Trump disputes WHO’s 3.4 percent global death rate for coronavirus

President Trump on Wednesday disputed the death rate of the coronavirus as reported by the World Health Organization (WHO), calling the 3.4 percent figure “really a false number.”

“I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number,” Trump told Fox News’s Sean Hannity in a phone interview Wednesday evening when asked for his reaction to the death rate reported earlier this week. “Now, this is just a hunch, but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this.”

“A lot of people will have this and it’s very mild. They’ll get better very rapidly. They don’t even see a doctor. They don’t even call a doctor. You never hear about those people,” Trump continued, asserting that those cases could not be included in the overall count of people who have contracted the coronavirus, which he at one point incorrectly identified as the “corona flu” before correcting himself.

“Personally, I think the number is way under 1 percent,” Trump continued.

WHO officials reported the 3.4 percent death rate among cases of the novel coronavirus worldwide during a press briefing Tuesday — a figure that is higher than previously thought. Two percent had been a figure used earlier. 

“Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died. By comparison, seasonal flu generally kills far fewer than 1 percent of those infected,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said at a press briefing on Tuesday. 

The mortality rates from coronavirus have varied from country to country, with South Korea, as one example, showing a much lower mortality rate — something that has been credited to the increased testing in that country.

Older people also have a much higher mortality rate than younger people.

One reason the mortality rate could come down is that many people with coronavirus have not been diagnosed. Patients with considerably mild symptoms, for instance, may not seek treatment for the virus, meaning those cases would go undetected.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, a medical expert and member of the White House coronavirus task force, has said the true figure could be closer to 1 percent.

During the Fox News interview Wednesday night, Trump also at one point suggested that people would get better from the virus while going to work.

“If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by sitting around and even going to work – some of them go to work – but they get better, and then when you do have a death like you had in the state of Washington like you had one in California, I believe you had one in New York, now all of a sudden it seems like 3 or 4 percent which is a very high number, as opposed to … a fraction of 1 percent,” Trump told Hannity.

“They don’t know about the easy cases because the easy cases don’t go to the hospital, they don’t report to doctors or the hospital in many cases,” the president continued.

Trump has sought to minimize the risk of the virus, at times contradicting health experts in a way that has prompted scrutiny. For instance, Trump said last week that he didn’t believe the spread of the virus in the United States will be inevitable despite medical officials pointing to it as a likelihood.

The president on Monday also suggested a vaccine for the virus could be produced in “a few months,” an assertion that health officials quickly disputed by saying that it would take at least a year or a year and a half to produce a vaccine.

By Thursday morning, Trump was lashing out at the media over the coverage over his Fox News remarks, tweeting that he “NEVER said people that are feeling sick should go to work.”

Trump accused Democrats and media outlets, singling out MSNBC in particular, of disseminating “disinformation” about his administration’s response to the coronavirus in order to “do harm” the effort.

Updated: 10:28 a.m.

Tags Coronavirus death rate Donald Trump Sean Hannity White House World Health Organization

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