Wednesday, 28 Oct 2020

AP FACT CHECK: Trump’s virus revisionism; Biden on the hoax

WASHINGTON (AP) — After months of mass death and sickness, what could possibly count as a success story against the pandemic?

President Donald Trump would have you believe Americans are already living that success story, even as the death toll approaches 200,000and infections spread by the tens of thousands a day.

Trump’s latest revisionism on the pandemic came during a week when he unleashed a torrent of misbegotten claims about mail-in voting, a monthslong preoccupation growing more intense with the approach of the Nov. 3 election.

While Democratic presidential rival Joe Biden laid out a broad and largely supported case that Trump has underplayed the severity of the pandemic, the devil was in the details: No, Trump did not call the coronavirus a hoax.

A review:

PANDEMIC

TRUMP: “If you look at what we’ve done and all of the lives that we’ve saved … this was our prediction, that if we do a really good job, we’ll be at about a hundred and — 100,000 to 240,000 deaths. And we’re below that substantially, and we’ll see what comes out. But that would be if we did the good job. If the not-so-good job was done, you’d be between 1.5 million — I remember these numbers so well — and 2.2 million.” — news conference Wednesday.

THE FACTS: He’s glossing over grim numbers and wrongly describing the scientific projections.

First and most notably, the U.S. is not running “substantially” below projections that 100,000 to 240,000 would die from COVID-19. The death toll is close to 200,000 and the pandemic is far from over. Tens of thousands of new infections are being reported each day.

The White House and federal public health authorities have often pointed to the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington as a source for their pandemic projections. The institute now forecasts more than 378,000 U.S. deaths from COVID-19 by Jan. 1.

In early April, U.S. officials estimated at least 100,000 would die from the pandemic even if all conceivable steps were taken against it — a thorough and enduring lockdown, full use of masks and more. A death toll up to 240,000 assumed aggressive mitigation.

Trump has often cited a potential death toll of 2.2 million or so — a number that puts the reality of several hundred thousand deaths in a better light. He uses it to claim to have saved many lives. But such an extreme projection was merely a baseline if nothing at all were done to fight the pandemic. It was never, as he claimed, an expected death toll if “the not-so-good job was done.”

At an April 1 briefing, when Trump and his officials discussed the projection of 100,000 to 240,000 deaths, the president held out hopeof keeping deaths under 100,000. “I think we’re doing better than that.”

Now he’s trying to move the goal posts and have the public consider anything under 240,000 deaths a success.

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