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© Juan Arredondo / The New York Times
An internal U.S. government projection shows the nation's coronavirus outbreak vastly accelerating by June to more than 200,000 new cases and 2,500 deaths per day -- far more than the country is currently experiencing.

The White House disclaimed the projection, calling it an "internal CDC document" but saying it had not been presented to President Donald Trump's coronavirus task force and didn't comport with the task force's own analysis and projections.

It isn't clear who produced the document, obtained and published earlier by the New York Times, or what assumptions underlie the forecasts. The projections, on two slides of a 19-slide deck, are dated May 1 and attributed to a "data and analytics task force." The document carries the seal of both the Health and Human Services Department and the Homeland Security Department.


The projection contains a range of estimates. The forecast of 200,000 new cases and 2,500 deaths per day are around the middle of the range. The documents are labeled "for official use only."

The slide deck is labeled a "Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Situation Update" but a CDC spokeswoman, Ana Toro, said the projections were "incorrectly attributed" to the agency. She didn't say where it came from, referring further questions to a spokeswoman at the Federal Emergency Management Agency who didn't respond to an email.

"This is not a White House document nor has it been presented to the Coronavirus Task Force or gone through interagency vetting," Judd Deere, a White House spokesman, said in a statement. "This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed."


After the Washington Post reported that the projections were the work of a researcher at Johns Hopkins University's Bloomberg School of Public Health, the university confirmed in a statement that the document "included preliminary analyses" developed at the school.

"These preliminary analyses were provided to FEMA to aid in scenario planning — not to be used as forecasts — and the version published is not a final version," Joshua Sharfstein, the school's vice dean of public health practice said in a statement. "These preliminary results are not forecasts, and it is not accurate to present them as forecasts."

The U.S. reported about 25,000 new cases of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on Sunday and more than 1,200 deaths. But with a swath of states across the South and Midwest beginning to relax economy-crushing social distancing measures, with Trump's encouragement, some public health experts have warned there's a risk the outbreak will flare up.

"The president's phased guidelines to open up America again are a scientific driven approach that the top health and infectious disease experts in the federal government agreed with," Deere said.

There is a history of the CDC overestimating disease outbreaks. In 2014, the agency said that in a worst case, there might be more than half a million cases of ebola from an outbreak that began in West Africa. The actual number of total cases in the outbreak ended up being about 28,600, according to the CDC.

— With assistance by Jordan Fabian, Drew Armstrong, Michelle Fay Cortez, and Emma Court

(Updates with CDC and Johns Hopkins University statements beginning in fifth paragraph)