Trump administration models predict near doubling of daily death toll by June

click to enlarge Testing patients at a drive-through site for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Seattle, Thursday, April 30, 2020. The site was setup at the University of Washington Medical Center parking garage. - RUTH FREMSON/THE NEW YORK TIMES
Ruth Fremson/The New York Times
Testing patients at a drive-through site for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, in Seattle, Thursday, April 30, 2020. The site was setup at the University of Washington Medical Center parking garage.
By The New York Times
The New York Times Company


As President Donald Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double from the current level of about 1,750.

The projections, based on government modeling pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now.

The numbers underscore a sobering reality: While the United States has been hunkered down for the past seven weeks, not much has changed. And the reopening to the economy will make matters worse.


“There remains a large number of counties whose burden continues to grow,” the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention warned.

The projections confirm the primary fear of public health experts: that a reopening of the economy will put the nation right back where it was in mid-March, when cases were rising so rapidly in some parts of the country that patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways as the health care system grew overloaded.

“While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work as well as we expected,” Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former commissioner of food and drugs, said Sunday on the CBS program “Face the Nation.” “We expected that we would start seeing more significant declines in new cases and deaths around the nation at this point. And we’re just not seeing that.”

On Sunday, Trump said deaths in the United States could reach 100,000, twice as many as he had forecast just two weeks ago. But his new estimate still underestimates what his own administration is now predicting to be the total death toll by the end of May — much less in the months that follow. It follows a pattern for Trump, who has frequently understated the impact of the disease.


The White House responded that the new projections had not been vetted.

“The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with,” said Judd Deere, a White House spokesman.

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