Alarming Death Toll Projection Is News To Team Trump, Pence Says — Even Though Experts Warned About Numbers Weeks Ago

During an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday, Vice President Mike Pence suggested that President Donald Trump only first became aware of harrowing death estimates from coronavirus over the past weekend.

The White House/Flickr

The Trump administration admitted earlier this week that the death toll due to the spread of COVID-19 could be between 100,000 and 240,000. Those estimates are based on models that require almost perfect adherence to social distancing rules from the American people — a difficult goal to achieve given that 12 states have yet to issue stringent standards for their citizens to stay at home.

Pence explained on Wednesday that the estimates were first presented to Trump less than a week ago. “It was those numbers the president was presented with on Saturday,” the vice president said.

That’s a difficult bit of information to swallow, however, since media reports demonstrated similar estimates several weeks ago — and that, almost certainly, the White House had heard of these reports, or had its own set of data confirming them.

For example, Trump seemed to be expressing the idea like it was brand new, that as many as 2.2 million Americans could die from coronavirus if the country did nothing. A study suggesting those numbers was published in mid-March, and widely reported on at the time by a number of media organizations.

Discussions about the number of infected Americans, ranging from 70 million to 150 million, coupled with death rate estimates (including the low-range estimation that demonstrated 70,000 or more could die from the disease) was reported on by HillReporter.com on March 12. In the same week, the New York Times reported that between 200,000 and 1.7 million could die unless drastic action was taken.

A week ago, researchers from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst predicted that between 100,000 and 300,000 (or more) would die of the disease by the end of the year. A study at the University of Washington, also published last week, found that 80,000 could die before the end of July alone.

To say that this information is brand new to the president is an admission of one of three things. The administration could have known about these numbers for quite a while now, and Pence is lying about Trump just learning about it; the administration could have been aware of these numbers but brushed them aside as not important; or, the president and his team really didn’t pay enough attention to these studies or to the words of their own health experts.

None of those three options inspires much confidence.

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