So now we know. The "surge of biblical proportions" that Health Minister Robin Swann dramatically warned of in March, in which 14,000-15,000 people in Northern Ireland could be killed by the coronavirus, was never a reasonable prediction.
According to a leaked document obtained by the BBC Spotlight programme, the scientific modelling at the time said that 14,000 deaths was the "worst-case scenario" if there was no compliance at all with social distancing. It was not, and never was, considered by scientists to be a realistic figure.
Mr Swann did not share this additional, qualifying information with us, the public.
Instead, he chose to use alarmist language and a particularly emotive phrase guaranteed to strike fear into the hearts of thousands.
Here's a dictionary definition of the term "biblical proportions": "Of or pertaining to a natural disaster or other cataclysmic event so immense that it brings to mind biblical accounts of horrific catastrophes."
The messaging was unmistakable: be afraid. Very afraid.
A few days later, at the start of April, Mr Swann told us what the revised scientific modelling was now forecasting a death-toll of 3,000. This was described as "a reasonable worst-case scenario".
Again, Mr Swann was selective. He omitted to mention that the best-case scenario modelled by the scientists was just 250 deaths.
According to the leaked document, Mr Swann kept schtum because he was concerned that if that scenario was published the public would have a false sense of security. The Department of Health (DoH) also claimed that publishing both the projected best and worst outcomes would have sent out mixed messages at a crucial time.
At the time of writing, 757 people have tragically lost their lives. As Spotlight pointed out, that figure is substantially closer to the best-case scenario - deemed "not realistic" by the modellers - than any of the numbers Mr Swann put forward.
Using fear to exert control over people is nothing new. In fact it's the oldest, crudest trick in the book; political leaders have been doing it for millennia. It's the go-to remedy of totalitarian states. Once you get the populace quaking in their boots, especially if the threat is a common enemy such as a lethal disease, they are much more biddable than they would otherwise be.
Some might argue that the threat to the public posed by Covid-19 is so great that such fear-mongering tactics are justifiable. They might say, like the DoH, that people can't understand "mixed messages". I profoundly disagree.
At the start of the pandemic what we needed to hear was calm, sober, detailed advice outlining both the grave possible impact of the unmitigated virus and the great potential for social distancing measures to substantially reduce the death toll.
Being honest and straightforward with people, trusting them with the best available information, the full range of possible outcomes, makes them more, not less, likely to comply with draconian restrictions. It gives them a powerful incentive to help themselves and others.
As Tracey Brown of the charity Sense About Science told Spotlight: "This insistence on a worst-case scenario approach tells us something rather worrying about the way in which government is viewing the public, because at a time when they are asking the public really to trust them, what they're also saying is that we don't trust you."
I have some sympathy for Mr Swann. Only in the minister's post since January, he's been thrown into an unprecedented health crisis dealing with a new virus which international scientists, let alone provincial politicians, are still struggling to understand.
With Fortress Stormont's traditional resistance to openness and accountability it's disappointing, but not surprising, that he chose to be economical with the figures - and his Executive colleagues clearly backed him.
But the problem with crying wolf by presenting blatantly unrealistic worst-case scenarios to the public is that it can come back to bite you - hard.
What if we were to be hit by another pandemic, or round two of this one, and it was far more deadly than the current outbreak?
The terrible risk is that people might not believe the politicians' warnings of how dangerous it is.
Last time you told us that 15,000 could die, people might say, and that didn't happen, so why should we listen to you now?
If politicians want the public to have faith in them, especially in times of global crisis, it is vital that they treat people with respect.
Be honest with us. Level with us. Trust us.
In a real worst-case scenario our lives could depend upon it.