As President Donald Trump and the White House’s Coronavirus Task Force begin to consider reopening the United States upon the collapse of a variety of models that predicted wide-scale deaths due to the disease, the New York Times published a leaked document on Friday afternoon that suggested, should the mitigation measures relax, the outbreak would be worse than before.
According to the Times, the document–an internal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) model–shows that lifting mitigation measures “after just 30 days will lead to a dramatic infection spike this summer and death tolls that would rival doing nothing.”
The Times writes, describing the documents it published:
The models use three scenarios. The first has policymakers doing nothing to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. The second, labeled ‘steady state,’ assumes schools remain closed until summer, 25 percent of Americans telework from home, and some social distancing continues. The third scenario includes a 30-day shelter in place, on top of those ‘steady state’ restrictions.
The Times article then says the documents are dated April 9:
The documents, dated April 9, contain no dates for when shelter-in-places orders were delivered nor do they contain specific dates for when spikes would hit. The risk they show of easing shelter-in-place orders currently in effect in most of the country undercut recent statements by President Trump that the United States could be ready to reopen ‘very, very soon.’
But the Times story omits the fact that the modeling that HHS and DHS used here is not from April 9–but actually from March 31, when models were notoriously incorrect because of a lack of actual data based in reality about the spread of the disease.
At the White House Coronavirus Task Force press briefing on Friday, President Trump, as well as Task Force coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx and Dr. Anthony Fauci–the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID)–all dismissed the Times report, saying they had not seen it.
Asked about these documents, an HHS spokesperson told Breitbart News: “We do not comment on any alleged, leaked documents.”
Even so, former New York Times health reporter Alex Berenson–a critic of the national lockdowns whose reporting has shed a light on much of the inaccuracy in the data and modeling used to make public policy decisions–quickly pointed out that the DHS and HHS model is outdated and comes from a time when the government was relying on modeling that has been significantly flawed.
So @nytimes has a big story right now about a @fema model showing up to 300,000 deaths. The documents are “dated April 9,” the story says. So they must account for everything we’ve learned this week – which would be bad news. But what the chart actually says: “Models from 3/31.” pic.twitter.com/QaYi9f0S0C
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) April 10, 2020
In fact, as Berenson noted in his thread on this, the modeling has changed multiple times since the model that HHS and DHS had in this document was first crafted:
You may understand why this matters – but if not – the @IHME_UW projections have been changed THREE times since March 31 (resulting in sharp cuts in hospitalization/ICU projections). If this were actually made yesterday, it would be frightening. Instead it’s just out of date.
— Alex Berenson (@AlexBerenson) April 10, 2020
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) model from the University of Washington in Washington state has been considerably wrong throughout this crisis. Originally, the IHME model predicted 100,000 to 240,000 deaths in the United States–a number that was less than previously suspect models like the Imperial College U.K. one that predicted perhaps as many as millions of dead of Americans–and that model is what the White House used to extend its social distancing guidelines from “15 days to slow the spread” in March to what has become a lockdown until the end of April as of now.
But IHME has revised its models multiple times as real-world data has proven them incorrect. First, it dropped the numbers of expected American deaths down to about 93,000, then again down to about 81,000. Now, the IHME model stands at around 61,000 dead Americans–equivalent to the total in a really bad flu season
In fact, Fauci and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Robert Redfield actually coauthored a report in the New England Journal of Medicine published in late March in which they considered the data on this as it was trickling in from across the country and discovered that the COVID-19 coronavirus–the current pandemic–is much less deadly than severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) or Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).
Fauci and Redfield co-wrote in the paper:
On the basis of a case definition requiring a diagnosis of pneumonia, the currently reported case fatality rate is approximately 2%. In another article in the Journal, Guan et al. report mortality of 1.4% among 1099 patients with laboratory-confirmed Covid-19; these patients had a wide spectrum of disease severity. If one assumes that the number of asymptomatic or minimally symptomatic cases is several times as high as the number of reported cases, the case fatality rate may be considerably less than 1%. This suggests that the overall clinical consequences of Covid-19 may ultimately be more akin to those of a severe seasonal influenza (which has a case fatality rate of approximately 0.1%) or a pandemic influenza (similar to those in 1957 and 1968) rather than a disease similar to SARS or MERS, which have had case fatality rates of 9 to 10% and 36%, respectively.
Now that the White House has moved away from modeling–Birx said on Friday during the briefing that the White House still considers the models in its decision-making process, but is actually relying more on real-world data, which is a theme she previewed in the Wednesday and Thursday briefings–these outdated models that the Times uncovered from late March from HHS and DHS appear to be significantly outdated.
The leaked Times documents are also based on outdated statistics in that they predict as many as 300,000 dead Americans from coronavirus had the public not engaged in wide-scale mitigation measures that Americans nationwide are doing right now. That is higher than the original and inaccurate IHME model, which raises questions about how the government developed these estimates. In another column on the same page, the government document seems to explain how it made these estimates saying they are based on the “best guess” of those conducting them.
But the real world data, as the White House Coronavirus Task Force and various key state and local health officials in the hardest hit states like New York have demonstrated in recent days, has not matched the various models from places like IHME–which was less severe, actually, than this government model.
The other thing that is interesting in this document that the Times published is the question of ventilator necessity should mitigation measures be relaxed in the coming days. The documents–again, based on outdated models for which data from reality has not supported–suggest that the government originally believed there would be a need for a surge in ventilator capacity to treat people who develop COVID-19 infections after mitigation measures lift.
But the HHS spokesperson told Breitbart News on Friday that while the government will not comment on the document leaks, the government is more than ready when it comes to ventilators.
“HHS has been calling on states and local hospitals to allocate their resources appropriately across the nation, while at the same time, HHS is working to secure contracts worth more than $2 billion in total to ensure we never have a shortage of ventilators,” an HHS spokesperson told Breitbart News. “We have been pleased to see states like Oregon, California, and Washington step up to do this. Ordering and supplying brand new ventilators takes time; states and hospitals should do what they can today to get resources where they are needed most. In a matter of weeks, HHS has accomplished what would normally take a year. These ventilator contracts are being processed as a series of sole source emergency acquisitions, which is why you are not seeing the competitive process unfolding on the Governmentwide Point of Entry (GPE) website. HHS is moving with deliberate and determined speed to ensure we secure the supplies needed by frontline U.S. healthcare workers responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. While HHS is moving at record speed, we are still taking the necessary steps to ensure good stewardship of taxpayer dollars. As we move forward with great urgency, we must maintain the integrity of the procurement process. On April 8, HHS announced the first two of multiple contracts being awarded to increase the Stockpile’s supply of ventilators and ability to support states in need. Under the Defense Production Act (DPA), these two rated orders alone will supply 73,000 ventilators that can supplement state public health and healthcare supplies across the nation and more orders will be announced.”