The increasingly grim figure exceeds predictions President Donald Trump made just last week when he sought to frame a maximum of 50,000 to 60,000 total deaths as a win for America and a validation of his administration’s highly criticized pandemic response.
“We did the right thing because if we didn’t do it, you would have had a million people, a million and a half people, maybe 2 million people dead,” Trump said. “Now, we’re going toward 50, I’m hearing, or 60,000 people.”
“One is too many. I always say it: One is too many,” he continued. “But 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. We — we could end up at 50 to 60.”
It’s unclear how Trump arrived at “50- or 60,000” deaths as a plausible upper limit. The U.S. death toll was 42,000 on April 20, the day he made the claim. And the actual number of coronavirus-related deaths, not just the official count recorded in hospitals, is likely far higher.
A Washington Post analysis suggests the White House fundamentally misunderstands the math behind the COVID-19 models — which isn’t outside the realm of possibility, given Trump’s other actions in times of crisis. This is a president who altered a weather map to change a hurricane’s path, wondered if we could disrupt hurricanes by nuking them, and floated the idea of injecting disinfectant to cure disease.
Trump’s predicted death toll also failed to account for a potentially more dangerous second wave of the virus later this year that could require a more forceful response if it coincides with flu season.
“There’s a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through,” Redfield told the Post. “And when I’ve said this to others, they kind of put their head back, they don’t understand what I mean.”
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