Leaked CDC report projects 200,000 infections per day by June 1
Workers wear personal protective equipment while carrying a casket due to coronavirus concerns during a funeral in Brooklyn borough of New York, March 30, 2020. A newly leaked CDC document suggests the case and death totals could soar by June. | John Minchillo / AP

The Trump administration, despite urging a re-opening of the economy, is sitting on its own projections that the daily death toll from COVID-19 will nearly double in the next four weeks. The report is in the form of an internal CDC document procured by a number of newspapers, including the New York Times and the Washington Post.

The leaked CDC document forecasts that new coronavirus cases will surge to 200,000 per day by June 1, with a daily death toll rising along with it to 3,000. The number of new cases at this time is about 25,000 per day while the daily death count is now around 1,750 per day.

The new projections in the leaked document are based on modeling compiled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which President Trump charged with overseeing the coronavirus response efforts.

It is significant that Trump, who just increased his death predictions from 65,000 to 100,000, did not try to claim that the document was wrong in any way or that it did not exist. All his administration is saying so far is that the document has not been presented to the White House coronavirus task force and that it has not gone through any interagency vetting.

“This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed,” said White House spokesman Judd Deere.

But the newly revealed information suggests that the nearly two months that Americans have spent following quarantine guidelines could be for naught if the re-opening of the economy sets off another round of infection and death spikes.

The horrifying CDC report comes out just as the president is telling the nation it is safe to re-open the economy and as his acolytes in half the state governments proceed to do so. In contrast to White House messaging that everything is looking better, the CDC warns in the document, “There remains a large number of counties whose burden continues to grow.”

The administration’s effort is supported also by the Republican leadership in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is demanding lawsuit immunity for employers as his price for allowing another economic recovery bill to advance. Such a measure would shield companies from being sued by any worker who becomes sick from coronavirus on the job.

Over the weekend, Trump said on Fox News that people should go back to parks and beaches as long as “they keep some distance.” Earlier in the week, he ordered workers back into packed meat plants in which the virus is spreading like wildfire. In those plants, workers rub shoulders as they package products along fast-moving production lines. The virus is now spreading more rapidly in the small rural towns where those plants are located than it is in New York, which was the worst-hit place in the nation during the early stages of the pandemic.

The White House appeared to be defending its push to re-open everything despite the dire warnings from the CDC when it issued the following statement yesterday: “The President’s phased guidelines to open up America again are a science driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with.” (Before those same experts issued the CDC report? Or is it just another of Trump’s thousands of documented lies?) In any case, many of the GOP governors re-opening their states have been doing so much more rapidly than even the White House Guidelines call for. None of the re-opened states have seen the two weeks of declining infections recommended by those guidelines.

The CDC document says there will be a dramatic increase in both cases and deaths beginning around May 14. That date is two weeks after the widespread openings we saw this past weekend. It is presumably no coincidence that this is about the amount of time it takes an infected person to show symptoms.

If the CDC is correct, it would confirm the worst fears of many experts who worry states are moving too fast to re-open their economies and that the result will be disaster.

The projection of the CDC is completely at variance with Trump’s claim that 100,000 deaths is a worst-case scenario, and double what he was foreseeing as the “worst case” a few weeks ago. At 3,000 deaths per day, the national total would quickly surpass the already horrific milestones predicted by the president. His projection of 100,000 deaths would be blown out of the water if the death rate continued at its present level, never rising to the dire levels predicted by the CDC.

At the same time that the internal CDC document is predicting a major spike, the widely-used model developed by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington is similarly upping its estimates as state governors rush to re-open workplaces and businesses. The institute now says there could be around 135,000 deaths by early August, more than double what it was predicting in mid-April.

The model is adjusted on a constant basis in line with changes in public health policy and confirmed case totals. On April 17, it was predicting 60,000 deaths by Aug. 4, based on the assumption of continued social distancing and stay-at-home measures. With all of those precautions being eased and the U.S. already nearing 70,000 deaths in the first days of May, it is raising its numbers substantially.

Most U.S. states have been under some form of lockdown or imposed social distancing since mid-March. In most cases, the lockdowns succeeded in slowing the rise in cases, but the infection and death rates, rather than having significantly decreased, have instead leveled off at an unacceptably high rate.

Initial hotspots like New York and New Jersey are seeing their daily caseloads fall, but not decrease to acceptable levels. Other states are now seeing cases rise, including states such as Texas and Georgia, which have already started re-opening non-essential businesses.

The pandemic in the U.S. is, in fact, taking on new patterns of infection with explosions of cases occurring in rural areas and thus far less-affected towns and cities all over the country.

As of today, for example, the new infection rate is highest in Sioux Falls, S.D. The second highest rate is in Gallup, N.M. Both of those localities, which have huge meatpacking plants in them, are seeing more people-per-thousand infected than is the city of New York. Other meatpacking towns, like Sioux City, Iowa, Guymon, Okla., and St. Joseph, Mo., are also still being hit hard.

Meanwhile, infection rates in Chicago and Los Angeles, which were not thus far hit as hard as New York, are also starting to rise more rapidly. Combined with the growth in cases expected to come from the re-opening efforts, health experts worry the U.S. will soon be back where it was in mid-March when health systems were under intense strain and patients were dying in hospital hallways.

In short, as a surge in infection and death begins building momentum in places from coast to coast, the Trump administration and its supporters in the states are pushing to re-open everything, exposing the public to disease, infection, and death.

In the face of this, medical experts point out that the testing regimen in the country is also becoming almost irrelevant. Testing is still being done with people showing symptoms triaged as first to get the tests. Medical experts point out that is particularly important now to do mass testing of asymptomatic people in order to determine where the disease will spike next. Any thought of re-opening before that testing is done, they say, can be dangerous and deadly.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Wojcik
John Wojcik

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People's World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward, as a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee, and as an activist in the union's campaign to win public support for Wal-Mart workers. In the 1970s and '80s he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper's predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People's World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

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