Trump Foresees Virus Death Toll as High as 100,000 in the United States

The Four Percent


WASHINGTON — President Trump predicted on Sunday night that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic ravaging the country may reach as high as 100,000 in the United States, twice as many as he had forecast just two weeks ago, even as he pressed states to reopen the shuttered economy.

The death toll passed 67,000 on Sunday, more than the total American deaths in the Vietnam War and already higher than the president’s earlier prediction. More than 1,000 additional deaths have been announced every day since April 2 and while the rate appears to have peaked, it has not begun to fall in a significant, sustained way. The model embraced by the White House a month ago had assumed the death rate would begin to fall substantially by mid-April.

“At some point we have to open our country,” the president said. “And people are going to be safe. We’ve learned a lot. We’ve learned about the tremendous contagion. But we have no choice. We can’t stay closed as a country. We’re not going to have a country left.”

Mr. Trump asserted again that the virus would eventually fade. “This virus will pass,” he said. “It will go. Will it come back? It might. It could. Some people say yes. But it will pass.” While he has previously expressed doubt about a second wave in the fall anticipated by public health experts, he conceded that it could happen. “We may have to put out a fire,” he said.

The president’s appearance on Fox, in which he sat at a distance from the hosts at the foot of the Abraham Lincoln statue and took questions sent by video from around the country, came in the middle of a furious debate in the United States about how and when the states should begin restoring a semblance of everyday life. The program was titled “America Together: Returning to Work.”

“On Jan. 23, I was told that there could be a virus coming in but it was of no real import,” Mr. Trump said. “In other words, it wasn’t, ‘Oh, we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to do something.’ It was a brief conversation and it was only on Jan. 23. Shortly thereafter, I closed the country to China. We had 23 people in the room and I was the only one in the room who wanted to close it down.”

Mr. Trump said his travel limit, which did not apply to Americans or legal residents, was not driven by the Jan. 23 warning. “I didn’t do it because of what they said,” he said. “They said it very matter of factly. It was not a big deal.”

In forecasting the toll of the virus, the White House had relied on models by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, which last month had predicted 60,415 deaths by the first week of August. Last week, the institute increased its estimate to 72,433 by early August. But now the toll looks likely to pass that number within a week.

“It looks like we’re headed to a number substantially below the 100,000,” Mr. Trump had said on April 10. “That would be the low mark. And I hope that bears out.” He said a lower number would amount to a victory for him. “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.” As late as April 20, he said “we’re going toward 50 or 60,000 people.”

Because masks are meant to protect other people and he has been tested regularly, Mr. Pence said, he was in keeping with federal guidelines. “I didn’t think it was necessary,” he said. “But I should have wore the mask at the Mayo Clinic.”

The Fox town hall came on a day when Mr. Trump lashed out at former President George W. Bush, who called for national unity in a three-minute video message posted on Saturday.

While Mr. Bush never mentioned Mr. Trump’s name, the sitting president clearly took the message as an implicit rebuke. In a Twitter message, Mr. Trump paraphrased a Fox News personality saying, “Oh bye the way, I appreciate the message from former President Bush, but where was he during Impeachment calling for putting partisanship aside.”

Mr. Trump then added in his own voice: “He was nowhere to be found in speaking up against the greatest Hoax in American history!”

Hours later, Mr. Trump went after another predecessor, reposting a tweet from a pro-Trump website accusing former President Barack Obama of plotting against him. “Evidence has surfaced that indicates Barack Obama was the one running the Russian hoax,” said the original message retweeted by the president.

Mr. Bush’s video message was part of a series of videos aired online as part of a 24-hour live-streamed project, “The Call to Unite,” that also featured Oprah Winfrey, Tim Shriver, Julia Roberts, Martin Luther King III, Sean Combs, Quincy Jones, Naomi Judd, Andrew Yang and others.

Mr. Bush’s office said he had no response to Mr. Trump’s message. “The video was a part of an event called ‘A Call to Unite,’” said Freddy Ford, the former president’s chief of staff. “I hope those covering it will resist the temptation to use it as a call to divide.” Mr. Obama’s office had no comment.



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