I'm Gabe Fleisher, reporting live from WUTP world headquarters in my bedroom. It’s Wednesday, April 1, 2020. 216 days until Election Day 2020. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.
White House projects up to 240,000 deaths from coronavirus in U.S. as government narrative shifts
The leaders of the White House Coronavirus Task Force shared their models projecting the U.S. death toll from the pandemic in a briefing on Tuesday, presenting a grim outlook for the weeks and months ahead.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, and Dr. Deborah Birx, the coordinator of the White House coronavirus response, shared a somber best-case scenario: 100,000 to 240,000 Americans dying from the virus, even with social distancing efforts.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” President Donald Trump said at the briefing, in a change of tone from his previous rhetoric concerning the pandemic. “We're going to go through a very tough two weeks. . . This is going to be very painful, a very, very painful two weeks.”
Trump and his public health advisers did provide evidence that the measures being taken across the country to mitigate the coronavirus have made a difference: without social distancing, their model projects that coronavirus could kill 1.5 million to 2.2 million Americans.
“Under the best-case scenario presented on Tuesday, Mr. Trump will see more Americans die from the coronavirus in the weeks and months to come than Presidents Harry S. Truman, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon saw die in the Korean and Vietnam Wars combined,” the New York Times reported.
“The lowest estimate would claim nearly as many Americans as World War I under President Woodrow Wilson and 14 times as many Americans as Iraq and Afghanistan together under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.”
Facing these daunting statistics, Trump adopted a somber tone on Tuesday that was a departure from his stance for most of the coronavirus crisis. Just last week, the president was flirting with re-opening the country by Easter and warning that “we can’t have the cure be worse than the problem.” On Tuesday, he formally extended the CDC’s social distancing guidelines through the end of April and sought to steel Americans for several more weeks of isolation.
Just last month, Trump said the coronavirus was “like a flu” and that “it’s going to be just fine.” On Tuesday, he flatly declared, “it’s not the flu,” and nodded along as doctors presented dire projections for the death toll in America.
In his first public comments about coronavirus, Trump dismissed the growing outbreak in the U.S. as just “one person coming in from China, and we have it under control.” As of 9 a.m. Eastern Time this morning, the pandemic had killed more than 4,000 Americans and infected nearly 190,000, according to Johns Hopkins University. Worldwide, the number of confirmed cases is creeping close to one million, as the death toll nears 45,000.
Trump’s jolting evolution on coronavirus has been emblematic of the federal government’s disorderly response to the pandemic. As Politico chronicled, the experts leading the response at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have made a steady string of assertions — telling Americans they didn't need to wear masks, that the virus could only spread through “droplets,” that young people were at low risk — that are now being called into question.
According to the Washington Post, the CDC is now considering a new recommendation that all Americans wear masks in public, after finding that as many as 25% of individuals with coronavirus may be spreading the pathogen even while not showing symptoms. Experts are also investigating whether the virus can spread through airborne transmission, not just through “droplets” from coughs and sneezes; meanwhile, about 38% of coronavirus patients who were hospitalized earlier this month were aged 20 to 54, in the supposedly low-risk category.
At the same time, “a chorus of governors from across the political spectrum is publicly challenging the Trump administration’s assertion that the United States is well-stocked and well-prepared to test people for the coronavirus and care for the sickest patients,” the New York Times reported Tuesday, citing both Democratic and Republican governors who pushed back on Trump's claim that they have enough ventilators.
“It’s like being on eBay with 50 other states, bidding on a ventilator,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York said at his Tuesday press briefing, referring to the patchwork system for getting medical supplies in the world's most powerful country.
President Donald Trump will receive his intelligence briefing at 12 p.m. and participate in a phone call with military families on coronavirus at 2:30 p.m.
Vice President Mike Pence will tour the Walmart Distribution Center in Gordonsville, Virginia, at 10 a.m. and lead a White House Coronavirus Task Force meeting at 3 p.m.
The White House Coronavirus Task Force will hold a press briefing at 5 p.m.
The House and Senate are on recess.
The Supreme Court has no conferences or oral arguments scheduled.
Democratic presidential candidates Joe Biden and Bernie Sanders have no events scheduled.
*All times Eastern
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