A new, internal government report projects coronavirus cases will expand to 200,000 per day within a month, while the number of daily deaths will nearly double during that time, The New York Times reported.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Trump administration dismissed the report, while the model’s creator said the numbers are unfinished projections presented to the CDC, the report notes, citing an internal document. The numbers will skyrocket after May 14, according to the newest projection, which received criticism from statistician Nate Silver, among others.
“I had no role in the process by which that was presented and shown. This data was presented as an FYI to CDC … it was not in any way intended to be a forecast,” Justin Lessler, the creator and associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, told The Washington Post Monday. He created the model and said it is not complete.
Lessler did note that 100,000 cases by the end of May is possible as states continue reopening. “There are reopening scenarios where it could get out of control very quickly,” Lessler said of the possibility of cases and deaths spiraling out of control. (RELATED: US Coronavirus Death Count To Include ‘Probable’ Causes, Could Add Thousands Who Never Tested Positive)
Silver expressed skepticism about the numbers, asking his Twitter followers Monday: “Why are *reported* deaths in this slide so different than projected deaths? Was this a model originally developed in March or something? It is very strange.”
He included in the tweet a screenshot of the graph that showed a gap between projected deaths and reported deaths.
Expecting the numbers to expand so rapidly over less than three weeks is a strange expectation, Silver suggested.
“I would encourage some caution with taking these at face value,” he wrote before asking if the model was perhaps leaked in an effort to “scare Trump out of touting re-opening, so they’re releasing some sort of worst-case scenario.”
Associated Press journalist Nick Riccardi posed similar questions.
“How do you multiply the number of projected cases by 8 and only double the number of deaths?” he said before suggesting the amount of testing will increase to reveal an explosion in cases.
The White House, for its part, refuted the modeling.
“This is not a White House document, nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting. This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force, or data that the task force has analyzed,” the White House said in a statement to the media addressing the report.
The report’s slides show the CDC’s logo, though the agency also disavowed the report, the Post.
Several U.S. states are reopening their economies. Georgia, Texas and Tennessee, for instance, have already or are preparing to ease stay-at-home orders and bucking health officials who argue that lockdowns must continue.
Trump has expressed desire to get the economy back into a running position after more than a month of state and city officials shuttering businesses to slow the coronavirus’s spread.
The virus originated in Wuhan, China, and has killed nearly 170,000 people worldwide.
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