Trump warns coronavirus death toll could reach 100,000

"That's a horrible thing. We shouldn't lose one person out of this," the president said.

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By Patrick Smith

President Donald Trump has warned that the U.S. death toll from the coronavirus outbreak could reach 100,000 — revising upward his estimate of the number of people the outbreak could kill by tens of thousands.

"Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75, 80 to 100,000 people. That's a horrible thing. We shouldn't lose one person out of this," Trump said Sunday during a Fox News virtual town hall.

There have been 1.1 million confirmed U.S. cases and more than 68,000 deaths related to COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to NBC News' tally.

On Friday, the president said he hoped that fewer than 100,000 Americans would die, and earlier last week he spoke of 60,000 to 70,000 deaths.

On April 20, Trump said the figure could be 50,000 to 60,000; by that point, there had been 40,000 U.S. deaths related to COVID-19.

Internal administration documents seen by NBC News show that the federal government ordered more than 100,000 body bags on April 21.

Earlier Sunday, Dr. Deborah Birx, who is coordinating the White House's response to the pandemic, said her predictions had consistently been that up to 240,000 Americans could die.

"Our projections have always been between 100,000 and 240,000 American lives lost, and that's with full mitigation and us learning from each other of how to social distance," she told Fox News.

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Continuing a key theme in his coronavirus statements, Trump attacked China and suggested that the virus got into the community accidentally.

"This should have been stopped in China. If we didn't do it, the minimum we would have lost is a million, 2 million, 4 million, 5. That's the minimum," he said in the two-hour broadcast.

"And my opinion is they've made a mistake. They tried to cover it. They tried to put it out. It's like a fire. You know, it's really like trying to put out a fire. They couldn't put out the fire."

The Associated Press reported Monday that Department of Homeland Security documents show that U.S. officials believe China covered up the extent of the outbreak and how contagious it could be so it could stock up on medical supplies.

NBC News has not independently verified the claim.

Last week, the White House asked intelligence agencies to investigate whether China hid information about the outbreak.

Trump also addressed a wide number of concerns, including reopening schools, while urging states to accelerate opening up the economy.

Asked whether it was the right decision to impose a broad nationwide shutdown, Trump said: "We did the right thing. I do look back on it, because my attitude was we're not going to shut it down."

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The president also promised that a vaccine would be available this year, contrary to the predictions of senior scientific advisers, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"We think we'll have a vaccine by the end of this year," Trump said. "By the end of the year, I think we're going to have a vaccine."

Trump added he does not care whether it is developed in the U.S. or elsewhere — he wants it quickly.

Responding to a question from a business owner in Washington, D.C., Trump stressed that not all states would open at the same rate. "Certain states are going to have to take a little more time getting opened, and they're doing that," he said. "Some states, I think, frankly, aren't going fast enough."

On the conflict between those eager to get back to work and those fearful of a second wave of infections, Trump said: "I think you can satisfy both. ... You can really have it both ways."

Trump also sought to allay fears over the prospect that reopening schools could cause future infections, but he warned that elderly, vulnerable teachers may not be able to go back to work.

Jacob Gardenswartz contributed.