President Donald Trump made a series of inaccurate claims during his Fox News interview with Chris Wallace on Sunday. At one point, Trump demanded his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany hand him proof that he is right about the U.S. having the lowest mortality rate in the world, which isn't accurate. It begs the question of whether Trump is being lied to by his advisers or if he's lying to the American people.
Either way, Dr. Rochelle Walensky, chief division of infectious diseases, Massachusetts General Hospital, explained that there are several different measures of "mortality" in the coronavirus, but by no measure is the United States the best in the list.
"You can measure given a patient had the disease, what's the chance they would have passed?" Dr. Walensky said. "The United States ranks about seventh there, 3 percent of people with the disease in the United States have passed away from COVID-19. Another way to look at it, what is the number of people per 100,000 [who] passed in the United States compared to other countries. Unfortunately, on that metric we rank third behind the U.K. and Mexico, 65 per 100,000 in the U.K., 45 in Mexico and 42 in the United States. The tragic thing is our numbers are rising because our cases are going up exponentially, in comparison to the U.K., where the cases are low and flat. Unfortunately, I think we're going to surpass the U.K. in the number of deaths per 100,000 in the United States."
CNN host Wolf Blitzer compared the U.S. to South Korea, which has millions of people but still has under 300 deaths from COVID-19.
"We know there's a lag between tests going up and mortality rate following," Blitzer continued. "Is it fair to grade the U.S. handling of the coronavirus on the mortality rate when we've also heard so many reports of lasting and debilitating symptoms from the virus. Even a lot of people who don't die are ill for months and months and may have long-term ramifications down the road?"
Dr. Jeremy Faust, a physician at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, agreed with Blitzer.
"That is absolutely right, Wolf, and I don't think our report card is good on any particular metric," said Dr. Faust. "The mortality rate, we ought to be first, we are the country that led the way on some vaccines, has done better than anyone else on cancer. We ought to be first, but in this particular crisis, we're not first on anything, mortality rate, testing, capacity. We ought to be disturbed by that fact and start to own up to it. The world is not looking to us right now for leadership, and usually, they do on issues when it comes to medical science. There are a lot of ways to look at this and a lot of ways we have room for improvement."
Trump also said that doctors were wrong when they predicted that the virus would dissipate in the summer.
Dr. Walensky said that this was a nuanced two-fold explanation. First, most respiratory diseases do disappear in the summer, but COVID-19 isn't just any respiratory disease. Secondly, she said that many scientists assumed that people would follow medical recommendations, shelter in place, wear masks, and stay socially distant. That didn't happen, and the results have been an increase in cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
See the full conversation below: