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President Donald Trump has doubled down on his longstanding claim that his own administration’s coronavirus death count is “exaggerated.”
His reiteration of this claim comes as the total number of deaths from the coronavirus crests toward a new record high of 350,000, according to the latest data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
“The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of @CDCgov ’s ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low. ‘When in doubt, call it Covid.’ Fake News!” the president tweeted Sunday morning.
The number of cases and deaths of the China Virus is far exaggerated in the United States because of @CDCgov’s ridiculous method of determination compared to other countries, many of whom report, purposely, very inaccurately and low. “When in doubt, call it Covid.” Fake News!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2021
It’s certainly true that some countries have undercounted their coronavirus cases and deaths. Just last week Russian Deputy Prime Minister Tatyana Golikova publicly admitted that the country’s real death toll is three time higher than had been reported.
“According to a report from the Rosstat statistics agency, between January and November 2020, Russia had recorded 229,700 more deaths from all causes than in 2019. Golikova said over 81 percent of the number was directly linked to COVID-19, meaning around 186,000 Russians had died from the disease,” the International Business Times reported.
“So far, Russia, despite reporting over 3 million positive cases, maintained that the death toll was 55,265. President Vladimir Putin boasted about doing a ‘better job’ than western countries. But the additional number made Russia the third worst-hit country after the US and Brazil in terms of fatality.”
But whether it’s equally true that America has been overcounting coronavirus deaths has yet to be proven. The Trump administration’s health officials have, for their own part, disputed the president’s claim that the numbers are “exaggerated.”
Speaking Sunday morning on ABC News’ “This Week,” National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s bluntly said the #s aren’t “fake.”
“The deaths are real deaths. All you need to do is go out into the trenches. Go to the hospitals and see what the health care workers are dealing with.They are under very stressful situations in many areas of the country. The hospital beds are stretched, people are running out of beds, running out of trained personnel who are exhausted,” he said.
NEW: Dr. Anthony Fauci responds to Pres. Trump’s morning tweet on COVID-19 related deaths: “The deaths are real deaths. All you need to do is go out into the trenches… that’s real, that’s not fake.” https://t.co/kKafPs2tFM pic.twitter.com/84ypgvOcl1
— This Week (@ThisWeekABC) January 3, 2021
So what explains the president’s distrust of his own officials?
Part of the distrust may be rooted in how the CDC classifies deaths “involving COVID-19” as coronavirus deaths. In its latest report published on Dec. 30th, for instance, it listed a total of 138,917 deaths that involved “COVID-19 and Pneumonia.”
It also listed 21,364 deaths from heart failure “involving coronavirus,” 47,351 deaths from diabetes “involving coronavirus” and 10,842 deaths from poison “involving coronavirus.”
It’s not clear whether all of these deaths are included in the CDC’s count, updated Jan. 2nd, of 346,925 total coronavirus deaths.
The prevalence of these contributing conditions has nevertheless led some, including the president, to suspect that these deaths have been included — and unfairly so.
The going theory is that, as an example, a COVID patient who dies of poisoning winds up being classified as a coronavirus death despite there having been a chance that the they would have survived just fine had it not been for the poisoning.
In other words, the theory is that the coronavirus is being falsely blamed for people’s deaths just because the deceased happened to have coronavirus when they died. Is there any legitimacy to this theory?
In July a Florida health official admitted that a man who’d died from a motorcycle accident had been added to the state’s coronavirus death tally.
More questions about Florida’s #COVID19 data tonight after state health official tells us a person who died in a motorcycle accident was added to the state’s coronavirus death count. Story at 10 #FOX35News
— Danielle Lama FOX 35 (@DLama_FOX35) July 17, 2020
A similar case emerged in Texas around the same time:
The State of Texas today had to remove 3,484 cases from its Covid-19 positive case count, because the San Antonio Health Department was reporting “probable” cases for people never actually tested, as “confirmed” positive cases.- TDHS
What other departments make this same mistake? pic.twitter.com/wYhGWhHl5w
— Steve Eagar (@steveeagar) July 16, 2020
What remains unclear is whether such incidences have been widespread enough to affect the country’s total coronavirus death count in a meaningful way.
Not surprisingly, the debate over this topic has been as heated as the debate over election fraud in the 2020 presidential election, with the president maintaining that yes, false COVID death attributions have been widespread enough to affect the total count, and the media and his own administration officials saying otherwise.
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