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CDC director expects 'much lower' death toll than predicted by the models used to justify shutdown policies
CDC Director Robert Redfield. (Kevin Dietsch/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

CDC director expects 'much lower' death toll than predicted by the models used to justify shutdown policies

Who to believe?

Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Monday that he expects significantly fewer deaths from COVID-19 than the numbers predicted by models, ABC News reported.

The projection models being used by the Trump administration to guide policy led President Donald Trump to declare that the best-case result was between 100,000 and 240,000 people dying of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus from China.

What did Redfield say? "If we just social distance, we will see this virus and this outbreak basically decline, decline, decline. And I think that's what you're seeing," Redfield said. "I think you're going to see the numbers are, in fact, going to be much less than what would have been predicted by the models."

Are the models accurate? The Trump administration has used a worst-case scenario projection from the Imperial College model to manage expectations for the death toll. That model predicted 2.2 million Americans could die of the virus if no mitigation efforts occurred.

In contrast, Trump said, with social distancing and stay-at-home orders across the country, we can get that death toll down to potentially fewer than 200,000.

Another well-known model, the University of Washington's Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation model, recently revised its death projection down to 81,766 from 93,531 the week before.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has repeatedly said models are only as good as the assumptions they're built on — that includes assumptions about when COVID-19 first got to the U.S. (it could be earlier than we know) and how deadly the disease is (it's hard to tell with so little reliable data on the number of infections).

Keep an eye on NYC: The numbers coming out of New York City over the last week show flattening of the curve in terms of the number of deaths, number of new cases, and a decrease in number of new hospitalizations, as well as an increase in the number of discharges of COVID-19 patients.

New York City is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S., and there have been fears that it would take much longer to slow the escalation of cases and deaths, but that might be happening more quickly than expected.

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