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Projections for the eventual U.S. death toll from COVID-19 have fallen sharply, a testament to the success of a combination of aggressive measures, most notably stringent social distancing, that have been undertaken throughout the country.
This wonderful news is a reminder that Americans can make miracles happen — thanks to their own determination, and to the tireless leadership of a president with remarkable foresight who’s assembled a team of the world’s best experts to guide and facilitate our response to the pandemic.
The federal government, state governments, entire industries and all our citizens have mobilized to do everything they can to conquer COVID-19.
The first major blow against the disease was struck by President Trump in January when he imposed restrictions on travel from China. This decisive step has been credited with sparing millions of Americans from exposure to the virus, buying crucial time we needed to delay the wave of severe illness now familiarly known as the “curve.”
It’s been estimated that without any mitigation efforts by either state or federal governments, up to 2.2 million Americans would have died from COVID-19. President Trump’s travel restrictions on China were joined subsequently by bans on travel from Europe, the United Kingdom and Ireland, further limiting the introduction of the novel coronavirus from abroad.
Concurrently the White House Coronavirus Task Force, first convened in January, developed guidelines for all Americans to follow while coordinating with state and local leaders to devise targeted responses to the distinctive situations faced in each part of the country.
The task force’s work has been informed consistently by evidence and scholarly analysis. From diagnostics and contact tracing to therapeutic interventions, to rates of hospitalization and mortality, data generated daily in ever greater quantity and diversity have yielded predictive models and guided both planning and action.
Based on the best evidence and analysis to date, in mid-March, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) warned that COVID-19 could kill up to 1.7 million people in the U.S. A model developed around the same time by the Council on Foreign Relations and Resolve to Save Lives predicted that between 163,500 and 1.6 million Americans could die from the pandemic, on the assumption that about 50 percent of our population would contract the disease.
As President Trump has rightly noted, the death toll from COVID-19 is a figure that no one could ever be happy about. It is also true that every life spared as we “crush the curve” is a miracle worth celebrating
To maximize the nation’s precautions against reaching such a peak on the coronavirus curve, President Trump and his team announced: "15 days to slow the spread.”
By April 1, the aggressive multifaceted attack against COVID-19 at the federal and state levels had moved the worst-case predictions downward: the White House announced that the U.S. could expect between 100,000 and 240,000 coronavirus-related deaths by the end of the outbreak. Wisely, the president extended social distancing guidelines for another 30 days.
Further progress was evinced on April 7, when projected mortality fell significantly in a widely respected model from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME), to between 49,431 and 136,401 American coronavirus deaths, with a median of just over 80,000. A day later the IHME’s median was adjusted downward again, to about 60,000.
The first couple of weeks of April have also demonstrated how rapidly our health care providers have adapted both outpatient and inpatient care according to clinical experience with COVID-19. Recent reports show coronavirus hospitalizations across the U.S. to be far lower than expected, with a notable days-long fall in new hospitalizations in New York, where the pandemic has struck hardest. The state now projects a need for roughly 20,000 to 30,000 beds, compared with the 110,000 that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had previously said would be needed.
Regrettably, the president’s critics seek to turn even unambiguously good news into something sinister: MSNBC host Chris Hayes, for example, floated the outlandish conspiracy theory that the administration had deliberately inflated previous counts to make the revised projections look better.
Hayes’ resoundingly ridiculed hypothesis is decisively refuted by experts, including Drs. Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx, leaders of the Coronavirus Task Force, who have described how the nation’s steadily evolving response to COVID-19, and the volume and speed of data collection, influence models’ assumptions and predictions day by day.
As President Trump has rightly noted, the death toll from COVID-19 is a figure that no one could ever be happy about. It is also true that every life spared as we “crush the curve” is a miracle worth celebrating — as is the extraordinary partnership among government, enterprise and our citizens to fight a crisis of unprecedented magnitude and speed, an effort the president has led ever since news of the virus first emerged on the world scene.