(Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, participates in the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House)[Getty/Kyodo]

WASHINGTON - The U.S. government said Tuesday the coronavirus pandemic could kill at least 100,000 people in the country even when mitigation measures are fully in place.

"I want every American to be prepared for the hard days that lie ahead. We're going to go through a very tough two weeks," President Donald Trump said, as members of a coronavirus task force unveiled projections that fatalities could range between 100,000 and 200,000.

Anthony Fauci, a member of the task force and head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, nevertheless said the projections could change as new data comes in.

"This is a number that we need to anticipate, but we don't necessarily have to accept it as being inevitable," he said. "Models are as good as the assumptions you put into them."

Related coverage:

U.S. capital issues stay-at-home order amid spread of coronavirus

The projection was unveiled as the Trump administration calls on the public to continue to stay at home whenever possible and practice social distancing to slow the spread of the virus.

The United States last week overtook China, where the virus causing COVID-19 disease was first detected, to become the country with the largest number of confirmed cases. The number of infections has exceeded 180,000, with deaths surpassing 3,500, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

So far, Italy is hardest-hit in terms of the death toll, with more than 10,000 people killed by the virus, which is said to put older adults and adults with underlying health conditions at higher risk.

The Trump administration on Sunday extended to April 30 its social-distancing guidelines, citing an estimate that 2.2 million people could die in the absence of measures to contain the epidemic.