He deals with the death count in clinical terms, making forecasts quickly overtaken by reality, then declaring that the new reality is better than it could have been. In effect, he is making a grim political argument, asserting success if the final toll turns out to be anything less than the most extreme 2. 2 million fatalities predicted if the country had done nothing at all to respond.
At the White House last week, Trump took credit again for limiting travel from China in early February. “We would have lost millions of lives if we didn’t, ” he said. “Think of it: If we lost 100, 000 lives, the minimum we would have lost is a million-two, a million-three, a million-five maybe. But take it to a million. So that would mean 10 times more than we lost already. ”
Dr. Deborah L. Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, amplified that idea Sunday, pointing back to projections made at the end of March that the coronavirus would kill 100, 000 to 240, 000 Americans if lockdowns and social distancing measures were imposed, and that up to 2. 2 million Americans would die if nothing was done.
“When we had that first briefing, we talked about 1. 2 million to 2. 4 million, and 100, 000 to 240, 000 people succumbing to this incredibly aggressive virus, ” Birx said. “Those are the figures that we continue to stand by. ”
Speaking on “Fox News Sunday, ” Birx tried to square those numbers with rosier projections she later made April 10, when aggressive social distancing measures appeared to be slowing the spread of the virus and she embraced a new projection of 60, 000 dead. “There are different models we have been using all along, ” she said.
The president’s critics said he would not be able to convince voters this fall that he should be celebrated for a death toll of 100, 000 or more just because it could have been worse.
“It’s not the moving of the goal posts on loss of life that hurts Trump as much as the loss of life itself, ” said Margie Omero, a Democratic pollster and principal at the firm GBAO. “The facts are what worry people — majorities hold Trump responsible for high death tolls, high unemployment and a lack of testing. And even more now than a month ago. ”.
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