George Washington University stands by Puerto Rican death toll study

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George Washington University (GWU) is standing behind a study produced by university researchers that determined Hurricane Maria led to the deaths of nearly 3,000 Puerto Ricans. 

The statement backing up the university’s study comes hours after President Trump on Thursday morning called into question the death toll, claiming it was inflated by Democrats

{mosads}”We stand by the science underlying our study which found there were an estimated 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria,” reads the statement from GWU’s Milken Institute School of Public Health, obtained by NBC. “We are confident that the number — 2,975 — is the most accurate and unbiased estimate of excess mortality to date.”

The Milken Institute School of Public Health did not immediately respond to The Hill’s request for comment.

The statement details how researchers came to the number, which has been accepted by the Puerto Rican government as the hurricane’s official death toll.

Trump in a pair of tweets claimed 3,000 people did not die as a result of hurricanes Maria and Irma, adding the revised death toll was “was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico.”

Multiple lawmakers have come out strongly against Trump’s denial, standing by the report’s findings. 

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in a statement on Thursday said “it is a fact” that 2,975 people died following the devastating hurricane.

The GWU report came to the 2,975 estimate by assessing how much “excess mortality” there was following the Category 5 hurricane, which devastated the island’s infrastructure and resources in 2017.

The researchers assessed typical mortality rates from 2010 to 2017, then compared that figure to the number of deaths in the six months after Maria. 

“Overall, we estimate that 40 percent of municipalities experienced significantly higher mortality in the study period than in the comparable period of the previous two years,” the report says

The study, commissioned by the government of Puerto Rico, found risk of death was 45 percent higher for “populations living in low socioeconomic development municipalities” and men 65 years or older.  

“This study, commissioned by the Government of Puerto Rico, was carried out with complete independence and freedom from any kind of interference,” the GW statement states. The study followed multiple other studies using different methods that also estimated the Puerto Rican death toll to be much higher than early estimates that put it at less than 100.

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