On Sunday, Fox News aired a pre-taped interview with President Donald Trump. At the beginning of the interview, anchor Chris Wallace asked the president about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
“Let’s start with the surge of the coronavirus across the country in recent months. You still talk about it as ‘burning embers,’ but I want to put up a chart that shows where we are with the illness over the last four months,” Wallace said.
The anchor then displayed a chart showing a peak in April of 36,000 cases a day, then contrasted that with a new peak of 75,000 cases “one day this week.”
Trump countered, claiming that the apparent increase in cases is due to “great testing.”
“If we didn’t test, you wouldn’t be able to show that chart,” Trump stated. “If we tested half as much, those numbers would be down.”
Following a back-and-forth about the pandemic being “burning embers” or a “forest fire,” the president pointed to other countries where the virus is wreaking havoc.
“It’s not just this country, it’s many countries. We don’t talk about it in the news, they don’t talk about Mexico and Brazil, and still parts of Europe, which actually got hit sooner than us, so it’s a little ahead of us in that sense,” Trump noted.
But you take a look – why don’t they talk about Mexico, which is not helping us, and all I can say is thank God I built most of the wall because if I didn’t have the wall up, we would have a much bigger problem with Mexico.
Wallace then brought up to Trump that the United States has “the seventh highest mortality rate in the world … higher than Brazil, it’s higher than Russia, and the European Union has us on a travel ban.”
The president countered, reminding Wallace that the United States had Europe on “a travel ban.” He then seemed to suggest that the mortality rates offered by Wallace were incorrect.
TRUMP: When you talk about mortality rates, I think it’s the opposite. I think we have one of the lowest mortality rates.
WALLACE: That’s not true, sir.
TRUMP: Well, we’re gonna take a look.
WALLACE: We had 900 deaths in a single day.
TRUMP: We will take a look. Ready?
After asking for the mortality rate document, the president said: “I heard we have one of the lowest, maybe the lowest mortality rate anywhere in the world. Do you have the numbers, please? Because I heard we had the best mortality rate.”
“Number one low mortality rate,” Trump said after he was handed a piece of paper. “I hope you show this [scenario] because it shows what fake news is all about.”
Following crosstalk, Wallace jumped in via voiceover to explain the different numbers.
While Fox News was using the John’s Hopkins University data, team Trump was using a “chart from the European CDC, which shows Italy and Spain doing worse, but countries like Brazil and South Korea doing better. Other countries doing better like Russia aren’t included in the White House chart,” according to Wallace.
According to John’s Hopkins, the United States ranks 8th in the world in COVID-19 mortality. Brazil has apparently moved ahead of the U.S. since the interview was taped.
The “observed case-fatality ratio,” meaning the “the number of deaths … per 100 confirmed cases” in the United States stands at 3.8% as of publication, according to John’s Hopkins.
As for deaths “per 100,000 population (this represents a country’s general population, with both confirmed cases and healthy people),” the United States ranks third, behind the U.K. and Chile.
The chart showed by Fox News as the one being used by the Trump administration comes from Our World in Data (OWiD), and it tracks the case fatality rate (CFR). The map allows one to choose which countries to display. OWiD notes: “Raw data on confirmed cases and deaths for all countries is sourced from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).”
Looking at the chart from OWiD, in a worst-to-best view of case fatality, the United States sits at 3.82% as of July 18. Countries with worse CFRs, according to the chart, include France, U.K., Belgium, Italy, Canada, Sweden, and Mexico, among others. Countries with better CFRs include Austria, Norway, South Korea, New Zealand, and Taiwan, among others.
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