Trump Advisers Doubt White House's Coronavirus Deaths Estimate, Expert Says It Appeared Rushed: Report

Several Trump administration officials reportedly doubt the administration's projections of 100,000 to 240,000 U.S. deaths caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multiple advisers to President Donald Trump are casting doubt on the official numbers, according to a Thursday report in The Washington Post, citing three White House officials familiar with the situation who remained anonymous due to not being authorized to speak on the matter.

The projected death toll was announced during a Tuesday press briefing, with Trump also laying out plans to extend social distancing guidelines until at least April 30.

The estimate represented the lower end of projections, which would be expected if strict social distancing guidelines are maintained. Without any preventative measures, the administration presented an estimate of between 1.5 million and 2.2 million deaths.

"This could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two, and maybe three weeks. This is going to be three weeks like we've never seen before," Trump said at the briefing. "One hundred thousand is, according to modeling, a very low number. I asked this a while ago, they said, it's unlikely you will be able to attain that."

President Donald Trump
President Donald Trump at a coronavirus press briefing at the White House on April 2, 2020. Win McNamee/Getty

Although the estimates were not considered unreasonable by many experts, some have expressed doubt based on a lack of details. The administration did not specify a timeframe during which the deaths were predicted to occur, nor did it reveal specifics of the methods used to arrive at the figures.

Some experts who were consulted by the administration said they were asked to provide numbers in a rushed manner.

"They contacted us, I think, on a Tuesday a week ago, and asked for answers and feedback by Thursday, basically 24 hours," Harvard University epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch told The Washington Post. "My initial response was we can't do it that fast. But we ended up providing them some numbers responding to very specific scenarios."

Prominent figures leading the administration's response to the pandemic were also said to have expressed a less than favorable view of the projections.

"I've looked at all the models. I've spent a lot of time on the models. They don't tell you anything. You can't really rely upon models." Dr. Anthony Fauci said during a coronavirus task force meeting this week, according to the paper, citing two officials with direct knowledge of the meeting.

At the Tuesday briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx said that the projection was based on models from a number of universities including Harvard, Columbia and Northeastern.

Birx added that the possibility of a lower death toll would depend efforts by the public. Although a majority of Americans were under government orders to stay at home as of Thursday, several states still had not adopted strict preventative measures.

"It's communities that will do this," Birx said. "There's no magic bullet, there's no magic vaccine or therapy. It's just behaviors. Each of our behaviors translating into something that changes the course of this viral pandemic over the next 30 days."

Over 28,000 additional cases of COVID-19 were confirmed in the U.S. Thursday, bringing the total to around 245,000 with just over 6,000 deaths and 9,000 recoveries.

Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment but did not receive a response in time for publication.