AGENCIES, Washington: US 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 US economy and casting blame for the pandemic’s spread on China, where the disease is believed to have originated.
The COVID-19 illness has sickened more than 1.1 million in the United States and killed more than 67,000 Americans.
“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.
In an assessment that clashes with those of some public health experts, Trump said he believed that by the end of the year there would be a vaccine against COVID-19. “I think we’re going to have a vaccine by the end of the year. The doctors would say, well you shouldn’t say that,” Trump said. “I’ll say what I think … I think we’ll have a vaccine sooner than later.”