Less than two weeks before the presidential election, Team Biden and the media continue pushing the number of COVID-19 deaths in America as evidence that President Donald Trump’s pandemic response has been a failure. A look back at early predictions from health experts, however, indicates the United States’ pandemic response has turned out to be closer to the best-case scenario.
The worst-case scenario would be between 1.6 million and 2.2 million deaths, White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx said during an NBC News interview back in March, during the early days of the pandemic. These projections would result from doing “nothing” to combat the virus, she said.
“If we do things together, well, almost perfectly, we could get in the range of 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities,” Birx continued. In other words, with a near-perfect pandemic response, the number of deaths from the Wuhan virus could reach almost as many as have been reported to date. Nearly eight full months after the first reported death from COVID-19 in the United States and after the worst early outbreaks, such as the New York nursing home sweep, the reported death toll remains at 222,000, just above Birx’s best-case scenario projection.
The current numbers assume accurate reporting of cases and deaths, which has not been a given throughout parts of the pandemic, with different states employing varrying methods of reporting. Data became further inflated when states conflated positive cases with “probable” COVID-19 cases without actually administering tests, and spikes in the data could have been partially attributed to the expanded use of antibody tests, which revealed previous positives rather than current illness. For example, in July, hundreds of labs in Florida reported 100 percent positivity rates because they failed to include the negative test results. Positivity rates were actually often closer to 10 percent.
Even the CDC has noted that some of the excess “deaths could represent misclassified COVID-19 deaths, or potentially could be indirectly related to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., deaths from other causes occurring in the context of health care shortages or overburdened health care systems).”
Further, it’s difficult for an administration to come out with the best-case scenario when, as Birx noted, “100 percent of Americans” aren’t doing “precisely what is required.” Public confidence in government mandates began to erode, however, due to authoritarian state and local leaders, such as those who discriminated against religious gatherings, for instance, while allowing mass protests. It’s probable many Americans also lost faith in widescale public health guidelines after so-called experts often wavered on their instructions, such as when they flipped on mask recommendations.
“There’s no reason people should be walking around with a mask,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on “60 Minutes” back in March. “Wearing a mask might make people feel a little bit better, and it might even block a droplet, but it’s not proven to be the perfect protection that people think that it is.” Now mask-wearing is one of the top recommendations by the CDC, and mask mandates are prevalent. Many health professionals, however, have recently called for an immediate end to the lockdowns, while protecting vulnerable populations, to establish herd immunity.
Now just 12 days before the election, although former Vice President Joe Biden has insisted his coronavirus response would have been better, he has failed to give clarity about what he would have done differently. Given that current data indicates the Trump administration has handled the pandemic “almost perfectly,” all despite adverse circumstances, a few missteps, and state blunders, it’s hard to imagine a Biden-Harris administration could have done any better.