President Trump on Friday said deaths in the U.S. from SARS-CoV-2 will come in “substantially” below the 100,000 predicted in a model relied upon by the White House — which has proven to have been far off the mark in recent days.
One of the coronavirus model the White House has used, from the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) at the University of Washington, at first projected 100,000 to 240,000 deaths. Last week, the IMHE pulled that way back, projecting 93,531 deaths. On Sunday, the institute lowered its estimated to 81,766 deaths. Then on Wednesday, the projection dropped the estimated total deaths to 60,415.
Trump said he wasn’t pleased with even that number, but said “that’s a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking.”
The coronavirus to date has infected nearly a half-million people in the U.S. and killed more than 16,000.
“The numbers of death, people that have died — it’s so horrible,” Trump said. “Now, on the other side, you have the number of beds being used are being substantially reduced.”
Alex Berenson, a former New York Times reporter from 1999 to 2010, has also recently questioned the IMHE model.
“Aside from New York, nationally there’s been no health system crisis. In fact, to be truly correct, there has been a health system crisis, but the crisis is that the hospitals are empty,” he said on Fox. “This is true in Florida where the lockdown was late, this is true in southern California where the lockdown was early, it’s true in Oklahoma where there is no statewide lockdown. There doesn’t seem to be any correlation between the lockdown and whether or not the epidemic has spread wide and fast.”
Top experts argue that efforts to stem the spread – shutting down all non-essential businesses, enacting social distancing metrics and urging all Americans to wear face masks – are responsible for the changing models.
“We believe that our health care delivery system in the United States is quite extraordinary,” Dr. Deborah Birx said at a White House press briefing on Wednesday. “I know many of you are watching the Act Now model and the IHME model– and they have consistently decreased the number, the mortality from over almost 90,000 or 86,000, down to 81,000 and now down to 61,000. That is modeled on what America is doing. That’s what’s happening.”
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the same day that the models show social distancing is working – and changing the data input into the models. “Because remember, what you do with data will always outstrip a model. You redo your models, depending upon your data, and our data is telling us that mitigation is working.”
But Berenson said the steep drop in cases occurred before lockdowns would have had an impact, adding that it would take several weeks for social distancing measures to take effect.
And he said the mainstream media share the blame.
“Look, I get why people were so scared three or four weeks ago. I was too. But now – for the media to ignore the real demographics and scare people with outlier cases – to ignore the mostly empty hospitals all over the country – to pretend that the models weren’t wrong … and to refuse to ask really hard questions about what that means about them and the efficacy or lack thereof of the lockdowns – to refuse to ask for hard metrics we will use to reopen the country … it doesn’t feel like panic is driving this anymore. It feels like people just won’t admit what’s happening,” he wrote on Twitter.
Berenson also pointed out that COVID-19 deaths are on pace to be close to the number of deaths caused by influenza in 2017.
“Nobody says COVID-19 is not real, that it can’t tax hospitals or kill people, esp. if they are over 75 or have comorbidities. But right now the best CURRENT projection is for 61,000 US deaths. That was the 2017 flu season. Why have we shut the country?” he wrote.