Joe Biden Confirms Grim Death Toll Expected as Coronavirus Pandemic Continues

President Joe Biden estimated that the death toll from the coronavirus could reach 600,000, predicting that it could take months before any action his administration takes will slow its trajectory. Biden made the comments before signing two executive orders to expand workers' rights and fight hunger during the pandemic. According to Johns Hopkins University data, the U.S. passed 400,000 deaths on Thursday, with 100,000 deaths recorded in just the past 36 days.

"A lot of America is hurting. The virus is surging," Biden said on his third day in office. "We're 400,000 dead, expected to reach well over 600,000. Families are going hungry. People are at risk of being evicted. Job losses are mounting again. We need to act. No matter how you look at it, we need to act."

Biden did not specify which models he was looking at to make his prediction, but the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation estimated the U.S. could hit 600,000 deaths by March, reports CNBC. The model now predicts COVID-19 deaths will hit a plateau above 560,000 by late April. The U.S. has seen a decrease in new COVID-19 cases in recent days after the spike during the winter holiday season. This week, the U.S. reported an average of 187,593 new cases a day, a 22% drop from the previous week, CNBC reports.

Biden also explained why Congress needs to pass his proposed American Rescue Plan as soon as possible. "If we fail to act, there’ll be a wave of evictions and foreclosures in the coming months as this pandemic rages on because there’s nothing we can do to change the trajectory of the pandemic in the next several months," Biden explained. "So, look, this would overwhelm emergency shelters and increase COVID-19 infections as people have nowhere to go and are socially — can’t socially distance." The proposal has a price tag of $1.9 trillion and does include a $1,400 direct payment to Americans, the third stimulus check of the pandemic.

The Biden administration set a goal to distribute 100 million COVID-19 vaccination shots within his first 100 days in office. Although the vaccinations started slowly, there has been an increase in the past week. Between Thursday and Friday, the CDC reported 1.9 million vaccinations. During Friday's press briefing, Biden dismissed criticism the goal might be too low, claiming some people thought his goal was too high before he took office. “I find it fascinating that yesterday the press asked the question, ‘Is 100 million enough?’ The week before, they said, ’Biden, are you crazy? You can’t do 100 million in 100 days,” Biden told reporters. “We’re, God willing, not only going to do 100 million, we’re going to do more than that.”