At a White House press conference with medical experts on Tuesday, President Trump warned of a “very, very painful two weeks” ahead for Americans. NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci also suggested that 100k-240k Americans could die in the coming months. Fellow expert Dr. Deborah Birx struck a more optimistic note, suggesting extensive mitigation efforts could yield results by July.
In what has to be a somber new tone from the president that comes after his medical advisers showed him data projecting that the virus could kill 100,000–240,000 Americans even with strict social distancing guidelines in place as it is now. Sunday, Trump dropped his aspiration of reopening America by Easter after seeing the data and bleak hospital images out of New York, which is the epicenter of the crisis in the U.S.
The White House published health guidance on Tuesday as part of its new “30 days to slow the spread” plan, which would expire on April 30.
The big picture: Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator, said at the briefing that estimates showed between 1 million to 2 million in the U.S. could die from the virus “without mitigation.”
- But with social distancing and strong public health measures in place, the “mountain” could be depressed to a “hill” that projects 100,000–240,000 deaths, Birx said.
- “As sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it,” said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “Is it going to be that much? I hope not, and I think the more we push on the mitigation, the less likelihood it will be that number.”
- Trump, who has repeatedly compared the coronavirus to the seasonal flu, said at the briefing: “A lot of people have said ‘Ride it out. Don’t do anything, just ride it out. And think of it as the flu.’ But it’s not the flu. It’s vicious.”
Questioned about his change in tone, Trump said that the pandemic is “really easy to be negative about” but that he tries to maintain optimism and act as a “cheerleader for the country.”
- “We are going through the worst thing that the country has probably ever seen,” he added. “We lose more here potentially than you lose in world wars. So there’s nothing positive, there’s nothing great about it, but I want to give people in this country hope.”