US President Donald Trump has proclaimed his worst-case coronavirus scenario would be 100,000 deaths, but the country will probably reach that grim milestone by next month, scientific models have predicted.
"We're going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people. That's a horrible thing," Trump said Sunday evening (local time) at a virtual town hall meeting on Fox News.
The Republican incumbent, who is vying for re-election in November, argued that without lockdown measures that have crippled the world's biggest economy, the toll would have been far greater — more than 1.2 million "at a minimum”.
But Trump's end-game figure is likely far lower than the reality — his own White House says 100,000 to 240,000 Americans will die from COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus.
The country has already seen 68,000 confirmed deaths, and has confirmed about 30,000 new cases a day since early April. The nature of the epidemic is such that more bleak figures are inevitable.
"My personal best guess is that we are going to reach 100,000 deaths around the beginning of June," Nicholas Reich, an associate professor of biostatistics at the University of Massachusetts, told AFP.
Mr Reich's lab has looked at several major epidemiological models created by other institutions to come up with an average trajectory for the epidemic's development.
Two men thought to be homeless were found dead on separate New York City subways just hours from each other over the weekend, highlighting the devastating toll of the virus on homelessness in the state.
That average curve indicates the United States can expect to hit 90,000 deaths by May 23. An upcoming update should extend the predictions through the end of May.
"We're seeing pretty consistently somewhere between 5,000 to 10,000 deaths a week — there are not a lot of reasons to expect it's going to drop quickly," Mr Reich said.
Of nine models cited on May 1 by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, at least three of them predicted that 100,000 fatalities would be recorded in four weeks' time.
Few current models go beyond a four-week window, given the uncertainty of the situation.
Some are more optimistic: the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington predicts a total of 72,000 deaths by June 1, but its authors have said they plan to revise their methodology.
Others, including two put together by Columbia University in New York, say the 100,000 mark will be long past by June 1.
One from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology bets on 113,000 deaths by June 1.
Of course, all of these forecasts come with the usual margin of error — sometimes totalling tens of thousands of deaths.
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