Muir presses Trump on his shifting death estimates

Trump took aim at 2 new studies forecasting possible death spikes as US reopens.

May 6, 2020, 7:05 PM

During an exclusive interview with David Muir, President Donald Trump criticized models warning of increased COVID-19 death rates if the U.S. is not careful in its reopening during the pandemic, saying "they've been so out of whack."

A preliminary study from Johns Hopkins University, which advised the results provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency were not intended as a forecast, warned that the daily death rate could double if the U.S. was not careful in its reopening on June 1. A separate study from the University of Washington said the U.S. could have 135,000 additional Americans dead by August.

"These models have been so wrong from day one. Both on the low side and the upside. They've been so wrong. ... And they keep making new models, new models and they’re wrong. Those models that you're mentioning are talking about without mitigation," Trump said. "Well, we're mitigating and we've learned to mitigate, but we can be in place, work in place and also mitigate."

When Muir pointed out the president's own numbers had "shifted over time," Trump replied: "They have. They have."

PHOTO: President Donald Trump speaks with ABC News' David Muir in Phoenix on May 5, 2020.
President Donald Trump speaks with ABC News' David Muir in Phoenix on May 5, 2020.
ABC News

"You said 60,000 Americans could die. That's what you said last week," Muir said.

"Right," the president said.

"I watched your town hall over the weekend. You said 75, 80 to 100,000 people could die. Which models are you looking at? And what should Americans be prepared for as we reopen the country and head into the fall where we could see a potential second wave?" the "World News Tonight" anchor asked.

"Well, the upper number was, as you know, 2.2 million people. And then there are some, some models or charts that showed higher than that. But 2.2 million people. I always felt 60, 65, 70 -- as, as horrible as that is. I mean, you're talking about filling up Yankee Stadium with death. So I thought it was horrible, but it's probably going to be somewhat higher than that," Trump said. "In the meantime, what we can say is this: Other countries aren't producing the correct numbers. And when you look at mortality rates, we're doing better than almost all countries on mortality rate. We're doing a better job."

According to Bloomberg, at least 20 states were reopening without meeting the White House guidelines.

On Monday, Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN that his message for states was to "take a look at the clearly articulated guidelines for opening America again. ... The concern that I have is that there are some states, some cities or what have you, who are looking at that and kind of leap-frogging over the first checkpoint. ... You're making a really significant risk."

As part of the White House's reopening plan, one of the requirements for the first phase to proceed was a "downward trajectory" in cases for 14 days.

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