Key Scientific Group Doubles Its Projected US Death Toll from Pandemic to 135,000


Mandel Ngan, AFP via Getty Images

The academic group that President Donald Trump and the White House coronavirus task force has frequently cited  for official estimates of coronavirus cases and fatalities radically changed its numbers on Monday, nearly doubling its projected final death toll for the first wave of the Covid-19 outbreak to 135,000.

On Monday afternoon, the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation issued a lengthy press release explaining that it was revising upward by nearly 100% its projection of roughly 74,000 from just one week earlier. The IMHE attributed the stark change to relaxed social distancing rules and increased mobility in many states where the Covid-19 spread has peaked but not declined measurably.

This news comes just hours after the New York Times reported that a private assessment inside the CDC warned that the rapid pullback of quarantine orders will boost the death toll to 3,000 a day by the beginning of June, a mark more than 50 percent higher that the current daily mortality rate. And the IMHE’s reversal arrived less than 24 hours after Trump very publicly backpedaled the virus’ impact in a Fox News town hall on Sunday night, in which he said “We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people.” For weeks, Trump touted the IMHE’s downwardly revised projection of 60,000 from 100,000 as evidence that his administration’s response was saving lives.

According to the IMHE, its new projections reflect new methodology about the spread of the coronavirus that correct “reported cases to account for scaling up testing.” The updates to its death toll numbers, the IMHE added, incorporates “changes in mobility in the absence of formally enacted social distancing policies.”

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