The leaked document estimates 3,000 people could die from the coronavirus each day in the US by June 1. If that projection were to hold throughout June, it could mean 90,000 people could die next month.
Justin Lessler, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, drafted the model and presented it to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Post reported. The leaked document says it's a CDC "Prevention Situation Update" and has logos from the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
But Lessler told the Post that the document was based on his unfinished modeling. "I had no role in the process by which that was presented and shown. This data was presented as an FYI to CDC … it was not in any way intended to be a forecast," he said.
The leaked document also projects about 200,000 people could be infected each day with the virus — up from 30,000 per day presently — by the beginning of June.
On Sunday, the US reported 1,719 new deaths from COVID-19, according to the CDC. While 3,000 new deaths per day by June 1 is the middle estimate in the leaked document, the draft model ranges from 750 to 15,000 deaths per day by then. By May 15, it projects 250 to 10,000 deaths per day, with 1,000 as the middle estimate.
White House deputy press secretary Judd Deere said the leaked report hasn't been vetted by multiple agencies and wasn't a White House document.
"This data is not reflective of any of the modeling done by the task force or data that the task force has analyzed," he said.
But Lessler told the Post that if states end their lockdowns too soon, the projections in the document are possible.
Death projections are increasing as states lift their lockdowns
Major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles have experienced the largest outbreaks in the US so far, according to Johns Hopkins University. In other areas of the country, outbreaks have been reported among incarcerated populations and at meat processing plants.
More than 1.1 million people have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the US, and at least 68,285 have died from the disease, according to Johns Hopkins.
The grim, leaked projections come as state leaders across the US begin to relax social distancing regulations that were put in place in order to reduce the transmission of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus. On Friday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp relaxed the state's stay-at-home order for most residents — and 1,000 new people in the state were diagnosed with the virus that day.
Over half of US states plan to relax stay-at-home orders this week, but the vast majority of them do not yet have adequate testing resources experts say are needed to safely do so, the Associated Press reported Saturday. Health experts and leaders have been warning for months of a second wave of COVID-19 cases and deaths if social distancing measures are ended prematurely.
On Sunday, President Donald Trump predicted the virus would kill as many as 100,000 Americans, an increase from the 60,000 he projected it would kill a few weeks ago.
"Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people," he said during a Fox News town hall. "That's a horrible thing. We shouldn't lose one person out of this."
The president also on Sunday said there could be a vaccine for the novel coronavirus by the end of the year, though experts have estimated the search for an effective treatment could last 18 months. Experts have also warned that a rushed vaccine could come with risks, including the potential to make the disease worse in infected individuals.
But until we have a vaccine or viable treatment for the disease, experts maintain that social distancing and widespread testing are the best ways to contain outbreaks.