IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.
Image: Coronavirus death NYC
A medical worker transports a body from a refrigerated container at Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center, in Brooklyn, NY on April 8, 2020.Mary Altaffer / AP

Why does Trump keep making death toll predictions?

There's no upside to Trump presenting a higher projected death toll every few days, seeing reality catch up to that number, and then starting over.


On Monday, April 20, Donald Trump said he believed the overall American death toll from the coronavirus could be as low as 50,000 people. By the end of the week, the president's forecast had already been exposed as tragically wrong.

Exactly one week later, on Monday, April 27, Trump said the overall American death toll from the coronavirus would "probably" be as low as 60,000 people. Four days later, based on NBC News' overall tally, we now know that more than 60,000 Americans have died from the pandemic.

And yet, there was the president again yesterday, speaking at a White House roundtable event, suggesting the number of fatalities in the United States could be as low as 65,000.

"If you lose 65,000 people -- it's so crazy to say it, it's just so horrible -- but if we lose 65,000 people, and instead of that, going the other route, we would have lost a million or a million and a half or 2 million -- it's possible, it's possible that you lost more -- but could you imagine? Look how horrible it is to lose [65,000]. And then multiply that times many, many times, that would not be sustainable."

In case the gut-wrenching circumstances aren't obvious, there's simply no reason to believe the U.S. death toll will go from 60,000 to 65,000 and then miraculously stop. It's just not realistic.

When I say I don't know why Trump keeps doing this, I'm not being coy or facetious. I honestly have no idea. There is no upside to a president, every few days, presenting a higher projected death toll, seeing reality catch up to that number, and then starting the process anew.

Given the recent trajectory and the available evidence, it's not a question whether the total number of fatalities will reach 65,000, but rather, it's when. What's more, that total is not on some distant horizon; it's likely to arrive next week, if not sooner.