Trump’s shocking claim as 200,000 die
Donald Trump has downplayed the seriousness of the coronavirus pandemic as the death toll in the US passes the 200,000 mark.
"It affects virtually nobody - it's an amazing thing," the US President told supporters at a rally in Swanton, Ohio on Monday night.
The official death toll from COVID-19 hit the grim milestone the next morning.
More than 6.8 million cases have been reported in the country of 328 million since the start of the pandemic, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Brazil has the second highest death toll at more than 137,000, followed by India with nearly 89,000.
News site Vox noted that the 200,000 figure was "more than the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812, the Mexican-American War, the Spanish American War, World War I, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the Gulf War, the Afghanistan War, and the Iraq War combined".
By way of a more apt comparison, COVID-19 has already killed around four times as many people as a bad flu season in the US.
In the last decade, 2017-18 was the worst flu season with 61,000 deaths, followed by 2014-15 with 51,000 deaths.
The 2009 swine flu (H1N1) pandemic infected an estimated 60.8 million people in the US and killed more than 12,000.
The CDC estimated the global death toll was between 151,700 and 575,400 in the first year of the H1N1 virus.
Mr Trump's comments, which have been roundly criticised, addressed the fact that the virus is much more deadly to the elderly and those with comorbidities.
"It affects elderly people - elderly people with heart problems and other problems," he said.
"If they have other problems, that's what it really affects. That's it. You know, in some states, thousands of people, nobody young (dies). Below the age of 18, like, nobody. They have a strong immune system, who knows. You look - take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing."
"It affects virtually nobody," Trump says of the coronavirus, which has now killed 200,000 Americans and counting pic.twitter.com/qHrZvUWNhX— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020
He added, "By the way, open your schools, everybody. Open your schools."
It comes after Mr Trump was last month accused of downplaying the death toll, sharing what fact-checkers said was a misleading statistic from the CDC.
"This week the CDC quietly updated the (COVID-19) number to admit that only 6 per cent of all the 153,504 deaths recorded actually died from (COVID-19)," the post retweeted by Mr Trump said.
"That's 9210 deaths. The other 94 per cent had two to three other serious illnesses and the overwhelming majority were of very advanced age."
Twitter later removed original user's tweet, saying it violated its rules.
"When you see that 'only 6 per cent' of people had COVID-19 as the sole reason listed on their death forms, what it means is that there were only a small fraction of people who died of the disease who didn't have any other underlying or immediate causes noted by the medical certifiers," Australian epidemiologist Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz explained in a post on Medium.
"This is completely unsurprising, as it's pretty rare that someone wouldn't have at least one issue caused by coronavirus prior to their death, and all it means is that in 94 per cent of cases people who had COVID-19 also developed other issues, or had other problems at the same time."
CDC data show 58 per cent of all COVID-19 victims have been aged 75 or older, and 37 per cent aged between 50 and 74.
The mortality rate drops off sharply under 50 - but that doesn't mean young people aren't affected.
There have been 754 deaths in the 18-29 age group, and 89 in those aged under 17 - including 34 children aged under four.
Doctors have also raised concerns about so-called "long-haul" cases, where symptoms persist for months and sometimes get worse over time, The Wall Street Journal reported recently.
Around 40 per cent of all deaths in the US are linked to nursing homes, according to a New York Times analysis.
At least 6500 people died as the virus swept through New York nursing homes in March and April.
An Associated Press analysis found that the true number could be as high as 11,000.
New Jersey and California - the second and third worst-hit states with 16,069 and 15,018 deaths respectively - had similar policies, as did Pennsylvania and Michigan, which have recorded 8004 and 6981 deaths.
The issue has become a political football, with the US Justice Department last month writing to four of the Democrat-run states - New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Michigan - demanding nursing home data.
The DOJ said it may investigate whether the states had violated the civil rights of the elderly with the policies.
In a joint statement, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer dismissed the request as a "nakedly partisan deflection".
Originally published as Trump's shocking claim as 200,000 die