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Trump’s biggest untruth about virus

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Donald Trump has made a series of obviously false claims about the coronavirus. But at the news briefing yesterday — the first in weeks in which the President and coronavirus task force officials took questions — he offered perhaps his biggest whopper yet.

After being asked about a mysterious condition affecting children, then having task force member Admiral Brett Giroir correct him that the condition has actually been fatal, Trump turned to better news. Or at least what he wrongly stated was better news.

“I think one of the things we're most proud of is, this just came out — deaths per 100,000 people, death,” Trump said. “So deaths per 100,000 people — Germany and the United States are at the lowest rung of that ladder.

“Meaning low is a positive, not a negative. Germany, the United States are the two best in deaths per 100,000 people, which frankly, to me, that's perhaps the most important number there is.”

It would be perhaps the most important number if it were anywhere close to true.

It's true that, while the United States has the most confirmed coronavirus cases and the most confirmed coronavirus deaths, it lags behind some Western European countries when it comes to per-capita deaths. The raw number can be deceiving when it comes to the total impact on countries.

But the United States is nowhere close to having one of the lowest per-capita death rates. In fact, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, the United States ranks ninth-highest out of more than 140 countries for which data is available.

Even if you focus on Western Europe — which Trump didn't — the United States ranks behind the following countries on per capita deaths: Germany, Switzerland, Portugal, Poland, Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Iceland.

Pairing the United States with Germany is another puzzling decision. Germany is one of the envies of the Western world when it comes to its coronavirus response, having ramped up testing very early and then dealt with a far less significant outbreak than its neighbours.

But putting the US next to it is ridiculous; Germany has about nine deaths per 100,000 people, as compared with about 24 per 100,000 people in the United States.

At least with many of Trump's other claims, there is the possibility they feasibly might be true once we learn about the situation in the US or what lay ahead. For instance, Trump also said yesterday that people who want to return to work can get tested daily “very soon,” which we are clearly a very long way away from.

This claim, though, makes you wonder where Trump is getting his data on coronavirus deaths and the size of the outbreak compared with the rest of the world.

Aaron Blake is senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper

Missing the point: Donald Trump at the Covid-19 press briefing yesterday before abruptly storming off (Photograph by Alex Brandon/AP)
Aaron Blake is senior political reporter, writing for The Fix. A Minnesota native, he has also written about politics for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Hill newspaper

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Published May 12, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated May 12, 2020 at 8:52 am)

Trump’s biggest untruth about virus

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