An internal U.S. government document projects a surge in coronavirus cases and a sharp rise in daily deaths by June 1, the New York Times reported on Monday, even as President Donald Trump urged states to lift restrictions to quell the pandemic.
The document, based on modelling by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, projects that COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the virus, will kill 3,000 Americans a day by the end of May, the Times said, up from a current daily toll that a Reuters tally places at around 2,000.
The projections, pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now, the Times said.
Asked about the Times report, White House spokesman Judd Deere said: “This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting.”
Deere’s statement said: “The health of the American people remains President Trump’s top priority and that will continue as we monitor the efforts by states to ease restrictions.”
Varying estimates from Trump
COVID-19 has infected more than 1.1 million people in the U.S. and killed nearly 68,000, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University.
Trump has given varying predictions for the number of people in the United States who will succumb to COVID-19, which has no vaccine or known cure.
As recently as Friday the president had said he hoped fewer than 100,000 Americans would die and earlier in the week had talked of 60,000 to 70,000 deaths.
But on Sunday night the president acknowledged the death toll may climb much higher.
“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That’s a horrible thing,” he told Fox News.
As of last week, the University of Washington’s IHME predictive model, often cited by White House officials and state public health authorities, projected a first wave of 72,400 coronavirus deaths in the United States.
The more pessimistic projection emerged alongside more signs of the devastation the pandemic was having on American life. Clothing retailer J. Crew Group Inc filed for bankruptcy protection on Monday and said it would permanently close some stores.
The U.S. Supreme Court for the first time heard a case by online teleconference open to the public.
States have felt pressured to ease restrictions on businesses and social life to revive their battered economies, but health experts have urged caution for fear of a resurgence of the virus.
New York Plan
In New York, the state that accounts for about a third of all U.S. infections, Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Monday outlined plans to ease restrictions on a regional basis. He sketched out the plan while at least half of the other 50 states moved ahead with plans of their own to restart their battered economies.
Without giving a specific time frame, Cuomo told a daily briefing that construction, manufacturing and the wholesale supply chain would be allowed to start up under the first phase of a four-step return to normality.
The state’s stay-at-home order, in place since mid-March, is due to expire on May 15, and the Democratic governor has said previously that some regions outside the New York City area with a relatively low number of cases may start lifting restrictions after that date.
“Reopening is more difficult than the close-down. The close-down was relatively simple,” he said, cautioning that every part of the state of 19 million people needed to move gradually.
Cuomo, who gave his daily coronavirus briefing on Monday around the same time as the New York Times broke its story on the internal Trump administration document, gave the most detailed sketch so far on how the state would start to loosen restrictions on businesses and daily life.
After the initial reopening of some workplaces, a second phase would let insurance, retail, administrative support and real estate businesses open again, followed by restaurants, food services, hotels and accommodation businesses in the third stage, Cuomo said.
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In the final phase, arts and entertainment and recreation facilities, and education would restart.
While he did not specify which regions would open first, Cuomo showed a slide indicating the more rural northern and central parts of the state as “lower-risk regions” in contrast to the “higher-risk regions” which included New York City.
In Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine was allowing construction and manufacturing to reopen on Monday, and letting office workers return. Retail shops and many consumer services were due to resume operations on May 12.
But Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington — whose state was the first coronavirus hotspot in the United States — announced on Friday he would extend the lockdown through May 31. “It’s frustrating, but we don’t want to do this twice” he said.