Trump’s coronavirus death toll theory

Donald Trump says he believes the number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the US is correct, but that he doesn't believe the numbers being reported by "other countries".

During a meeting with the governor of Iowa, the President was asked if he believes the reported death toll in the United States.

"It is what it is," he answered. "Do I believe them? Yeah."

He said he doesn't believe the figures out of China and doesn't "believe them from other countries, where I see you know, a very tiny number of people died, but you're watching the news and you see what's going on".

He conceded that "it's a big number", but said it's "at the very lower scale of any number that was predicted".

His affirmation that the US figures are correct came back on the back of reports the President was preparing to publicly question the COVID-19 death toll in the United States, with key members of his administration reportedly believing the number is lower than reported.

Mr Trump has complained to advisers about the way coronavirus deaths are being calculated, suggesting the real numbers are actually lower, according to Axios.

The publication said several of his top aides shared this view.

Donald Trump says he believes the number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the US is correct, but that he doesn’t believe the numbers being reported by ‘other countries’. Picture: John Minchillo/AP
Donald Trump says he believes the number of COVID-19 deaths recorded in the US is correct, but that he doesn’t believe the numbers being reported by ‘other countries’. Picture: John Minchillo/AP


A senior administration official said the President will begin to publicly question the death toll as it closes in on his predictions for the final death count and damages him politically.

It comes as the President has repeatedly suggested more deaths are necessary to reopen the economy.

"Now it's time to open up our country. We've got to open up our country," he said during today's meeting.

"We have to be warriors," he told Fox News when asked if Americans should expect additional deaths as the country looks to reopen. "We can't keep our country closed down for years.

"Hopefully that won't be the case … but it could very well be the case."

Mr Trump made a similar comment while visiting a mask production facility in Arizona yesterday: "Will some people be affected? Yes. Will some people be affected badly? Yes. But we have to get our country open and we have to get it open soon."

The US is now the world's worst-hit country amid the pandemic, both in terms of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

The number of cases has surpassed 1.25 million, with 71,000 deaths.

There is no evidence that the US death toll has been over-exaggerated, with experts believing the death toll is actually higher than what's officially recorded, due to inadequate testing and some states not counting probable COVID-19 deaths or at-home deaths.

A senior official said the President has privately vented that the numbers seem inflated, and referred to New York's addition of more than 3000 unconfirmed but suspected COVID-19 cases to its death toll.

Medicare is giving American hospitals a 20 per cent bonus for their treatment of COVID-19 patients, to help them make up for the money they're losing through postponing a lot of non-coronavirus care.

No one in the administration has publicly suggested hospitals are intentionally misdiagnosing patients, but a source says the President wants to "properly" explain why COVID-19 numbers have risen sharply.

"Scepticism isn't the right way to frame it. The numbers have been revised up to include presumptive cases - meaning deaths that are believed to be related to COVID but not known for sure," a source told Axios.

"So he's expressed the need to properly convey that to (the) American people so they're not startled by why numbers ticked up."

When the virus first hit the US, the Trump administration believed the media was exaggerating the virus in order to "bring down" the President.

"The reason they are paying so much attention to it today is that they think this is going to bring down the President," said then-chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

They also claimed the media was exaggerating the impact on the US economy.

Earlier this week, Mr Trump increased his projection for the total US coronavirus death toll to as many as 100,000 - up by 40,000 from what he suggested just a few weeks ago.

"Look, we're going to lose anywhere from 75,000, 80,000 to 100,000 people," he told a virtual town hall hosted by Fox News Channel.

Speaking at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C, Mr Trump described the country's death toll - which had surpassed 68,000 as of Monday morning - as "a horrible thing".

"We shouldn't lose one person out of this," he said. "This should have been stopped in China."

An internal document obtained by The New York Times warned Americans that the daily death toll will reach about 3000 on June 1. That's nearly double the current number of about 1,750.

The projections, based on government modelling pulled together in chart form by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, forecast about 200,000 new cases each day by the end of the month, up from about 25,000 cases now.

Despite the health risks, Mr Trump said it was vital to restart the nation's economy, sooner rather than later.

"We have to get it back open safely but as quickly as possible," he said.

Many public health experts believe the nation cannot safely reopen fully until a vaccine is developed.

Mr Trump declared on Sunday that he believed one could be available by year's end.

US public health officials have said a vaccine is probably a year to 18 months away. But Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's leading expert on infectious diseases and member of the White House coronavirus task force, said in late April that it is conceivable, if a vaccine is soon developed, that it could be in wide distribution as early as January.



Originally published as Trump's coronavirus death toll theory