AP FACT CHECK: Trump twists US-China coronavirus deaths

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump is asserting that deaths from COVID-19 are much higher in China than in the U.S., when the opposite is true.

China has more than four times the population of the U.S. yet reported far fewer deaths: about 4,600 vs. more than 32,000 in the United States as of late afternoon Friday.

The full reality cannot be divined. Trump routinely manipulates numbers and information to make the U.S response to the coronavirus pandemic look better than it is. China’s secretive leadership obscured the severity of the crisis for crucial weeks, and its numbers remain in question.

As well, it is certain that deaths from the virus have not been fully reported in either country because the pandemic is still raging in the U.S. and still being accounted for in China.

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Even so, in a tweet Friday, Trump flipped a striking disparity on its head to form an empty boast:

TRUMP: “China has just announced a doubling in the number of their deaths from the Invisible Enemy. It is far higher than that and far higher than the U.S., not even close!”

THE FACTS: It’s the reverse. And the notion that China can overtake the U.S. in a final accounting of the dead is implausible.

Even with the upward revision Friday of Chinese deaths — which was not a doubling, as Trump claimed — the recorded U.S. death toll is about seven times higher than China’s, according to the latest count by Johns Hopkins University.

For China to surpass the U.S. in this lethal count, it would have to be under-reporting deaths by the tens of thousands, and deaths in the U.S. would have to nosedive from the current trend and projections.

A scientific model that U.S. public-health authorities have repeatedly cited, from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, now projects more than 60,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by August. Its worst-case scenario is for more than 140,000 deaths by then.

These projections assume current social distancing is maintained until infections are minimized and the spread is contained.

China on Friday reported 4,632 deaths in total, up from 3,342, a spike due largely to previously uncounted deaths in Wuhan, the city where human infection by the coronavirus is believed to have started.

A group to review the numbers was established in late March. It looked at data from more sources than at the height of the pandemic there as it collected information from fever clinics, temporary hospitals, quarantine sites, prisons, elderly care centers and more places. People who died at home because hospitals had no room for them were counted, too.

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EDITOR’S NOTE — A look at the veracity of claims by political figures.

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