President Donald Trump and Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, both jabbed at China on Saturday over the official fatality rate of coronavirus victims that China has reported.
China, where the virus was first reported in December, has said that it had 83,805 confirmed cases, according to the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center. China has reported 4,636 deaths. Late last week, after insisting for weeks its numbers were accurate, China increased the death toll in the city of Wuhan by 1,290 to 3,869 — a jump of nearly 50 percent from its previous reporting.
China’s reporting came to the fore during Saturday’s media briefing as Birx showed a chart contrasting the U.S. death rate with that of other nations. (35:14)
“The president talked about the case fatality rates, and we really, we’ve lost a lot of Americans to this disease, and we pray and hope for each one of them that are in the hospitals, they get excellent care,” she said.
“What does this graph illustrate is the amazing work of the American people to really adhere to social distancing. This was nothing we had ever attempted to do as a nation, and the world hadn’t attempted to do. But they were able to decrease the number of cases so that in general, most of the metro areas never had an issue of complete crisis care of all of their hospitals in a region. So you can see our case fatality rate is about half to a third of many of the other countries.”
Trump then interjected his opinion of China’s mortality rate, which at .33 per 100,000 people is a fraction of the rate reported by any other nation.
“Excuse me. Does anybody really believe this number? Does anybody really believe this number?” Trump said
Birx then explained why China’s official number was so implausible.
“I put China on there so you could see how basically unrealistic this could be,” she said.
“When highly developed health care delivery systems of the United Kingdom, and France, and Belgium, and Italy, and Spain, with extraordinary doctors and nurses and equipment have case fatality rates in the 20s, up to 45, and Belgium is extraordinarily competent health care delivery system, and then China at 0.33, you realize that these numbers, even, and this includes the doubled number out of Wuhan,” she said.
“So I want really to put it in perspective, but I wanted you also to see how great the care has been for every American that has been hospitalized,” Birx said.
Trump then criticized the reporting coming out of China and Iran.
“Also, the number for Iran. Does anybody really believe that number?” he said about the 37-minute mark of the video, gesturing to the 6.06 per 100,000 fatality rate reported by the Islamic Republic. “You see what’s going on. Put that slide back, if you would. Does anybody believe this number? Does anybody believe this number? You saw more bags on television than that,” Trump said.
Birx then made the point that hiding the truth threatens lives around the world.
“This is why the reporting is so important. And I think you remember almost six weeks ago, maybe a month ago, I was telling you what Italy was showing to us, and what France was telling to us. And the warnings that they gave to us, and said, ‘Be very careful. There’s an extraordinary high mortality among people with preexisting conditions.’ And we used their information to bring that to the American people. That came, that alert, that alert before we even had significant cases, came from our European colleagues on the front line,” she said.
Birx later criticized China.
“And so there is never an excuse to not share information,” she said about the 38:25-mark of the video. “When you are the first country to have an outbreak, you really have a moral obligation to the world to not only talk about it, but provide that information that’s critical to the rest of the world to really respond to this credibly.”
Trump noted that “if it was stopped very early on at the source, before it started blowing into these proportions, we have 184 countries that would have been in a lot better shape.”
When asked about his interpretation of the data flowing from China, Trump went on the offensive.
“Well, you tell me, do you think that data is good when you see that? Do you think that’s correct, OK? Do you honestly believe that’s correct?” he said, about the 45:47-mark of the video.
Trump was later asked if China should face some consequence for its actions.
“Well if they were knowingly responsible, certainly. If it was a mistake, a mistake is a mistake. But if they were knowingly responsible? Yeah. Then there should be consequences,” Trump said.
“The question was asked, would you be angry at China?” he said, about the 1:01:38 mark.
“Well, the answer might very well be a very resounding yes, but it depends. Was it a mistake that got out of control or was it done deliberately? OK. There’s a big difference between those two. In either event, they should have let us go in. We asked to go in very early and they didn’t want us in. I think they were embarrassed. I think they knew it was something bad and I think they were embarrassed.”
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