Exclusive: CDC projects U.S. coronavirus death toll could top 180,000 by Aug. 22

As coronavirus cases have continued to rise in the U.S. throughout the summer, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is forecasting that the total American death toll from COVID-19 could hit 182,000 by the fourth week of August, according to an internal government document obtained by Yahoo News.

More than 150,000 Americans have died due to the coronavirus as of Thursday, according to the latest CDC numbers, which were included in a July 30 senior leadership brief.

The new projection, which has not yet been publicly released, contradicts the more optimistic portrait that President Trump and others in his administration have painted about the pandemic. While the president in recent days has acknowledged the worsening situation in the United States, which has more cases than any other country in the world, he has also continued to insist the virus will simply “disappear.”

With more than 60,000 new cases a day, the virus has shown no signs of disappearing, and while the rate of increase is slowing, deaths are climbing again. On Thursday the CDC reported 1,417 new deaths from the coronavirus.

The CDC has produced weekly projections on deaths attributable to COVID-19 based on a “national ensemble” of more than two dozen different models. Last week’s forecast predicted between 160,000 and 175,000 deaths by Aug. 15. This week’s put that number at between 168,000 and 182,000 by Aug. 22, according to the document obtained by Yahoo News.

In addition to those cumulative numbers, the CDC projects between 5,000 and 11,000 new deaths in a single week ending Aug. 22.

The projected increase in deaths comes as the president has continued to tout the U.S. record when it comes to COVID-19 mortality rates. “We’ve done much better than most” other countries, he said at a White House briefing last week.

While the U.S. has, in fact, done better than other countries when it comes to case fatality rates for the coronavirus — a measure of the number of people who have died compared with the total diagnosed with COVID-19 — it has performed much worse when it comes to overall mortality rate, which is based on per capita deaths.

The case fatality rate is not regarded as a good measure, because it depends on how many infections are detected by testing, and the U.S. has tested more people than any other country has. In the meantime, the overall U.S. mortality rate for the coronavirus is the 10th highest in the world.

Critics say the government response to the pandemic is full of mixed messages. Even as U.S. cases remain high, the president has continued to push back against taking steps, such as a national mask mandate, that public health officials have said could help control the spread of infection.

A member of the medical staff treats a patient wearing helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images)
A medical staff member treats a patient wearing a helmet-based ventilator in the COVID-19 intensive care unit at the United Memorial Medical Center in Houston. (Go Nakamura/Getty Images)

Earlier this week, Trump retweeted a controversial video in which a group of doctors advocated against masks, which scientific studies show help slow the spread of the disease, and spoke out in favor of the antimalarial drug hydroxychloroquine, which has not been proved effective to treat or prevent COVID-19.

Several social media companies took down the video for spreading misinformation.

On Friday the president continued to insist that testing is the reason why cases are high in the U.S., even as Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, testified that morning on the surge in cases in the U.S., compared with Europe, which has been able to bring infection rates under control.

Fauci attributed the difference to Europe’s stricter shutdowns. Trump has continued to push states to reopen.


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