White House Disclaims Projection Showing Surge in Virus Outbreak

May 5, 2020by Alex Wayne, Bloomberg News (TNS)
The White House from Lafayette Park. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON — An internal projection created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows the U.S. coronavirus outbreak vastly accelerating by June to more than 200,000 new cases and 2,500 deaths per day — far more than the country is currently experiencing.

The White House disclaimed the projection, calling it an “internal CDC document” but saying it had not been presented to President Donald Trump’s coronavirus task force and didn’t comport with the task force’s own analysis and projections.

It isn’t clear who produced the document, obtained and published earlier by The New York Times, or what assumptions underlie the forecasts. The projections, on two slides of a 19-slide deck, are dated May 1 and attributed to a “data and analytics task force.” The document carries the seal of both the Health and Human Services Department and the Homeland Security Department.

The CDC projection contains a range of estimates. The forecast of 200,000 new cases and 2,500 deaths per day are around the middle of the range.

The documents are labeled “for official use only.” The CDC did not respond to a request for comment.

“This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting,” Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement. “This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed.”

The U.S. reported about 25,000 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Sunday and more than 1,200 deaths. But with a swath of states across the South and Midwest beginning to relax economy-crushing social distancing measures, with Trump’s encouragement, some public health experts have warned there’s a risk the outbreak will flare up.

“The president’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with,” Deere said.

There is a history of the CDC overestimating disease outbreaks. In 2014, the agency said that in a worst case, there might be more than half a million cases of Ebola from an outbreak that began in West Africa. The actual number of total cases in the outbreak ended up being about 28,600, according to the CDC.

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©2020 Bloomberg News

Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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