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Though President Trump continues to downplay the necessity of an all-out federal response to the coronavirus, one of his most senior public health advisers, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases director Dr. Anthony Fauci, issued a grim projection on Face the Nation on Sunday. Speaking with Jake Tapper, Fauci said he anticipated somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 coronavirus deaths in the United States, as well as “millions” of cases:
Looking at what we’re seeing now, you know I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases, but I don’t want to be held to that. Because it’s — excuse me, deaths. We’re going to have millions of cases. But I just don’t think that we really need to make a projection when it’s such a moving target that you could so easily be wrong and mislead people.
Fauci suggested that the 100,000 to 200,000 death range is a moderate estimate, and that the possibility of 1 million or more Americans dying from the coronavirus is “almost certainly off the chart” — that “it’s not impossible, but very, very unlikely.”
The longtime NIAID director’s restraint is important during the crisis, when new academic studies contradict last week’s publishing (see the example of Imperial College versus the Oxford model) and cases rise at an alarming rate. On February 29, the United States lost its first domestic patient to the virus, in Washington State. Exactly one month later, 2,457 Americans have died from COVID-19.
Though Fauci urges caution, providing such an estimate does emphasize the necessity for action — or inaction, for the one in three Americans currently self-isolating — as the president spreads misinformation and fails to mobilize the full resources of the federal government. As Bloomberg’s Noah Smith notes, Fauci’s moderate estimate would result in “more American deaths than in all the wars since 1945, combined.”