AP FACT CHECK: A more measured Trump doesn’t mean accurate

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump in recent days suddenly acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic and edged away…

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump in recent days suddenly acknowledged the gravity of the coronavirus pandemic and edged away from some of his most audacious falsehoods about it. That’s not to say he gave the public an honest accounting.

Trump minimized the potential risk to children and those around them as he advocated reopening schools. He again marveled at the number of COVID-19 tests being performed in the U.S. even as the overwhelmed testing system crucially fails to deliver sufficient access and timely results.

And he cited a low U.S. death rate from COVID-19 compared with other countries, when the global statistics appear to contradict him.

All this while Trump canceled Republican National Convention events in Jacksonville, Florida, bowing to the reality that many Republicans were reluctant to go a state where the virus has been out of control.

Meantime his press secretary peddled false internet rumors that the “cancel culture” led to the cancellation of a cartoon about puppies.

A review of some statements from the past week:


TRUMP, on the U.S. approaching 50 million tests: “This allows us to isolate those who are infected, even those without symptoms. So we know exactly where it’s going and when it’s going to be there.” — briefing Tuesday.

THE FACTS: This is by no means true.

In many if not most parts of the country, people who manage to get a test can wait for many days for the results because labs are overwhelmed. In the meantime, those people could be and in some cases surely are spreading infection. And many people who want a test but report no symptoms can’t get one.

Some labs are taking weeks to return COVID-19 results because of the crushing workload from the surge of new cases.

“There’s been this obsession with, ‘How many tests are we doing per day?’” said Dr. Tom Frieden, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “The question is, how many tests are being done with results coming back within a day, where the individual tested is promptly isolated and their contacts are promptly warned?”



TRUMP on young people and the virus: “Now, they don’t catch it easily; they don’t bring it home easily. And if they do catch it, they get better fast. We’re looking at that fact.” — briefing Wednesday.

THE FACTS: That isn’t a fact. He doesn’t have the science to reach this broad conclusion.

His coronavirus task force coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, and other public health officials have said repeatedly that while children appear to get less sick from the virus than adults, the threat to young people and their ability to spread the virus are not understood because not enough research has been done on kids and COVID-19.

Birx underscored the point Friday on NBC’s “Today” show. Whether children under 10 spread the virus the same as older children “is still an open question” she said.

“We know that children under 18 are less sick, but there are some that suffer terrible consequences if they have underlying conditions,” she added. “Children under 10 do get infected. It’s just unclear how rapidly they spread the virus.”

Trump has been pushing for schools to reopen and at one point threatened to withhold federal money if they don’t.

While his assurances about children were unsupported, they were a step back from his earlier rhetoric that portrayed kids as practically immune to infection. “It’s very unique how the children aren’t affected,” he said in early May. “Incredible.”



TRUMP on the U.S. and other countries in the pandemic: “We’ve done much better than most. And with the fatality rate at a lower rate than most, it’s something that we can talk about, but we’re working, again, with them because we’re helping a lot of countries that people don’t even know about.” — briefing Tuesday.

THE FACTS: No, the U.S. does not shine in comparison with other countries. The U.S. has experienced far more recorded infections and deaths from COVID-19 than any other country, including those with larger populations, and it lags a number of other nations in testing and containment.

Trump seems to have edged away from claiming that the U.S. mortality rate is the world’s best, after being confronted on that point in his Fox News interview a week ago with Chris Wallace. His more modest boasts since, though, also are not correct.

Understanding deaths as a percentage of the population or as a percentage of known infections is problematic because countries track and report COVID-19 deaths and cases differently. No one can reliably rank countries in this regard.

The statistics that do exist fail to support his assertion.

In an analysis of the 20 countries currently most affected by the pandemic, the…

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