President Donald Trump and his son Donald Trump Jr. are radically downplaying the number of new coronavirus-related deaths in the US, with the election just days away and COVID-19 cases surging across the country.
“I went through the CDC data because I kept hearing about new infections, but I was like, why aren’t they talking about deaths? Because the number is almost nothing,” Trump Jr. said on Fox News’ The Ingraham Angle Thursday night. “If you look at my Instagram, it’s gone to almost nothing. We are outperforming Europe in a positive way. We've gotten a hold of it.”
While doctors have gotten better at treating COVID-19, meaning a smaller percentage of those who are hospitalized end up dying, deaths are already rising slowly and are expected to climb more in the coming weeks. Increases in deaths are typically reported weeks after cases start to rise, as people who are severely ill become hospitalized and die.
Early Friday morning, the president echoed his son’s argument, tweeting, “More Testing equals more Cases” and “Deaths WAY DOWN.”
The language is a continuation of what the president has recently said on the campaign trail about the coronavirus, which he’s characterized as a “fake news media conspiracy theory” just days before the election. The increase in cases cannot be attributed to more testing, as cases are spiking at a much higher rate and hospitalizations are continuing to rise. The US death toll has passed more than 228,000, and the virus is surging in nearly every state. Field hospitals are opening up in states like Wisconsin and Texas to deal with the uptick in hospitalizations related to COVID-19.
Doctors’ groups quickly condemned Trump’s accusations this weekend that corrupt hospitals were inflating death numbers to turn a profit. The president’s claims were a “reprehensible attack on physicians’ ethics and professionalism,” Jacqueline Fincher, president of the American College of Physicians, said in a statement.
Experts have warned that colder weather across the country could lead to an increase in infections as people spend more time indoors. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said on Thursday that life in the US may not go back to “normal” until 2022.
The Trump campaign did not respond for comment on the claims from the president and Trump Jr.