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The United States passed 60,000 coronavirus deaths on Wednesday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, more than three months earlier than had been predicted by a model the White House has frequently used.
Until recently, the 60,000 mark was touted by President Trump as a measure of success.
Just 10 days ago, Trump said that as many as 60,000 Americans were expected to die from the coronavirus. That was far below earlier estimates of 100,000 to 200,000 from the White House coronavirus task force, and the high range of over 2 million predicted by British researchers on the assumption that no social distancing measures would be implemented.
“Now we’re going toward 50 — I’m hearing, or 60,000 people. One is too many. I always say it,” Trump said during a coronavirus task force briefing at the White House. “But we would have had millions of deaths instead of — it looks like we’ll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the lowest number thought of.”
To arrive at the 60,000 death benchmark, Trump and the White House were relying on the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (or IHME), which estimated 60,308 cumulative deaths (estimate range of 34,063 to 140,381) during the epidemic’s first wave, which it expected to last through early August.
Trump and some members of the task force, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, seized upon the figure as proof its social distancing guidelines and other mitigation efforts were working. (Appearing on NBC’s “Today” show earlier this month, Fauci said it “looks more like 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000” that U.S. officials previously estimated.)
But the UW forecast was lower than many other epidemiological models, drawing criticism from some health experts, who said it was “overly optimistic.” (In an interview with Politico, IHME Director Christopher Murray said the model shows a lower U.S. death toll because it accounts for the impact of social distancing.)
On Monday, the IHME revised its U.S. death projection upward to 74,073 (56,563 to 130,666), which Trump noted during his press briefing in the Rose Garden.
“So, yeah, we’ve lost a lot of people,” Trump said. “But if you look at what original projections were, 2.2 million, we are probably heading to 60,000 to 70,000.
“It’s far too many — one person is too many for this,” the president added before taking credit for preventing more fatalities with his travel bans on foreign nationals from China and Europe.
“I think we’ve made a lot of good decisions,” he said. “I think we’ve done a great job.”
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