New projections show summer spike if coronavirus restrictions lifted

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New U.S. government figures show novel coronavirus infections will spike during the summer if stay-at-home orders are lifted after 30 days as planned, the New York Times reported on Friday.

If President Donald Trump lifts shelter-in-place orders after 30 days, the death toll is estimated to reach 200,000, the New York Times reported, citing new projections it obtained from the Departments of Homeland Security (DHS) and Health and Human Services.

Trump said he and his advisers have not seen the new projections reported by the Times.

He gave a much different projection during the daily White House coronavirus briefing, saying he thinks the United States will lose fewer than the 100,000 lives initially projected to be lost to COVID-19, and suggested the country is nearing its peak infection rate.

A DHS official confirmed the authenticity of the projections obtained by the New York Times. The official, who requested anonymity to discuss the matter, stressed that the figures were considered a "best guess."

A DHS representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declined to comment on what she called "alleged, leaked documents."

U.S. deaths due to the virus topped 18,100 on Friday, according to a Reuters tally.

The April 9 projections did not have dates for when shelter-in-place orders were delivered or dates for when spikes would hit, the Times said.

The projections outline different scenarios. Without any restrictions imposed to contain the coronavirus - including school closings, shelter-in-place orders and social distancing, the death toll from the virus could have reached 300,000, it said.

But if the 30-day stay-at-home order is lifted, the death total is estimated to reach 200,000, the Times said, "even if schools remain closed until summer, 25% of the country continues to work from home and some social distancing continues."

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Ted Hesson; Editing by Leslie Adler, Sandra Maler and Daniel Wallis)