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HHS Secretary Azar disavows leaked projection of COVID cases: We rely on scientific evidence, not ‘draft models’

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Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar denied the information presented in a New York Times article, which said that an internal Trump administration report expects about 200,000 daily coronavirus cases by June.

The New York Times article titled “Models Project Sharp Rise in Deaths as States Reopen” claimed that the Trump administration “is privately projecting a steady rise in the number of coronavirus cases and deaths over the next several weeks” as the country is starting to reopen for business.

“There are hundreds of models that are drafted up to look at various contingencies out in the private-public health world as well as within our agencies, this apparently is a draft modeling report of various contingencies prepared by Johns Hopkins,” Azar said on “America’s Newsroom” on Tuesday, referencing the information in the article published Monday.

“This was not reviewed by the White House or senior leadership or the task force. The president’s recommendations on reopening the American economy are based on the soundest, scientific evidence and modeling and forecasting, not draft, initial projections that just are floating out there.”

“The daily death toll will reach about 3,000 on June 1, according to an internal document obtained by The New York Times, a 70 percent increase from the current number of about 1,750,” the article said.

“The projections, based on government modeling pulled together by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases a day currently.”

Azar said he did not see the report, but heard about it.

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“We use a collection of the best scientific models that are out there, not draft reports and draft models,” Azar said on Tuesday.

He added, “We actually rely on, especially the University of Washington’s model, which has been quite influential, as well as other work that Dr. Deborah Birx [a member of the White House Coronavirus Task Force] leads to make sure we are relying on the soundest validated scientific epidemiological information.”

Azar referenced the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (IHME) often used by the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

As of Monday afternoon, the IHME model was projecting that by Aug. 4, COVID-19 deaths could reach 134,475 (estimate range of 95,092 to 242,890) across the U.S.

“These projections are considerably higher than previous estimates, representing the combined effects of death model updates and formally incorporating the effect of changes in mobility and social distancing policies into transmission dynamics,” according to IHME.

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Two weeks ago, the IHME model was projecting that by Aug. 4, COVID-19 deaths could reach 60,308 (estimate range of 34,063 to 140,381) across the country during the epidemic’s first wave.

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