Health Letter, May 2020
By Michael Carome, M.D.
If you’re not outraged,
you’re not paying attention!
Read what Public Citizen has to say about the biggest blunders and outrageous offenses in the world of public health, published monthly in Health Letter.
As the number of coronavirus cases in the U.S. quickly approached 1 million and facing withering criticism for his administration’s disastrous response to the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump dissembled at every daily White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing.
Trump’s habitual disregard for the facts and his fantasies about his administration’s grossly negligent pandemic response pose an ongoing mortal danger to U.S. citizens.
The President’s common misleading narrative is that his administration is doing a “tremendous” job containing the coronavirus. As evidence of that supposed success, he repeatedly cites U.S. coronavirus statistics that have no basis in reality. For example, at the April 13 White House briefing, Trump falsely claimed that the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths per capita in the U.S. were “very low.”
But the facts remain Trump’s biggest albatross: The per capita numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. compared with those of other countries are very high. Data derived from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control revealed that as of April 14, among 204 countries and territories, the U.S. ranked 17th in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 15th in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.
Similarly, as of April 14, among the 36 economically advanced countries comprising the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. ranked eighth in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11th in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.
Although most Americans expect Trump to lie whenever he opens his mouth and speaks about the coronavirus pandemic, they generally have viewed the public health experts serving on the White House Coronavirus Task Force — like Ambassador Deborah Birx, a physician and internationally recognized leading public health expert who was appointed to serve as the White House coronavirus response coordinator, and Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases — as respected, credible voices.
But Birx undermined her own credibility when she falsely claimed at an April 21 White House briefing that the U.S. had “one of the lowest [coronavirus] mortality rates in the entire world,” echoing an assertion that Trump himself had made earlier during the same briefing.
To the contrary, the facts demonstrate that the U.S. at that time had one of the highest coronavirus mortality rates in the world. Data derived from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control revealed that, among 204 countries and territories, the U.S. as of April 22 ranked 13th in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita and 48th in COVID-19 case-fatality rates (number of confirmed deaths per confirmed cases).
Likewise, among the 36 economically advanced countries comprising the OECD, the U.S. as of April 22 ranked 10th in both the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita and COVID-19 case-fatality rates.
Such false statements from leading national public health experts are particularly dangerous because they will lead people to ignore critically important public health advice, further fueling the spread of the coronavirus.
Moreover, these circumstances demonstrate that even the most highly respected medical experts can be corrupted to the point of spewing misinformation if they are exposed to Trump’s pernicious sphere of influence for too long.
And there’s no vaccine for that.