed schools, empty auditoriums and canceled events are all necessary according to a model from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — just obtained by the New York Times — of what could happen if people ignore the experts during the coronavirus pandemic.

In a worst-case scenario, the model says the illness will spread for up to 18 months infecting between 160 million and 214 million Americans and killing between 200,000 and 1.7 million people.

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“The model, hopefully, should not hold up because we have made many changes,” Dr. Duman Radhakrishna, chair of infection prevention at Dignity Health, said. “One of the things is that we have moved from containment to mitigation.”

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Radhakrishna said what some have called an overreaction — closing schools, a renewed focus on hand washing and canceling large-scale events — has already saved lives, slowed the spread of disease and prevent huge numbers of people from getting sick all at once.

“Hopefully, everybody steps up to the plate, everybody makes those little changes in their lives regardless of where they are,” she said. “We should be able to get a hold on it, but if we don’t, it’s a problem.”

Epidemiologists are closely monitoring outbreaks in other countries in an effort to understand what Los Angeles and the rest of the United States might face — especially in Italy where hospitals have been overrun by patients and the CDC models showed the U.S. could face a similar fate.

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But if Americans continue to heed the warnings of local public health officials, there is a good chance the spread of the disease will slow — giving the healthcare system a chance to catch up.