The tragic milestone revives debate over the handling of the pandemic.
U.S. coronavirus deaths surged past 100,000 Wednesday, even as President Donald Trump continues urging states across the country to reopen.
The U.S. leads the world in reported confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 1.6 million American cases since January, according to a Johns Hopkins University tracker.
A day before the U.S. reached the 100,000-death mark, Trump once again blamed China for not stopping the virus before it spread across the globe, and touted his decision in January to restrict travel from China to the U.S.
“For all of the political hacks out there, if I hadn’t done my job well, & early, we would have lost 1 1/2 to 2 Million People, as opposed to the 100,000 plus that looks like will be the number,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
But models that suggested millions of Americans would die from the coronavirus assumed that officials and the public would not take any steps to mitigate the pathogen’s spread, according to Jeremy Konyndyk, a senior policy fellow at the Center for Global Development who led efforts on global disaster response under the Obama administration.
“He’s basically saying we’ve done less poorly than complete inaction, that’s a pretty underwhelming bar to set,” Konyndyk told POLITICO. While it’s difficult to say definitively what impact Trump’s travel restrictions had on the U.S. outbreak, the administration did little to take advantage of any extra time to ramp up production of personal protective equipment or testing supplies, he added.
An outbreak model favored by White House officials projects the virus will cause approximately 32,000 additional deaths by Aug. 4. That would put the country’s overall toll at just under 132,000, according an update released Wednesday by researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
Former Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday cited a study by Columbia University researchers that found that if social distancing measures had been implemented one week sooner, the U.S. could have avoided nearly 36,000 deaths nationwide as of early May. “This is a fateful milestone we should have never reached — that could have been avoided,” Biden said in a Twitter video.
Democrats haveblasted Trump’s handling of the pandemic, saying a lack of federal planning to organize testing and procurement of needed supplies has left states to fight with each other for scarce supplies on the private market.
The administration delivered a report to Congress over the weekend outlining its national coronavirus testing strategy, which suggests that conducting 300,000 tests per day and achieving a positivity rate under 10 percent is sufficient. But Democrats and public health researchersimmediately panned those numbers as inadequate.
The authors of an analysis published by Harvard University’s Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics said the administration report distorted their work. The HHS plan “selectively adjusted assumptions” and “does not provide an accurate summary of the modeling supporting our recommendations,” researchers E. Glen Weyl and Divya Siddarth and Safra Center Director Danielle Allen said in a statement Tuesday.
They argue the U.S. needs to conduct1 to 1.5 million tests per day. “We have been arguing for and modeling a suppression strategy, which our numbers reflect,” Allen, Weyl and Siddarth said in a statement. “The administration appears to have embraced a mitigation strategy. We continue to encourage the administration to aim high. Mitigation should be but a stepping stone to suppression.”
Scott Gottlieb, Trump’s former FDA commissioner, cautioned over the weekend that the coronavirus is not yet contained, notingthat the number of people hospitalized nationwide per day has begun to increase after a two-week decline.
“Some uptick in cases was expected as we re-opened but raises concern,” Gottlieb tweeted Sunday. “Risk is we don’t better contain spread, get slow burn, and bigger re-ignition in Fall.”