That figure is a sharp uptick from the president’s comments just last month when he said he believed around 60,000 people would die from the virus. Despite the shift, Trump said his response to the outbreak in the United States — where more than 1.1 million people have been infected — had been “successful” and said without his intervention more than a million people could have died.
“We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people,” Trump said during a town hall event with Fox News on Sunday. “That’s a horrible thing. We shouldn’t lose one person over this.”
The president did acknowledge that he had previously predicted a lower number, saying the estimates had “gone up.”
“I used to say 65,000 and now I’m saying 80 or 90, and it goes up and it goes up rapidly,’ Trump said. “But it’s still going to be, no matter how you look at it, at the very lower end of the plane.”
He continued: “In terms of death … we’re at the lower level, the lowest level predicted. And we might not even hit that. It might be lower. And ... sadly that’s all we can do.”
Trump touted his own work to shutter travel from China in the early days of the outbreak but rejected assertions he had acted too slowly and had been informed by intelligence officials weeks before he first took action.
“If we didn’t do it, the minimum we would have lost was a million two, a million four, a million five, that’s the minimum. We would have lost probably higher, it’s possible higher than 2.2,” Trump said. “That’s one of the reasons we’re successful, if you call losing 80 or 90,000 people successful.”
More than 67,000 people have died in the United States from the coronavirus so far and cases continue to spread throughout the country. But the White House has been pushing for some states to begin to reopen their economies.
Trump’s own medical advisors have cautioned the country against returning to normal too soon. Dr. Deborah Birx, an official on the White House coronavirus task force, said Sunday the administration had always been warning the death toll could exceed 100,000 as cases began to spread rapidly throughout the country.
“Our projections have always been between 100-240,000 American lives lost and that’s with full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance,” she told “Fox News Sunday.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.