Several advisers to President Donald Trump cast doubt on official figures, according to a report in Thursday in The Washington Post, citing three White House officials familiar with the situation who remained anonymous due to their unauthorized speaking on the matter.
The expected death toll was announced at a media briefing on Tuesday, with Trump also presenting plans to extend the social isolation guidelines until at least April 30.
The estimate represented the lower end of the projections, which would be predictable if strict social distancing guidelines were maintained. Without any preventive measures, the administration presented an estimate between 1.5 million and 2.2 million deaths.
“It could be quite a two week period. It’s going to be very bad two and maybe three weeks. It’s going to be three weeks like we’ve never seen before, ”Trump said during the briefing. “One hundred thousand is, according to the modeling, a very small number. I asked for this some time ago, they said, it is unlikely that you can achieve it. “
Although the estimates were not considered unreasonable by many experts, some expressed doubts due to a lack of details. The administration has not specified a time frame within which deaths are expected to occur, nor has it revealed details of the methods used to arrive at the figures.
Some experts consulted by the administration said they were asked to provide figures in a rush.
“They contacted us, I think, on a Tuesday a week ago, and asked for answers and comments by Thursday, essentially 24 hours,” said Marc Lipsitch, epidemiologist at Harvard University. The Washington Post. “My initial response was that we couldn’t do it that quickly. But we ended up providing them with figures responding to very specific scenarios. “
Influential figures in the administration’s response to the pandemic have also reportedly expressed an unfavorable opinion of the projections.
“I looked at all the models. I spent a lot of time on the models. They don’t tell you anything. You can’t really rely on the models. Dr. Anthony Fauci said at a coronavirus task force meeting this week, the document said, citing two officials with first-hand knowledge of the meeting.
At Tuesday’s briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx said the screening was based on models from a number of universities, including Harvard, Columbia and Northeastern.
Birx added that the possibility of a decline in the death toll would depend on public efforts. Although the majority of Americans have received orders from the government to stay at home since Thursday, several states have yet to adopt strict preventive measures.
“It’s the communities that will do this,” said Birx. “There is no quick fix, no vaccine or magic therapy. These are just behaviors. Each of our behaviors translates into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days. “
More than 28,000 additional cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the United States on Thursday, bringing the total to approximately 245,000 with just over 6,000 deaths and 9,000 recoveries.
Newsweek contacted the White House for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.