U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he now believes as many as 100,000 Americans could die in the coronavirus pandemic, after the death toll passed his earlier estimates, but said he was confident a vaccine would be developed by the year’s end.
Trump alternated during a two-hour virtual town hall broadcast by FOX News between forecasting a rapid recovery for the U.S. economy and casting blame for the pandemic’s spread on China, where the disease is believed to have originated.
The COVID-19 illness, caused by the new coronavirus, has sickened more than 1.1 million in the United States and killed more than 67,000 Americans, shut wide swaths of society, including most schools and many businesses. “We’re going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That’s a horrible thing,” said Trump, who as recently on Friday had said he hoped fewer than 100,000 Americans would die and earlier in the week had talked about 60,000 to 70,000 deaths.
About half the states have now moved toward at least partial lifting of shutdowns as the number of new cases of the COVID-19 illness has begun to drop or level off and as citizens agitate for relief from restrictions that have sent the economy into a tailspin. “We can’t stay closed as a country (or) we’re not gonna have a country left,” Trump said.
Trump has criticized FOX recently, casting the conservative-leaning network as insufficiently supportive. He faced few tough questions in the event, which gave him a new format to reach the public while he is unable to hold campaign rallies and after he faced widespread criticism for his combative daily briefings.