Projected US Coronavirus Death Toll Rises as States Begin to Reopen

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington's models projecting the future of the coronavirus pandemic in the U.S. now estimate that the U.S. could see more than 67,000 deaths by early August. The model is one often touted by the White House, with President Donald Trump mentioning it several times during press conferences after the model's projections dropped from 100,000 deaths to 60,000. The adjusted numbers come as some state governments begin to look at reopening their economies.

As of Friday, the University of Washington's model for the U.S. projects 67,641 deaths by Aug. 4, and does not go beyond that. However, the country could reach that death toll much sooner. Johns Hopkins University reports that 50,890 Americans have died so far, meaning the U.S. could reach 60,000 deaths by early May. There are 889,661 confirmed coronavirus cases overall. The U.S. has conducted more than 4.69 million coronavirus tests so far.

Early estimates suggested the U.S. would face between 100,000 and 220,000 deaths. However, the University of Washington's projections were adjusted down to 60,000 after states began instituting "stay at home" orders. During his April 10 press conference, Trump touted the adjustment as good news. "Hard to believe that if you had 60,000, you can never be happy, but that's a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking," Trump said at the time.

During Monday's press briefing, Trump again discussed these projections. "We're going toward 50- or 60,000 people," Trump said. "That's at the lower — as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We... could end up at 50 to 60. Okay? It's horrible. If we didn't do what we did, we would have had, I think, a million people, maybe 2 million people, maybe more than that."

The adjusted projects come at a time when state governments have begun looking into reopening their economies. The University of Washington also made estimates for that as well, suggesting many Southern states continue social distancing through June 8 or later. That includes Georgia, where Gov. Brian Kemp allowed businesses to reopen Friday.

During Wednesday's press conference, Trump said he did not agree with the move. On Thursday, Trump said he spoke with Kemp to remind him he was going against the White House's recommendations, which suggest states should wait until there is a downward trajectory of new cases over two weeks.

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"I said, 'You make your own decision,' I told him that," Trump said, reports The Hill. "I said, 'You're not on the guidelines, but I'm letting you make your own decision, but I want people to be safe and I want the people in Georgia to be safe, and I don’t want this thing to flare up because you’re deciding to do something that is not in the guidelines.'"

The Georgia Department of Public Health reported 635 new cases on Friday, along with 20 more deaths. The state has 22,147 cases and 892 deaths overall. Despite that, Kemp's order meant barbershops, nail salons, gyms, fitness centers, bowling alleys and massage therapists could open on Friday. Movie theaters and dine-in restaurants will be allowed to open on Monday.