Donald Trump revises US Covid-19 toll estimate again to ‘hopefully under 100,000’


US President Donald Trump talks to reporters as he departs on travel to the Camp David presidential retreat from the South Lawn at the White House in Washington, US, May 1, 2020. (REUTERS)


President Donald Trump on Friday revised the estimate of US fatalities from Covid-19 to “hopefully” less than 100,000, just days after he said he feared it could go up to 60,000 and then to 70,000. His first estimate based on projections by his coronavirus task force was up to 200,000.

As of Saturday morning, US toll stood at 65,068, with 1,947 new fatalities in the last 24 hours and the number of confirmed cases had climbed to 1.1 million, with 34,037 new reported infections.

The Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), whose projections are widely cited by public health officials and experts including member of the president’s task force on the coronavirus, has estimated 72,433 fatalities based on current levels of mitigation efforts.

The American president has tried to get ahead of the pandemic, which he had once dismissed as something that will “disappear” like a “miracle”. Trump has also used these statements to claim credit for himself and his administration for acting in time and aggressively enough to have prevented many more death, even though US remains the nation which has recorded the highest death toll due to coronavirus, followed by Italy which is the second-hardest hit country.

“Through our aggressive response and the remarkable commitment and bravery of American people, we have saved thousands and thousands of lives,” the president told reporters Friday before heading out to Camp David, the presidential retreat in adjoining Maryland state.

He added: “People were thinking in terms of 1.5 million lives lost to 2.2 without the mitigation. And hopefully, we’re going to come in below that 100,000 lives lost, which is a horrible number nevertheless.”

The estimate of 1.5 million to 2.2 million came from the White House task force on the coronavirus and was based on assumptions that the government did nothing to combat the outbreak. With all mitigation efforts fully in force, the task force had projected 120,000 to 200,000 deaths.

To keep a tight control on its narrative on the handling of the outbreak, the White House has blocked Anthony Fauci, a top government epidemiologist and member of the coronavirus task force, from testifying before a congressional committee. It has said making key officials fighting the outbreak appear at hearings will be “counterproductive” at this point.

But all projections have been significantly lowered with the enforcement of mitigation efforts such as stay-at-home orders and social-distancing guidelines.

With continued drop in new cases, hospitalization and intubation, many states have started easing these restrictions. Texas became Friday the largest state to roll back some of the curbs. Stores, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums and libraries were allowed to reopen with limited occupancy to ensure social-distancing.

Other states such as California and Michigan, which have been hit hard by the epidemic, are being more careful and have tightened restrictions. Beaches and some public parks have been closed in California indefinitely and Michigan has extended the lockdown to May 15 despite mounting protests.

The situation in New York, the epicenter of the American epidemic with more than 24,000 fatalities, continues to improve but the scale of the devastation in the state and New York City, where close to 18,400 people have died thus far, has continued to unfold.

A New York city nursing home on Friday reported the death of 98 inmates from Covid-19 over a period of time. “It’s absolutely horrifying,” Mayor Bill de Blasio has said. “It’s inestimable loss, and it’s just impossible to imagine so many people lost in one place.” Earlier in the week 100 bodies were found decomposing in two unrefrigerated trucks outside a funeral home in the city.

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