According to the report, the 2019 study warned of conflating the risks of a pandemic with the seasonal flu. The study, which was conducted by White House economists and allegedly requested by the National Security Council, also warned that a pandemic could cause up to $3.8 trillion damage to the economy and kill approximately half a million people.
The study pushed for investment into avenues that would step up vaccine development and deployment. Although it did not predict the coronavirus, it modeled a scenario where the United States faces an influenza pandemic similar to the 2009 swine flu or 1918 Spanish flu, and the results didn’t bode well.
“At even the highest rates it modeled, the pandemic flu in the exercise was still less contagious and less deadly than epidemiologists now say the coronavirus could be in the United States,” the New York Times report read.
Concerningly, the estimates for death or economic damage did not account for all variables present in the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Those estimates did not account for any economic loss incurred by ‘healthy people avoiding work out of fear they will be infected by co-workers.'”
According to The New York Times, one of the authors of the study, who is no longer at the White House, recommended the Trump administration to shut down the economy for two to eight months.
Despite the warnings, Trump’s White House didn’t appear concerned by the study. Tomas Philipson, the acting chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, suggested in a February 18 briefing that the threat of coronavirus was overblown. He also claimed that public health threats weren’t often a danger to the economy and claimed the virus would not likely eclipse the threat of a regular flu season.
Interestingly, the study appeared to predict such a response.
“It is not surprising that people might underappreciate the economic and health risks posed by pandemic flu and not invest in ways to reduce these risks,” it read.
This likely is due to more testing and exponentially fast viral spread.
Expect this trend to continue for several more weeks. pic.twitter.com/WQz0YUeWOo
— Dr. Dena Grayson (@DrDenaGrayson) March 26, 2020
As reported by The Globe and Mail, Trump revealed a projected coronavirus death range of 100,000 to 240,000 in America, even in the presence of social distancing measures.
“I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead,” he said in a tone that was marked shift from his previous pandemic message.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, noted that the projection could still be lowered and may be a worst-case scenario, depending on how the pandemic progresses.