CDC Seems to Project Half a Million Deaths From COVID-19

We are so fucked:

As President Trump presses for states to reopen their economies, his administration is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of cases and deaths from the coronavirus over the next several weeks, reaching about 3,000 daily deaths on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, nearly double from the current level of about 1,750.

The projections, based on modeling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now.

Would you like to see this in approximate chart form?

If I’ve done the arithmetic without too many mistakes—which is a little hard because my hands are shaking—this adds up to something in the ballpark of 200,000 deaths by the end of June. And even that’s only if the number of deaths starts to plateau in early June, which is not what the CDC’s own chart suggests:

If anything, this looks as if CDC thinks June 1 isn’t a peak, but just a mile marker on our way up. But even if we go ahead and assume optimistically that 200,000 is the right estimate for the end of June, we’ll also have another 200,000+ as we decline after the peak. Call it half a million deaths total. And even that’s just for the first wave of COVID-19.

HALF A MILLION DEATHS.

I suppose it’s possible that the CDC is completely off base. But . . . probably not.

HALF A MILLION DEATHS.

Words are failing me. Do they really believe this? And they’re keeping it a secret while Donald Trump says everything is OK and we should start reopening the economy? Will someone please tell me that this was just some intern screwing around with a spreadsheet that accidentally got into the hands of the New York Times? Or a fat finger error? Or a decimal place that got dropped?

ARE THEY SERIOUSLY KEEPING IT A SECRET THAT THEY EXPECT HALF A MILLION DEATHS FROM COVID-19?

UPDATE: I’ve added the CDC chart and changed a few sentences here and there to discuss it.

UPDATE 2: More from the Washington Post:

The White House and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention quickly disavowed the report, though the slides carry the CDC’s logo. The creator of the model said the numbers are unfinished projections shown to the CDC as a work in progress. The work contained a wide range of possibilities and modeling was not complete, according to Justin Lessler, an associate professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, who created the model.

He said he didn’t know how the update was turned into a slidedeck by government officials and shared with news organizations. The data was first reported by the New York Times.

“I had no role in the process by which that was presented and shown. This data was presented as an FYI to CDC … it was not in any way intended to be a forecast,” Lessler said. Lessler insisted, however, the numbers show how moving to reopen the country could spiral out of control. He said 100,000 cases per day by the end of the month is within the realm of possibility. Much depends on political decisions being made today.

More to come on this, I’m sure.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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