A new and alarming report by the New York Times that US government experts expect daily Covid-19 infections and deaths to skyrocket over the next month as America reopens has been challenged by the White House as unfounded.
New coronavirus infections are projected to reach 200,000 a day by June 1, from about 25,000 currently, and daily deaths are expected to go from 1,750 now to 3,000 or so, according to the document made public by the Times on Monday.
Described as “an internal document” obtained by the paper, the 19-slide PowerPoint presentation is attributed to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and bears the seals of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services (DHS).
New US projections forecast 200,000 new #coronavirus cases a day by the end of May; right now there are 25,000 a day. https://t.co/9XmolfjyG1pic.twitter.com/wqnR4Zo84k
The projections “confirm the primary fear of public health experts” that reopening America would take it back to the situation in mid-March where “patients were dying on gurneys in hospital hallways as the healthcare system grew overloaded,” said the New York Times report.
To give voice to these unnamed experts, the Times quoted Dr. Scott Gottlieb, former Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner, from an interview to CBS on Sunday.
“While mitigation didn’t fail, I think it’s fair to say that it didn’t work as well as we expected,” Gottlieb said. He resigned in March 2019 to rejoin the private sector, where he currently sits on the board of the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, among other things.
White House spokesman Judd Deere challenged the paper’s reporting, however, saying that the presentation it is based on “is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting.”
“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed,” Deere tweeted, arguing that the White House guidelines for lifting the lockdowns are a “scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with.”
This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the task force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the Coronavirus Task Force or data that the task force has analyzed. #COVID19https://t.co/mTK0724Mzp
As it turns out, the slides represent not a projection but an unfinished model of what could happen under certain circumstances, Justin Lessler, an associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and the author of the model, told the Washington Post.
“I had no role in the process by which that was presented and shown,” said Lessler, adding that he sent the data to the CDC as a courtesy but “it was not in any way intended to be a forecast.”
As of Monday, some 1.1 million Americans have been diagnosed with Covid-19 and over 68,000 have died. Meanwhile, more than 30 million Americans have applied for unemployment benefits as much of the country has been ordered to shelter at home.
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