With nationwide case numbers showing a steady decrease in the US, President Donald Trump and some of his White House aides are pondering if the coronavirus death count is actually less than what has been reported.
Trump and his aides are privately discussing whether figures used by the administration to determine mortality rates and death projections are reliable indicators for plotting a path forward, according to officials familiar with the matter, CNN reported on Wednesday.
This comes in the wake of what top medical expert on the White House's coronavirus taskforce Dr Anthony Fauci has said that coronavirus-related deaths could be more than what is being recorded as people die at home without going to the hospital.
"Most of us feel that the number of deaths is likely higher than that number, because given the situation particularly in New York City when they were really strapped with a very serious challenge to their health care system, that there may have been people who died at home who did have COVID who are not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital," Dr Fauci said.
Dr Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, also raised concerns with how the country's Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has handled some of its data, including death toll.
"There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust," Birx told colleagues according to The Washington Post.
However, Trump in recent past had said, "Our numbers are, essentially certified numbers." "They're individual hospitals they're putting out the numbers. I don't imagine there'd be a very big variation."
On Tuesday, Dr Fauci had warned of dire consequences if the United States reopens its economy too soon.
In a testimony before the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, he urged the states not to reopen until they are sure of capabilities to handle a surge in cases once they relax stay-at-home orders.
"My concern that if some areas -- cities, states or what have you -- jump over those various checkpoints and prematurely open up, without having the capability of being able to respond effectively and efficiently, my concern is we will start to see little spikes that might turn into outbreaks," Fauci was quoted as saying by CNN.
"There is a real risk that you will trigger an outbreak that you may not be able to control, which in fact, paradoxically, will set you back, not only leading to some suffering and death that could be avoided but could even set you back on the road to try to get economic recovery," Fauci added.
Trump said the advice by Fauci was unacceptable. "To me, it's not an acceptable answer," Trump told reporters at the White House on Wednesday.
President Trump had declared the coronavirus a national emergency on March 13.
So far, there are at least 1,388,936 cases of coronavirus in the United States and at least 83,791 people have died from the virus according to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University.