Trump Claimed Virus Would ‘Go Away.’ Now He Says 100K Deaths Would Be ‘Very Good Job.’

President Donald Trump takes questions from reporters in the Rose Garden for the daily coronavirus briefing at the White House on March 29, 2020. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)
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March 30, 2020 12:27 p.m.
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President Trump has set a new benchmark for the number of coronavirus deaths that would constitute a job well done, and the figures are staggering.

On Sunday, Trump acknowledged for the first time during a White House coronavirus task force briefing that deaths from COVID-19 in the U.S. could hit 100,000 or more, which he said is “a horrible number.” The President then added that if the toll remained within that range “we all together have done a very good job.”

Trump officially backed off his Easter deadline to get the country back to work, as he and his administration have more fully acknowledged that a worst-case scenario could see more than 2 million deaths in the United States. Trump had previously said that the economic impact could produce more “death” than even the virus. And Trump’s new pronouncements are a world apart from his early statements about the coronavirus, when he predicted earlier this month the virus would simply “go away.”

Trump seems to have taken to heart the advice of the public health and medical experts around him.

Earlier Sunday, coronavirus task force member Dr. Anthony Fauci shared a grim outlook during an interview on CNN when asked about how many deaths the U.S. may have.

“I mean, looking at what we’re seeing now, I would say between 100,000 and 200,000 cases. But I don’t want to be held to that, because it’s — excuse me — deaths,” Fauci told CNN on Sunday. “I mean, we’re going to have millions of cases. But I just don’t think that we really need to make a projection, when it’s such a moving target, that you can so easily be wrong and mislead people.”

On Monday morning, Trump called into “Fox and Friends” to share that 2 million could have died if “we just kept the business as usual.”

“If we just kept the business as usual, didn’t do anything to stop it or impede it, could have been 2.2 million people could have died,” Trump said, before sounding exasperated as he repeated the figure. “2.2 million people — would have been between 1.6 they say, and then they showed you the numbers: 1.6 and 2.2 million people. It could have been more than that, so that’s when you realize that what we did last week with the $2 trillion bill was very worth it.”

Trump’s latest comments come as Dr. Deborah Birx, who warned that “no state, no metro area will be spared” from the coronavirus outbreak on Sunday, told Savannah Guthrie on the “Today Show” Monday that 100,000-200,000 fatalities from COVID-19 would happen “if we do things together well, almost perfectly” regarding social distancing measures.

Key Coronavirus Crisis Links

TPM’s COVID-19 hub.
Josh Marshall’s Twitter List of Trusted Experts (Epidemiologists, Researchers, Clinicians, Journalists, Government Agencies) providing reliable real-time information on the COVID-19 Crisis.
COVID-19 Tracking Project (updated data on testing and infections in the U.S.).
Johns Hopkins Global COVID-19 Survey (most up to date numbers globally and for countries around the world).
Worldometers.info (extensive source of information and data visualizations on COVID-19 Crisis — discussion of data here).
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