White House calls steep coronavirus death toll projection ‘faulty,’ as university urges caution

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The White House on Tuesday described a steep coronavirus death toll projection as being based on “faulty assumptions" -- while the university behind the projection was itself urging caution against drawing conclusions from data it said was not to be used as a forecast.

“The Johns Hopkins’ study being pushed around by the media as factual is based on faulty assumptions and is in no way representative of any federal government projections and, as Johns Hopkins stated, should not be taken as a forecast,” White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.


The internal document, which Fox News confirmed the existence of after it was reported by The New York Times, featured charts produced by FEMA that projected far more new coronavirus cases than the White House has forecast and nearly double the current daily death toll by the end of the month.

Sources told Fox News that while a significant portion of the data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the projections of new cases and deaths come from modeling done at Johns Hopkins University.

Those projections claim that by the end of May, there will be 200,000 new coronavirus cases and 3,000 deaths every day. This is a significant jump from current numbers of roughly 25,000 new cases and 1,750 deaths each day.

But the White House pushed back on the study, both on Monday when it said that it had not been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force and not gone through interagency vetting, and again on Tuesday.

“This ‘study’ considered zero mitigation, meaning it was conducted as though no federal guidelines were in place, no contract tracing, no expansion of testing, while removing all shelter in place protocols laid out in the phased approach of the Opening Up America Again guidelines for individuals with co-morbidities,” the statement by McEnany said. "The media should be more responsible in its reporting and give the full set of information to the American public.”

Johns Hopkins University also urged caution about misusing the data, and said that the information was “‘not to be used as forecasts.”


"The information released in the leaked Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) slide deck published by The New York Times included preliminary analyses developed by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health,” the university said in a statement. “These preliminary analyses were provided to FEMA to aid in scenario planning -- not to be used as forecasts -- and the version published is not a final version. These preliminary results are not forecasts, and it is not accurate to present them as forecasts.”

“The information illustrates that there are some scenarios, including the premature relaxation of social distancing, that are likely to cause significant increases in the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths in the United States,” it said.

The information comes amid the debate over when and how the U.S. should reopen as the number of cases and deaths in the U.S. begins to decline. States such as Florida and Georgia are beginning to reopen their economies and will be carefully watched to see how infection and death rates are affected by the loosened policies.


Proponents of reopening immediately have pointed to data that shows that the health care system was not overwhelmed in the first days of the crisis, and that the disease is less deadly than once feared, as well as the severe economic effects of lockdown policies. But some health experts have warned that opening up too quickly could lead to a “second wave” of infections.

The University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model, which has frequently been used by the White House, updated its model this week to predict 134,475 deaths by Aug. 4, a significant increase from the 72,433 it predicted a week earlier.

Fox News' Ronn Blitzer and Kristina Biddle contributed to this report.