At yesterday’s White House virus task force briefing Dr. Deborah Birx made a point that we have sought to amplify here this week. As the White House coronavirus task force response coordinatory, Dr. Birx questioned the validity of the models and projections that have aggravated the current panic. RCP has posted this transcription of Dr. Birx’s remarks as follows:
I’m sure you have seen the recent report out of the U.K. about them adjusting completely their needs. This is really quite important. If you remember, that was the report that says there would be 500,000 deaths in the U.K. and 2.2 million deaths in the United States. They’ve adjusted that number in the U.K. to 20,000. Half a million to 20,000. We are looking at that in great detail to understand that adjustment.
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So these are the things we are looking at, because the predictions of the model don’t match the reality on the ground in China, South Korea or Italy. We are five times the size of Italy. If we were Italy and did all those divisions, Italy should have close to 400,000 deaths. They are not close to achieving that.
Models are models. We are — there is enough data of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground to really make these predictions much more sound. So when people start talking about 20% of a population getting infected, it’s very scary, but we don’t have data that matches that based on our experience.
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There is no model right now — no reality on the ground where we can see that 60% to 70% of Americans are going to get infected in the next eight to 12 weeks. I want to be clear about that. We are adapting to the reality on the ground and looking at the models of how they can inform but learning from South Korea and Italy and from Spain and I know you will look up my numbers.
The video is below.
UPDATE: I should add that Dr. Ferguson himself has sought to clarify his testimony on adjustments to his projections (see tweets linked below).
1/4 – I think it would be helpful if I cleared up some confusion that has emerged in recent days. Some have interpreted my evidence to a UK parliamentary committee as indicating we have substantially revised our assessments of the potential mortality impact of COVID-19.
— neil_ferguson (@neil_ferguson) March 26, 2020
More in the adjacent post here.