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‘You can’t do that’: Trump refuses to discuss coronavirus death rate and says US beating rest of world on cases

President handed interviewer charts using his preferred metrics for measuring US’s pandemic performance

Andrew Naughtie
Tuesday 04 August 2020 15:56 BST
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Trump refuses to look at US coronavirus deaths per capita

Donald Trump has maintained that the US is beating the rest of the world on the coronavirus death rate, even as thousands of Americans are still dying every week.

Mr Trump’s analysis, which he advanced during a discussion with Axios interviewer Jonathan Swan, is based on deaths as a proportion of cases but ignores deaths per capita – a measure that puts the US among the worst countries in the world.

Asked about why the US is in such a bad situation relative to other countries, Mr Trump shuffled through pieces of paper bearing various charts, and handed Mr Swan a line graph which he said showed the US “lower than the world” in “case death”.

“Oh, you’re doing death as a proportion of cases,” said Mr Swan, inspecting the graph. “I’m talking about death as a proportion of population. That’s where the US is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, et cetera.”

“You can’t do that!” Mr Trump replied, this time holding a bar graph. “You have to go by – look, here’s the United States – you have to go by the cases.”

“What it says is when you have somebody that – where there’s a case, the people that live from those cases.”

Pressed again on per capita deaths by Mr Swan, who pointed out that the US has fared dramatically worse than South Korea or Germany, Mr Trump returned to testing, protesting that the US does more tests than any other country and asking “don’t we get credit for that?”

It is true that the US has seen a relatively low rate of deaths among those who have tested positive, but as Mr Swan pointed out, the wide disparity in national testing rates makes that figure a dubious indicator of different countries’ progress.

Meanwhile, according to Johns Hopkins University, the US is currently high up the ranking for deaths per capita, with a score of 47.33 confirmed coronavirus deaths per 100,000 people. The US’s total number of deaths sits at more than 154,000, nearly 60,000 ahead of the second-placed country, Brazil.

Mr Trump has bridled at the use of per capita figures before, most famously at a May press conference with the governors of Kansas and Arkansas, where he pushed back on a question about whether the US is genuinely pulling away from the rest of the world with its testing regime.

“You know, when you say ‘per capita’, there’s many per capitas,” the president retorted. “It’s like, per capita relative to what? But you can look at just about any category, and we’re really at the top, meaning positive on a per capita basis, too.”

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