US Deaths Could Surpass the 60,000 Projected If States Open Now, Experts Warn

Sources close to the coronavirus task force are speaking out against proposals to end stay-in-place orders by several governors across the United States, arguing that such moves are likely to result in higher death counts when all is said and done.

Current projections on the virus predict around 60,000 Americans may die from COVID-19 by August. Those numbers were revised down from an earlier projection of 100,000 to 240,000 potential deaths in the country, with the newer numbers being praised by the president.

“We’re going toward 50, I’m hearing, or 60,000 people,” President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on Monday. “One is too many. I always say it: One is too many. But we’re going toward 50- or 60,000 people. That’s at the lower — as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people.”

Now, however, with Trump promoting the idea of “reopening” the economy by pushing states to end stay-in-place orders meant to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, some who are close to his own task force on the subject are speaking out against the idea.

“If some states jump prematurely into opening, we certainly could surpass 60,000,” one source said to CNN’s Jim Acosta late on Monday.

The source commented on the fact that state governors, including South Carolina’s Henry McMaster and Georgia’s Brian Kemp, are planning to end stay-in-place measures relatively soon, with the former reopening his state’s beaches and several businesses right away.

“Not good,” the source said about those proposed actions.

Other members of the coronavirus task force have expressed skepticism on the moves. On Monday morning, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said that efforts to “reopen” the economy wouldn’t work, regardless of whether stay-in-place measures were lifted or not.

“Unless we get the virus under control, the real recovery economically is not going to happen,” Fauci said, adding that ending stay-in-place orders to help the economy could “backfire” on governors as it could result in more infections.

The model that the White House is relying on, which predicts 60,000 deaths by August, is reliant on some important assumptions. In that model, it was assumed that states would keep their stay-in-place orders enforced up to that month, and not begin to transition toward a more open economy where gatherings of people would be allowed at businesses and other recreational activities.

Recent polling from NBC News/The Wall Street Journal on the subject finds that most Americans are concerned about states ending stay-in-place orders prematurely, with 58 percent saying as much. Only 32 percent of Americans are worried economies might open up too slowly.

Another poll, asking the question of whether social distancing should remain or not in a more direct way, found that only 10 percent of Americans want such measures to be curtailed. Conversely, 86 percent say that social distancing rules should remain in place or even be more stringent.