under Fox News "virtual town hall" event
at the Lincoln Memorial Sunday night that the final US total could be as high as 100,000 deaths. At a press conference on April 20, he predicted a total of between 50,000 and 60,000.
Even for experts, it is difficult to predict the death from a pandemic; Statistical models produce new forecasts when new information comes in. (The people behind a prominent University of Washington model announced
Monday that they adjusted the modeling strategy and that their estimated death toll would be revised upwards to about 135,000 deaths from a previous estimate of 72,433.) Still, the steady increases in the president's own estimate – even when he and his aides continue to tout
Their answer as a success – is remarkable.
A more conventional president can avoid making any estimate to avoid future criticism if they prove to be wrong. Trump, who often seems more concerned with shaping perceptions at the present moment than with how something may be perceived in the future, continues to offer estimates that seem unrealistically low from the moment he pronounces them.
in March that his earlier rosy rhetoric was an attempt to "give people hope." No matter what his intentions, he has been reliably wrong.
Trump has released lowball estimates since February
, the month he declared
that the number of people in the United States known to have the virus, then 15, should be "close to 0" within days. He then said that the reduction from 15 to 0 would show how good his team had done.
Similarly, his argument in April and May was that the final total would have been far higher – far higher than his last estimate – if his administration had not taken the measures it took. He pointed to Dr. Deborah Birx on March 31 statement
that expert analysis showed that 2.2 million could die if no "mitigating" efforts were made and that at least 100,000 would probably die even with good mitigation.
Here's a timeline of Trump's death toll estimates since April 10 – and the real death toll at the end of each day he offered those predictions. All of the real death figures below are from Johns Hopkins University data
; The university's numbers can't capture all the actual deaths of coronavirus, since it is hard to count
all in real time.