Trump economic team's model claims death rate will be near zero soon

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No other models say the number of coronavirus deaths will fall near zero.

A Trump administration economic adviser with no experience in epidemiology created a coronavirus model that predicted deaths from the virus dropping to near zero by May 15, the Washington Post reported on Monday. The model offers an extremely optimistic prediction that no others have shown.

The adviser who created the model, Kevin Hassett, has denied it plays a role in decisions related to the virus. "I have never, ever said that that's my projection of what the death count was going to be, and no administration policy has been influenced by my projections," he told the Post.

However, according to a Post report, Trump and his aides used that model to justify plans to start reopening the economy. White House officials, like Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner, were reported to have relied on it because it "affirmed their own skepticism about the severity of the virus and bolstered their case to shift the focus to the economy, which they firmly believed would determine whether Trump wins a second term," according to the Post.

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With coronavirus deaths now at a staggering 68,237, and with hundreds more dying from COVID-19 each day, there is no way that deaths will drop to zero in just 10 days.

The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation — which produces another model the White House has been using — revised its death count higher on Monday, following some states' decisions to start reopening their economies. That model now predicts 1,551 deaths on May 15, the day Hassett's model said deaths would stop.

This is not the first time Trump advisers have made bad predictions about the COVID-19 pandemic.

Larry Kudlow, another Trump economic adviser, said on Feb. 25 that the coronavirus was "very well under control." That turned out to be false, as the virus has now infected more than 1 million Americans and led to tens of thousands of deaths.

Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross also predicted that the coronavirus — which was halting international travel — would be good for jobs in the United States.

"We're going to have Americans staying home instead of going and spending their money in other countries and maybe that's one of the reasons the job numbers are so good," Ross said on March 6.

Since then, more than 30 million Americans have filed for unemployment — which CNN reported amounts to 18.6% of the country's labor force.

What makes Hassett's prediction different is that the White House used his model to justify its decisions about the virus, with life-and-death consequences for Americans.

According to the Post, Hassett's model "provided justification" for Trump to focus on the economy rather than the public health impacts of the coronavirus.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.