President Donald Trump says he’s hoping that the total number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States will be below 100,000.
Even that, he acknowledged on Friday, is a “horrible number.”
Trump’s predictions of the expected U.S. death toll have changed over time, and he repeatedly has used high estimates to make the case that his administration’s actions, especially his decision to restrict travel from China, have saved lives. His actions have been challenged by state, local and public health officials who have complained about shortages of testing supplies and safety gear for doctors and nurses.
On March 29, Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House coronavirus task force, revealed models projecting the deaths of 100,000 to 240,000 Americans, assuming social distancing efforts were ongoing.
At the same time, she said epidemiology models initially had predicted a worst-case scenario of 1.5 million to 2.2 million U.S. deaths without mitigation efforts such as social distancing, hand washing and staying home as much as possible.
Soon after, Trump began speculating that the 100,000 figure was an outer limit. Later, he leaned more toward a projection of 60,000, but that now has been eclipsed by the current death toll of more than 64,000. On Monday, he was thinking 60,000 or 70,000.
At a White House event on Friday, Trump said “maybe millions of lives” have been saved by shutting down the economy.