The number of deaths in the United States from the Coronavirus has shown no signs of slowing in recent days, as more than 2,000 deaths were reported Saturday for a fifth straight day, raising the possibility the death toll will hit President Donald Trump's predicted mark of 60,000 in short order.
Several times in recent weeks - most recently on April 19 - the President told reporters at a White House briefing that the number of deaths would top out at 60,000, which he said was much better than original estimates which envisioned as many as 100,000 deaths.
"But we would have had millions of deaths instead of - it looks like we'll be at about a 60,000 mark, which is 40,000 less than the lowest number thought of," the President said.
But since then, the increase in the death toll has accelerated with repeated days of over 2,000, and will likely eclipse the number of U.S. dead in the Vietnam War (58,000) in coming days as well.
As of Sunday morning, it stood at almost 54,000 according to Johns Hopkins University.
The model most often cited by the White House on deaths from the Coronavirus has quietly moved its estimates of U.S, deaths upwards in recent days, and now stands at over 67,000.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation initially forecast anywhere between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths in the U.S., but that declined as social distancing efforts gained steam when announced by the President in March - and then extended through the month of April.
"We continue to see evidence that our aggressive strategy is working," the President told reporters on Friday at a shorter than usual Coronavirus task force briefing at the White House.
"Nationwide the percent of tests that come back positive has declined very significantly," Mr. Trump added, noting 38 percent of tests in New York State had been positive earlier in April, but that has dropped to 28 percent.
Deaths in New York have dropped substantially over the past 10 days, but increases in other states have prevented nationwide declines, as more deaths have been seen in Massachusetts, Michigan, and New Jersey.
Some experts don't see a quick drop in deaths ahead.
"We're likely to see a much slower decline in new cases spread across weeks not days," said Scott Gottlieb, a former FDA Commissioner who has been an outspoken voice on the virus.
"While there are signs of U.S. improvement, it'll be slow," Gottlieb tweeted on Sunday morning.
One big wild card is what happens in coming weeks as states begin to re-open businesses and move to loosen virus restrictions.
“Half of all Americans live in states that have take steps to open their economies,” the President said Friday, as he urged.
“We're opening our country - it's very exciting to see,” Mr. Trump said.