Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, is backing the idea that the United States' coronavirus death toll may end up lower than previously projected as a result of successful social distancing.
Fauci, member of President Trump's coronavirus task force, spoke to Todayon Thursday after the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation revised its estimate for the country's coronavirus death toll to about 60,000 by late summer, still a sobering figure but down from a previously-estimated 94,000, although The Washington Post notes the model's accuracy is in dispute, and it it only goes to August. The White House last week shared projections suggesting between 100,000 and 240,000 people could die in the United States from COVID-19.
Asked on Today if he now believes the U.S. death toll will fall "significantly" below the 100,000 to 240,000 range, Fauci responded, "I do," citing the fact that Americans have done a "really terrific job" adhering to social distancing guidelines.
"I believe we are going to see a downturn in that, and it looks more like the 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000," Fauci said. "But having said that, we better be careful that we don't say, 'Okay, we're doing so well we can pull back.' We still have to put our foot on the accelerator when it comes to the mitigation and the physical separation."
Indeed, the Post reports that the IHME model "assumes the maintenance of social distancing measures through May."
Officials like U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams had previously said they anticipate a lower death toll than previously estimated while stressing it's crucial to continue social distancing measures to achieve that result. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) sounded a similar note on Wednesday, saying that while the hardest-hit state looks to be flattening the curve, "it's not a time to get complacent," and "if anything, we have to get more diligent, not less diligent." Brendan Morrow