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Meadows defends Trump claim that 99% of COVID-19 cases harmless

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Meadows defends Trump claim that 99 percent of COVID-19 cases harmless


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USA TODAY

WASHINGTON – White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday defended President Donald Trump's claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “harmless” – an assertion at odds with a wide array of data on death rates and hospitalizations and studies on the impact of the disease.

Trump has downplayed the disease as governors across the country have halted reopenings of their states in an effort to stem a surge in cases. 

Asked on “Fox and Friends” about Trump's claim that 99% of coronavirus cases were “harmless,” Meadows responded, “When you start to look at the stats and all the numbers that we have, the amount of testing that we have, the vast majority of people are safe from this.” 

“Outside of comorbidities” such as diabetes or hypertension, he said, the “risks are extremely low and the president’s right with that, and the facts and the statistics back us up there.”

More than 130,000 Americans have died as a result of the coronavirus, according to Johns Hopkins University data, and coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country.

The fatality rate, or deaths divided by confirmed cases, is 4.5%, according to Johns Hopkins, though the death rate could vary and could be lower if cases are undercounted because of the lack of testing. More than 38,000 people are hospitalized with the coronavirus, according to the COVID Tracking Project's seven-day rolling average of hospitalizations. 

The rise in cases in Texas has left officials worried about the availability of intensive care units. Austin Mayor Steve Adler told the Austin American-Statesman of the USA TODAY Network that units could be overrun in the next two weeks if cases continue to climb in the region. 

US coronavirus map: Tracking the outbreak

Large numbers of Americans have comorbidities that put them at higher risk for severe coronavirus cases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says more than 100 million Americans live with diabetes or prediabetes, and nearly half of Americans have high blood pressure. The prevalence of such conditions is higher in racial minority groups, which have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. 

Stephen Ferrara, associate dean of clinical affairs at Columbia University, called Meadows' comments “dangerous” on Twitter.  

“This messaging will kill people,” said Neera Tanden, president of the Center for American Progress, a liberal think tank, who was infected with the coronavirus this year. 

The Democratic National Committee posted the Fox clip, calling Trump's coronavirus claim a “dangerous and absurd lie.”  

During his July Fourth speech at the White House, Trump said 99% of coronavirus cases “are totally harmless.”

In television interviews the following day, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn declined to comment on Trump's remarks. 

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican who tested positive for the coronavirus in March, told “CBS This Morning” on Monday that Trump's comments “did not line up” with what he was seeing in Miami, and he “wouldn't go that far” to describe as many cases as “harmless.” 

More: FDA commissioner refuses to comment on Trump's claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are ‘harmless'

Coronavirus updates: 112 Washington fraternity students infected; Broadway actor Nick Cordero dies; Michigan reports zero deaths

‘Almost like a social pandemic': As states pause reopenings, experts warn of more confusion, isolation, agitation

Asked in the same interview whether the Trump campaign should have taken more precautions at its rally last month in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before another rally planned for Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Saturday, Meadows said, “We have not seen major outbreaks with the Tulsa event. … We allow that freedom to take place and certainly want to encourage that going forward.” 

Several Trump campaign staffers and employees of the Secret Service tested positive for the coronavirus before the Tulsa rally, which gathered supporters in an indoor arena in the city's downtown over the objections of health officials.

Since then, top campaign finance official Kimberly Guilfoyle, Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend, and Black Voices for Trump co-chair Herman Cain have tested positive. Both officials attended the Tulsa rally. 

The Trump campaign said attendees at its Portsmouth rally would have “ample access to hand sanitizer” and face masks, which would be encouraged. 

Disposable surgical masks and hand sanitizer bottles were provided at the rally in Tulsa, but few participants opted to wear the masks. 

Read or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/07/06/meadows-defends-trump-claim-99-percent-covid-19-cases-harmless/5382610002/





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