Just over a month after proclaiming that the number of coronavirus cases in the United States would soon "be down to close to zero," President Donald Trump said during a press briefing on the White House lawn Sunday that limiting U.S. deaths from the pandemic to between 100,000 and 200,000 people would mean his administration and the country as a whole did "a very good job."
Speaking as the death toll from the novel coronavirus climbed above 2,300 in the U.S.—which has the most confirmed cases of the virus in the world—Trump cited recent research warning that 2.2 million people in the U.S. could die from COVID-19 if the nation's government and population take no action to mitigate the threat.
"You're talking about 2.2 million deaths, 2.2 million people from this," the president said. "And so, if we can hold that down, as we're saying, to 100,000—that's a horrible number—maybe even less, but to 100,000, so we have between 100- and 200,000, we all together have done a very good job."
— Jason Sparks (@sparksjls) March 30, 2020
Critics condemned Trump's remarks as remarkably cruel and callous, particularly coming from someone who has repeatedly downplayed the threat of the virus—at one point suggesting it was a "new hoax" perpetrated by the Democratic Party—and urged Americans to get back to work despite warnings from medical professionals.
"There really are no words for this level of insensitivity and inhumanity. A serial killer would be jealous," said Charles Idelson of National Nurses United in response to Trump's comments.
Others reacted with similar alarm and disgust:
JFC. The president is holding out 100,000 US DEATHS as a metric of *success*. Completely terrifying. https://t.co/l4xeg1cZhm
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) March 29, 2020
One month ago, Trump told Americans that there would soon be zero coronavirus cases in the United States. Now he’s saying he will claim victory if 100,000 Americans die. https://t.co/EyUo2neoT6
— Brian Klaas (@brianklaas) March 29, 2020
Trump announced Sunday that the White House is extending federal social distancing guidelines to at least April 30, a retreat from the president's insistence last week that the country could be "rarin' to go" by Easter—April 12.
Noting the president's rapidly shifting goalposts, CNN reporter Daniel Dale tweeted late Sunday, "Trump has come a long way from the 15-cases-but-we're-going-down-to-zero."