Officials see signs pandemic’s toll may not match worst fears

Still, what is passing for good news still means about 70,000 Americans alive today may die by August. The University of Washington model predicts the worst day for deaths will be around April 16, meaning daily death tolls will grow higher until then.

Yet the tone of some of the nation’s top experts has changed in the past 48 hours.

“You’re starting to see that we may be actually — in a series of communities outside of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut — creating a much flatter graph, a much flatter curve,” said Deborah Birx, director of the White House coronavirus response. Citing figures in Detroit and Chicago, she said, “It really gives us great heart.”

That echoed Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, a day earlier.

“Everybody who knows me knows I’m very conservative about making projections, but those are the kind of good signs that you look for,” Fauci said of the New York figures. “You never even begin to think about claiming victory prematurely, but that’s the first thing you see when you start to see the turnaround.”