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White House Projects up to 240,000 Coronavirus Deaths in 2020

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The coronavirus death toll in the United States—now over 4,000—has eclipsed the number killed in the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. According to projections shared during a White House briefing on Tuesday evening, the eventual death toll could equal the number of Americans killed in the Korean War and Vietnam War combined—if it is on the most optimistic end of the current estimates.
If current social distancing trends hold, the White House estimates that 100,000 to 240,000 deaths are possible in the United States. Anthony Fauci, the country’s leading infectious disease specialist, said the figures are what “we need to anticipate, but that doesn’t mean that that’s what we’re going to accept … Our hope is to get that down as much as we can,” he said.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who on Feb. 28 told a New Hampshire rally “Looks like by April, you know, in theory, when it gets a little warmer, it miraculously goes away,” has changed his tune. As April begins, he is telling Americans the worst of the pandemic is still to come, “This is going to be a very, very painful two weeks,” he said.
How does the U.S. compare on testing? With 1,048,971 tests conducted to date, according to the COVID Tracking Project, the United States has tested more people than any other nation. The devil is in the details, however, as the United States still lags behind countries like South Korea, which has tested a far higher proportion of its population. South Korea has tested 7,965 people per million residents, whereas the United States has tested less than half that number so far.
Do experts agree with the White House numbers? A survey of 20 public health experts and epidemiologists conducted by Thomas McAndrew at the University of Massachusetts Amherst largely tracks with the White House projections. In the survey published on March 25, the experts estimated an average projection of 245,000 deaths from COVID-19 by the end of the year. They also predicted the number would likely peak in either April or May.
How do these projections compare to previous pandemics? The most recent example is so-called Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the United States suffered an estimated 675,000 deaths in the 1918 flu pandemic.

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