Despite the president’s optimism, a leading epidemiologist claims “this is not where we want to be.”
On Sunday night President Donald Trump estimated that the death toll for America due to the global novel coronavirus pandemic could reach 100,000, nearly twice the number of fatalities he predicted two weeks ago.
Yet, in an interview with The New York Post published on Sunday, Trump claimed Americans “are starting to feel good now”, and remained optimistic about opening the country for business as usual.
“We’ll open it up and I think your fourth quarter is going to be very good. We did the right thing and now we’re bringing the country back. And I think there’s a great optimism,” the president told the newspaper, despite the fact that so far COVID-19, the illness that for over two months Trump and his administration dismissed as nothing more than a flu, and promised would disappear “like magic” in April, has claimed more than 68,000 lives in the U.S. alone.
The president’s optimism, however, belies the new numbers from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, the very source the White House has been referencing.
The IHME, which initially predicted the number of deaths could reach 60,400 by the end of August, now predicts nearly 135,000 coronavirus deaths through the beginning of August, “with a range of 95,092 to 242,890” U.S. fatalities.
Another report, a draft government projection prepared for the Trump administration, was leaked to The New York Times and The Washington Post. The purported FYI to the White House estimates as many as 3,000 deaths per day in the U.S. by June 1, with a significant increase around the middle of May. But despite the White House and Centers for Disease Control (CDC) logo on the brief, the report was rejected by the White House and CDC, claiming that it is not reflective of the data their task force has analyzed.
Jeffrey Shaman, one of the country’s leading epidemiologists at Columbia University, told The Washington Post that one of the reasons for the predicted spike in fatalities is that “we don’t have the testing. We don’t have the contact tracing. We can’t detect a rebound. It’s a really problematic place to be. This is not where we want to be.”
Still, the predicted spike in mortality appears to be something akin to a necessary evil to Trump and some of his Republican allies. Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told CNN that people need to accept the new CDC forecast projecting 3,000 daily deaths in the U.S. in order to save the economy, and compared opening the country for business to fighting the Axis in World War II.
“We sent our young men during WWII over to Europe, out to the Pacific, knowing that many of them would not come home alive,” he said. “And we decided to make that sacrifice because what we were standing up for was the American way of life. In the very same way now, we have to stand up for the American way of life.”