Massive death projections are wrong

Harold Pease Ph.D.
Harold Pease, Ph.D.

When President Donald Trump mobilized a health squad to advise him and the nation on the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic, he was given projections of death vastly exceeding the number of Americans who died in the 1918 Spanish flu pandemic. Initially these numbers included 2.2 million Americans. These later were reduced to 240,000 deaths. The latest Institute of Health Metrics and Evaluation model, just out, has it at nearly 82,000 deaths by Aug. 1, 2020.

Now let’s be clear. All these numbers are unacceptable and involve real people: fathers, mothers, grandparents and occasionally a child but always someone loved. Life matters. Any death is serious of course, but this projection is only 20,000 more than the recorded deaths from the flu season of 2017-2018.

Why does this matter? Because it was these extreme projections of 2.2 million that were used as cause to shut down the economy and increase our indebtedness by perhaps $4 trillion – an indebtedness more than all wars combined in American history.

What also concerns me is that most Democratic media outlets fed these panic-inducing death counts from day one, even before evidence confirmed them. They now seem almost disappointed with these new lower numbers and that a drug used to treat malaria, hydroxy-chloroquine, is able to treat also the coronavirus and this crisis is going to go away far too early. Democrats still cannot give Trump a win on managing this crisis. They loaded Congress’s $2 trillion relief bill with pork that had nothing to do with the virus itself, but did prolong passage of the bill designed to help millions of Americans desperately needing it.

My biggest concern, however, remains the weaponization of death projections seemingly to keep hysteria alive and well – and for what possible purpose? Who benefits from this hysteria? The media in modern history have never focused on the body count of flus that take thousands each year.

I am writing this article April 8, using the newly released death projections for April. By April 10, the projected death rate was 22,239. By April 14, deaths were projected at 34,068. One week thereafter, April 17, it was at 43,279. By April 21, they were projected at 54,857. By April 24, they were at 62,089, and by April 28, they were projected to be at 68,938. Projections to Aug. 1 predict there will be 81,766 dead Americans. Deaths per day were to peak April 16, at 3,130, according to IHME, “COVID-19 Projections assuming full social distancing through May 2020,” in the United States of America. View the data at Readers can compare these numbers against reality.

Still, the reduction of death by the panicked media is, for the rest of the population, manna from heaven compared to the projections just 10 days before of 2.2 million dead Americans. The latest projected death in the United States of 82,000 in three months is unlikely to be reached. It might turn out to be even less than the 61,000 who died of influenza in the 2017-2018 season. Most people may never know anyone who actually died from it. Body count of the deceased did not lead the news every night causing us to hunker in our homes wondering if we would be next.

So here are the facts that are underreported or ignored by the panicked press. The odds of someone getting this virus are much smaller than the hype, “based on the population tested, … rates can vary from, at most, eight-tenths of a percent in New York City to two-one-hundredths of a percent in Phoenix.”

Of the few out of 330 million Americans who actually get this virus, at least 98% will recover from it. There are models showing 50% of the population may have already had it, never knew they had it and recovered, according to “An Advantaged Disease, Indeed” by William J. Bennett and Seth Leibsohn, April 6, 2020. With these facts accurately reported, it is unlikely that the U.S. would have shut down the economy.

They did not tell residents of the 34,000 who died of influenza in last year’s 2018-2019 flu season, nor that the nation loses per month “about 54,000 Americans to heart disease; 50,000 to cancer; 14,000 to asthma, bronchitis and emphysema; 12,000 to stroke; 10,000 to Alzheimer’s disease; 7,000 to diabetes; 5,600 to drug overdoses and 4,700 to influenza and pneumonia.” These deaths give us over 157,000 deaths per month and no one shuts down the economy or cries out for a $2 trillion stimulus package. Apparently only the coronavirus, amplified by the Democratic press, alerts the panic response.

Again, all life matters and these too are horrifying unacceptable death numbers involving loved ones. The media have no right to drive a panic without accurate, proportional – including the omissions noted above – supporting evidence that potentially could damage the economy beyond repair for years.

One piece of knowledge that would have helped reduce the media hysteria for young people is that only 7% of those who got it were under 50 years of age. We knew this early on. Allow them to return to work as soon as possible. Perhaps a better response to this epidemic would have been rather than shut down the economy, quarantine those over 65 and tell those younger not to visit them for a time.

Dr. Harold Pease is a syndicated columnist and an expert on the United States Constitution. He has dedicated his career to studying the writings of the Founding Fathers and to applying that knowledge to current events. He taught history and political science from this perspective for over 30 years at Taft College. To read more of his weekly articles, visit