Story at a glance

  • The report from The Daily Beast Wednesday cited five anonymous administration officials working on the federal government’s response to the pandemic.
  • The outlet reports the task force’s response coordinator urged the CDC to exclude from the death count people who were presumed to be infected but did not have confirmed lab results, and those who had the virus but might not have died as a direct result from it.
  • Some officials from the CDC pushed back, saying the count is likely too low.

A new report claims President Trump and members of his coronavirus task force are pushing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to modify its coronavirus death-toll methodology in a way that could lead to fewer deaths being counted. 

The report from The Daily Beast Wednesday cited five anonymous administration officials working on the federal government’s response to the pandemic. The outlet reports Trump has privately questioned the number of COVID-19 deaths in the United States, which topped 80,000 this week, and suggested they may be incorrect or inflated by the current methodology. 


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The outlet reports Deborah Birx, the task force’s response coordinator, urged the CDC to exclude from the death count people who were presumed to be infected but did not have confirmed lab results, and those who had the virus but might not have died as a direct result from it. 

The Washington Post reported last week Birx and other officials were frustrated with the CDC’s system for tracking virus data, and worried stats like the mortality rate and case count could be inflated by as much as 25 percent. 

The agency counts COVID-19 deaths by using data from local health departments and data from states through a death-certificate digital coding system, The Daily Beast reports. 

Trump was reportedly concerned the criteria to count COVID-19 deaths was too wide and may include instances in which someone with the virus died by unnatural causes, like falling down a flight of stairs. 


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Officials with the CDC told the outlet they are pushing back against the request saying they are not concerned about overreporting, but rather, “almost certainly underestimating the number of deaths [in the country],” Bob Anderson, chief of the Mortality Statistics Branch in the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics told The Daily Beast. Anderson said doctors are already specifically asked to say whether deaths were caused by the coronavirus. 

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), said during a Senate Health Committee hearing Tuesday that the real number of deaths from coronavirus is “almost certainly” higher than the official death toll of more than 80,000, because of the likelihood that some deaths went unrecorded. 

The U.S. currently leads the world in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths. Nearly 1.4 million cases have been confirmed with more than 83,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins University data.


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Published on May 13, 2020