On Saturday, Politico reported that a key reason the Trump administration has been slow to act on the coronavirus pandemic is that the president latched onto a specific model of the virus' spread that made overly optimistic projections.
"As coronavirus cases climbed daily by the thousands and the nation entered its second month of an economic standstill, President Donald Trump latched onto a sign of hope: A pandemic model closely followed by political leaders and public health specialists projected the virus would kill as few as 60,000 Americans, a figure far below what officials previously feared," reported Adam Cancryn. "The new April forecast signaled the worst would soon be over, with some states effectively ending their bout with coronavirus as early as the end of the month. According to the model’s bell-shaped curves, hospitalizations and deaths nationwide were set to drop off nearly as quickly as they rose."
"Trump swiftly adopted the projection from the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation as his newest measure of success — while top administration health officials including infectious disease expert Anthony Fauci and coronavirus response coordinator Deborah Birx touted the lower figure as a clear indication the U.S. was winning its fight with the disease," continued the report.
In reality, the numbers are set to soon shoot past 60,000 deaths in early May, with no end in sight.
“You can’t oversell the models, and you have to view them within the correct context,” said Jeffrey Shaman, who coauthored a different coronavirus model for Columbia University. He said that the inaccuracy of some models can be attributed to “a highly fluid situation for which the information is woefully incomplete.”
"The administration’s reliance on [the IHME] projections has nevertheless frustrated much of the public health community, which cautions that IHME has not hewed to traditional disease modeling procedures or incorporated crucial variables," said the report. "The result is a rosier picture of the crisis than the one portrayed by much of the rest of the modeling world."