On April 10, 2020, Donald Trump gave one of his bizarre COVID-19 briefings where he started to take credit for what he thought would be the relatively low number of COVID-19 deaths.
So, nobody knows what the number is, but we had a number of 100,000 lives. As many as that is, it’s impossible to even think of it. And that was the low end with a tremendous amount of work and a tremendous amount of — you can call it many different things. Our people had to be extremely strong and brave to be able to put up with what they’ve put up with. But the minimum, if you did this social distancing at every other aspect — and I think I can say 90 percent, maybe even more than that, were able to do it — the minimum number was 100,000 lives, and I think we’ll be substantially under that number.
Hard to believe that if you had 60,000 — you could never be happy, but that’s a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking. So they said between 100- and 220,000 lives on the minimum side, and then up to 2.2 million lives if we didn’t do anything. But it showed a just tremendous resolve by the people of this country.
So we’ll see what it ends up being, but it looks like we’re headed to a number substantially below the 100,000. That would be the low mark. And I hope that bears out.
Ten days later, on April 10, 2020, Trump continued to push that overall death estimate of 60,000.
But we did the right thing, because if we didn’t do it, you would have had a million people, a million and a half people, maybe 2 million people dead. Now, we’re going toward 50, I’m hearing, or 60,000 people. One is too many. I always say it: One is too many. But we’re going toward 50- or 60,000 people. That’s at the lower — as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We — we could end up at 50 to 60. Okay? It’s horrible. If we didn’t do what we did, we would have had, I think, a million people, maybe 2 million people, maybe more than that.
It is now clear that the U.S. will surpass 60,000 deaths within the first few days of May. As the Washington Post’s Philip Bump points out, that’s likely an undercount of total mortality.
We’ll pass 50,000 within days and will likely hit 60,000 deaths by early May. That’s just recorded deaths. The actual death toll will almost certainly be much higher, as deaths outside hospitals and ones that were not preceded by coronavirus tests — including some in early February in California — are added to the total.
Moreover, there will likely be secondary waves of infection once state shutdown and social distancing requirements are eased.
In other words, even when people were celebrating its downward revision to 60,000 deaths, that was still only the estimated total through the early summer. It didn’t include any estimate of what might happen should there be a resurgence in the presence of the virus this fall and winter, as we usually see with the flu. (IHME’s projected death toll through July is now about 67,000.)
All that precious time, lives, and prosperity lost while Trump deluded himself that the virus was just going to miraculously disappear, or that the final death tool would only be 60,000.