Fox News conservatives and pudding-brained contrarians like former New York Times reporter Alex Berenson have seized on the revised estimates to conclude the experts were wrong all along, and coronavirus is not as bad as they claimed. This is like a firefighter in a burning building saying that because his flesh has not been scorched off his bones, he can safely ditch all his fireproof gear. The researchers are clear that the estimated death toll has declined because all the lockdown measures have drastically cut the infection rate. The appalling failure of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio shows what happens to places that don’t get on top of an outbreak quickly — they end up digging mass graves.
Furthermore, it is not at all clear yet that the U.S. has actually bent the infection curve across the country. While new cases and deaths have clearly slowed in New York, and were kept relatively under control in West Coast states, they are still rising fast in states like Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Texas. A case of COVID-19 takes a long time to proceed, and as Italy shows it will take weeks for the death rate to come down.
More importantly, all this leaves aside the possibility of a second wave of infection, which the University of Washington analysis simply does not consider. Conservatives, including President Trump, are implicitly arguing that since new infections and deaths seem to be on their way down, we can soon safely abandon the lockdown measures. But unless the disease is totally eradicated (which is vanishingly unlikely), that is almost certain to create another galloping epidemic.