Feds Predicted 300,000 Would Die If Economy ‘Reopened’ Too Soon — And That’s ‘Way Too Optimistic,’ Experts Say
On Monday, President Donald Trump discussed how the number of Americans predicted to die from coronavirus had been revised down from 100,000 to 60,000, demonstrative, in his view, that the administration’s efforts at combatting the disease were successful.
“We’re going toward 50- or 60,000 people. That’s at the lower — as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people,” he said.
But as the president pushes for more of the states to open up their economies — or, to “liberate” themselves, as he’s put it in tweets — that 60,000 figure may end up being much higher. And according to his own Department of Health and Human Services, if all social distancing measures were to be removed, it could be much, much higher.
Documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity detail how HHS officials believed that more than 300,000 Americans could die from COVID-19 if social distancing were to be ended. In their report, HHS also suggested both cases and deaths in the U.S. would double every 5 to 6 days.
Some statisticians, however, took issue with HHS’s mathematical reasonings, believing that the number would be even higher than that.
“Their model’s way too optimistic. They’re getting their analysis wrong,” Ashish Jha, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute,” told CPI. Jha added that HHS’s models assume “a very optimistic case fatality rate” that fails to account for hospitals running short on supplies.
Juan Gutierrez, a mathematician providing models for the city of San Antonio, agreed, adding that the government documents are underestimating the number of infections that would result from asymptomatic individuals spreading the disease.
— Dave Levinthal (@davelevinthal) April 21, 2020
The math demonstrated by HHS, Gutierrez added, looked just like “what a rookie would do,” he added.
Indeed, the White House itself had originally projected that, had states done nothing to combat the spread of the disease, it would have resulted in millions of deaths, not merely hundreds of thousands.
The argument in favor of “reopening” the economy by ending stay-at-home orders is a flawed one, several experts agree, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of Trump’s coronavirus task force, because it presumes the economy will do well when, in actuality, the virus will still exist and hurt the country’s economic output in other ways.
“Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery, economically, is not going to happen,” Fauci said on Monday.