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The United States is nearing 200,000 confirmed deaths from COVID-19—a staggering number of fatalities that President Donald Trump previously established as a marker of success.
Trump provided the benchmark during a press briefing in late March, when the virus was ravaging NYC, with ambulance sirens resounding across the city due to a historic number of 911 calls related to COVID-19. "And so, if we can hold that [death count] down, as we’re saying, to 100,000 — that’s a horrible number — maybe even less, but to 100,000; so we have between 100- and 200,000 — we all, together, have done a very good job," Trump said.
Nearly six months later, the CDC's death count has reached 198,099. The Washington Post pointed out that 200,000 deaths is "akin to losing the entire population of Salt Lake City or Montgomery, Ala.—a devastation."
But projections show the total of fatalities could nearly double.
Under current projections the country may see nearly 180,000 more deaths from the virus by January 1st, totaling 378,321, according to models from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.
If coronavirus mandates ease, deaths could rise to about 445,000. With universal mask-wearing compliance, deaths could rise to 263,000, the IHME projections show.
On Friday afternoon, Trump told reporters he believes "we're doing very well" responding to the pandemic—claiming a vaccine is coming and the country as a whole is "rounding the turn." When asked how Trump could say that in the face of such mass fatalities, he said 2 million people were projected to die from coronavirus, a model that projected what would happen without any mitigation protocols whatsoever.
Trump's remarks on vaccines counter the CDC's director Dr. Robert Redfield, who told senators last week a widespread vaccination effort wouldn't be underway until late spring or summer. There is currently no vaccine that is approved for its safety and efficacy in the U.S.
In New York, 0.86 percent of COVID-19 tests reported to the state were positive—862 out of 100,355—Governor Andrew Cuomo's office said in a news release on Sunday.
Two people died of the virus statewide on Saturday, bringing the state's official death toll to 25,427. The state does not include "probable" coronavirus deaths, which likely omits people who died at home or who did not have access to a COVID-19 test. In April, NYC began reporting "probable" deaths, which as of Sunday, accounts for about 4,600 deaths in the city.
Though New York's positivity rate remains consistently low, COVID-19 has become the "largest mass fatality incident in modern NYC history," the mayor's management report found last week.