Trump officials privately question White House coronavirus death toll estimate: WaPo

Public health experts whose research was used by the White House to reach the conclusion that 100,000 to 240,000 people will die nationwide from the coronavirus are unsure how the administration reached that figure, according to The Washington Post.

Trump first announced the staggering number at a White House briefing on Tuesday. The White House has not explained how it reached the figure, which is more than the amount of Americans killed in the Vietnam War and on 9/11 combined. As of Thursday evening, there are more than 243,000 confirmed cases in the U.S. and 5,926 deaths reported, according to a count by Johns Hopkins.

According to the Post, several White House staffers have doubted the accuracy of the figures. One source said Anthony FauciAnthony FauciTrump breaks with Fauci: US in 'good place' in fight against virus Health care group launches M ad campaign hitting Trump in battleground states Overnight Health Care: Trump says White House will pressure governors to open schools | Administration formally moves to withdraw US from WHO | Fauci warns against 'false complacency' on COVID-19 MORE, an immunologist who is coordinating the coronavirus task force, told others there were too many factors at play to come up with an accurate estimate.

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“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,” he said to members of the task force, according to the Post.

Jeffrey Shaman, an epidemiologist at Columbia University whose research was cited by the White House, told the Post his work doesn’t go far enough to reach those sorts of estimates. 

“We don’t have a sense of what’s going on in the here and now, and we don’t know what people will do in the future,” he said. “We don’t know if the virus is seasonal, as well.”

The purpose of those figures are to aid in developing a long-term plan to combat the virus, which Shaman said he's not sure exists on the White House's end. 

“I wish there were more of a concerted national plan. I wish it had started a month and a half ago, maybe two months ago,” Shaman told the Post.