Researchers forecast huge spike in US Covid-19 fatalities due to easing of curbs
A draft government report has separately forecast a spike in fatalities by 3,000 a day by the end of this month from around 1,500 currently, and 200,000 new infections.Updated: May 05, 2020, 20:44 IST
As more American states begin rolling back restrictions with President Donald Trump cheering them along, US Covid-19 fatalities are projected to double because of the resulting “growing contact among people” to 134,475 by August, according to an update of a widely cited research model.
A draft government report has separately forecast a spike in fatalities by 3,000 a day by the end of this month from around 1,500 currently, and 200,000 new infections.
The cumulative US toll is projected to rise to 134,475 by August 4 according to the Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation IHME), a University of Washington body whose projections are widely cited by the White House. Its forecast is twice its previous projection of 72,433 over the same period.
“The revised projections reflect rising mobility in most US states as well as the easing of social distancing measures expected in 31 states by May 11, indicating that growing contacts among people will promote transmission of the coronavirus,” it said in a statement.
At least 42 states have begun piecemeal reopening of their economy, businesses such as hair and nail saloons, gyms, restaurants, bowling alleys and some department stores; some have also announced plans to resume schools and allow construction and manufacturing concerns to reopen in coming days.
Public health officials and experts have cautioned against rushing the reopening in violation of federal guidelines that have laid down phases separated by “gating” measures to determine if a community is ready to move from one stage to the next. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House task force on the coronavirus outbreak, has warned about “leapfrogging”.
President Trump seemed unfazed by the dire predictions. He told reporters before leaving for Arizona to tour a mask-making factory, that both models were based on the assumption of no mitigation efforts. “That assumes no mitigation and we’re going to have mitigation,” he said of the IHME forecast.
The IHME model had started out past March forecasting more than 82,000 Covid-19 by August, but it had significantly lowered it to around 60,000 in April it based on social-distancing measures put in force in most states. It has now scaled it up to twice its earlier projection.
The projection is also double the current US toll of 68,934, up by 1,240 in the last 24 hours; infections went up to 1.18 million with 22,335 new cases over the same period.
The daily toll is projected to go up significantly to 3,000 by June 1, according to the draft government report, which was first reported by New York Times and has been since disowned by the White House, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which is said to have created it for the he Federal Emergency Management Agency, and researchers of the Johns Hopkins University who created the model. The number of cases are projected to jump to 200,000 a day, according to this report.
Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who created the model, told Washington Post that projections were work in progress and finished data would differ. But, he warned, the number of daily infections could go to 100,000 and much would depend on political decisions being taken now. “There are reopening scenarios where it could get out of control very quickly,” Lessler was quoted as saying.
President Trump has aggressively pushed for reopening the country and a return to normalcy with an eye on his re-election, even as he has had to temper his display of optimism by continuously revising upwards his own assessment of fatalities — he is now saying it can hit 100,000.
The White House dismissed the report. “This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting,” White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement. “This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed. The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with. The health of the American people remains President Trump’s top priority and that will continue as we monitor the efforts by states to ease restrictions.”