A grim coronavirus prediction, 1 year later

Dr. James Lawler, a former White House official who predicted 480,000 U.S. COVID deaths last February, now says we could see “several hundred thousand” more.
10:17 | 01/28/21

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Transcript for A grim coronavirus prediction, 1 year later
And turn back to cove and as we surpassed 420000. American lives lost we pulled back hosting a year ago to the scientists who tried to warn officials at the situation was far more dire than many people realize. One of those doctors was James Lawler. Correctly predicted our current castill and told ABC news in July that we're not yet at the intermission of this twisted story. What his his latest warning ABC's to cover all reports. There's growing concern at this hour over a possible outbreak. Of a mystery virus. In January 21. Final moments before it nineteen would change society for ever. What's in the world was ignorant of the looming legality. Chinese health authorities are still working to identify the virus behind and new movie outbreak. Central city Opel hunt the CDC says the risk to the American public is low but they want to be worth. But a group of current and former government officials and scientists were watching closely and saw the horrific writing on the wall. This series of the email chains called red dawn doctor James Lawler and infectious disease specialist who served in the Obama and bush administrations. Reacted to pentagon officials waving off the pandemic as essentially a bad flu. This was mind somewhat tongue in cheek response to that and I described great understatement in history. Napoleon's retreat from Moscow just little stroll gone bad. Pompeii. A bit of a dust storm person about summer heat wave and Wuhan and just about flu season. In early February the red dawn group turn their focus to the diamond princess. Cruise ship off the coast of Japan in which was overrun with an outbreak of cope in nineteen. The number of confirmed novel corona virus cases onboard this quarantine cruise ship nearly doubling. There more than 200 people with the virus aboard this cruise ship. With the ship then under intensive quarantine measures doctor Lawler was part of the team climbing on board to investigate. The virus is rapid spread validating his deep concerns despite these. Pretty aggressive infection control measures that passengers were taking. They were continuing to to get sick. And to be about it's cases and so. That really brought home to us potentially explosive transmission. That could occur. By that point the virus had already landed in the US soon exposing a testing system that was woefully under prepared but many top officials including president trump continued to downplay the threat. Trump even suggesting his administration's response to corona virus would be more effective than president Obama's handling of the Swine Flu. Reference to his death hole that now seems meager by comparison. What they did in the mistakes they made. They were terrible they were horrific mistakes 171000 people died. However weeks before doctor Lawler was sounding the alarm about an outcome far more grim. The private webinar with the American Hospital Association. He estimated a corona virus death poll of 480000. Americans a calculation he called conservative. Unfortunately eleven months later he's been proven right. This week the US roaring past 425000. Deaths on pace to potentially at clips lawless estimate next month. We last spoke with doctor Lawler in July where he had this ominous warning about what was lying ahead. There are still a lot of twists and turns in the plot of this movie so I think where we're not even yet to intermission. And so we're gonna have I think unfortunately a few more surprises and the few. Cliff hangers left Trevor alt ABC news New York. Certainly a drama that we would all like to see end very soon doctor James Lawler is here with us tonight doctor thank you so much for your time I wanna pick up Bob on that idea of cliff hangers. That you feel are still to coming sent back in July that the virus could still surprise us how worried are you about the new variants and do these mutations make it harder to model and predict the course of the pandemic. Well they did make it harder to predict and we're learning more every day. I am concerned that these new Nigerians. Of them are potentially more transmissible there are certainly concerns. The new variants and we've seen and so effort in Brazil may also be able to evade some of the therapeutics that we have. And even name render our vaccine is slightly less active well there we don't have definitive proof of that and yet. It's all century. They did he seems Hugh. I'm Preston is being planned arrival. Other variants that we may not recognized yet and even bearings that could. On their own spontaneously. In the US and certain. Just means we have a little bit more complicated problem where and when we thought. Almost a year ago you said the 480000. Americans could die from cove in nineteen. A described the response it got back and has it sounds like some people were trying to really dis associate with and that sinking and give us a sense of what your thoughts are now that your predictions and sadly seem to be coming true. Right well while at the time there is certainly a a lot of shock. And disbelief. Whose estimates we're all due to be. Be honest it was just doing the math and I think that's where I'm. A lot of infectious disease Muller's. Had predicted a very similar courses. It is obviously sad that but we program. It's actually exceeded those numbers. We still have a month to go before it I think it's been years since that. Since the predictions that are we we probably will come in higher. And I'm I think this reflects the fact that we've really. Not done a great job of mitigating. The impact of the pandemic. It earlier this week asked doctor felt she looking back what he would do over if you could she resisters. You know very likely it would've been an early early on to really try to get as much more information. Well up out the fact that his virus can be spread by people without symptoms we did not know that Dan. I wish that I had known it early then I knew it. Because if I did it would have likely been differences and more stringent recommendations. Did official should have known or guest at least that asymptomatic people could still spread the virus and was at a major mistake. The stigma I think that the evidence was there are clearly there is evidence that asymptomatic people. We're able to show voters aren't Shannon yen won't. Quantities that should be concerning for transmission and a timing thing. People even experts didn't want to believe it means they have found any excuse they committed to discount the data in and discount the observations they were seeing. But but we should not very early are in fact taking down there were many in late January. Work. Isn't that exactly that scenario that is automatic transmissions can turn out to be an important mechanism opera in nineteen. And we should've taken more aggressive actions are. What lessons should the Biden administration take away from what's gone wrong and what do you think. Or do you think I should ask that they'll do a better job than the trump administration. I think messaging has to be one of the top priorities so much has been lost than in the messaging while you are in the last year and it's allowed. Who were confusion and and brought him more tragically disinformation. Plan to you brought to release we threw large segment of the population. And that's created a situation where we haven't been able to act I. The unified manner as a country. So hopefully focusing on what network messaging and then. Education and public awareness will be one. Bogus for the new administration and is Celine growing town vaccines or will be among the remainder challenged. Leisle and it's really a two Carter is curious if you hold the trump administration. Accountable for. How high the death tall is in this country. And I guess I'm a little bit afraid to ask but what do you think ultimately the death toll will be in this country. It's clear that we're going to see deaths from grew to nineteen. Her long time in his country even after the vaccine is believed roll down. Well we'll continue to see a long tail while other das and and will probably never be rid of wrangling her. They're very low level similar zoom that's easy from being up ammonia. But I but I think we'll still accumulate a large number of deaths over the next year only end. Possibly several 100000. Mold or unfortunately. Clinton will regard student the last administration. I think there's. Mistakes remain hit and many levels. And down when bureaucracy and federal levels state and local levels as well. Clearly one then that was missing was strong national leadership coming from the White House. The end while I'm in discussing it and the seriousness. All of them. And creating unity and action and among blue people even something as simple as wearing face it we could've and consistent messaging. From the White House I think that would remain significant in. We don't look at countries it and done it well countries like Japan. Which Adams had been dramatically lower or great dads won't per population and US. So do alone it's not true that there's nothing we can dunk we could have gone a lot different way. And we would have been much better position. Henry ticket passions or early Hartman and I'm focused nationally. We appreciate your insight and your time tonight doctor Weil a thank you.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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