But the deaths are not “almost nothing” — and they are rising. Roughly 1,000 Americans died from the disease on Thursday, as Trump Jr. appeared on Fox News host Laura Ingraham’s show to downplay the U.S. death toll. And among those who survive the coronavirus, many have long-term damage to vital organs and lingering chronic symptoms.
“The reality is this: If you look, I put it up on my Instagram a couple days ago, because I went through the CDC data, because I kept hearing about new infections,” Trump Jr. said. “But I was like, ‘Well, why aren’t they talking about deaths?’ Oh, oh, because the number is almost nothing. Because we’ve gotten control of this, and we understand how it works.”
Those remarks resemble other misleading or outright untrue rhetoric put forth in recent days by President Donald Trump, who has been increasingly dismissive of the pandemic’s threat ahead of Election Day. “More Testing equals more Cases. We have best testing. Deaths WAY DOWN,” he tweeted on Friday morning.
Trump has repeatedly said the U.S. is “rounding the turn” in its fight against Covid-19 — an assertion contradicted by his own White House task coronavirus task force.
According to notes of a private task force call with governors on Friday, task force coordinator Deborah Birx acknowledged the severity of the spread, particularly in the northern U.S. She said 1,200 counties — one-third of the country — qualify as “hot spots.” In only one state are cases falling, and in only seven are hospitalizations decreasing.
She told the governors that reaching a plateau — stabilizing the virus, not even bringing it down — will take “every single person in your states moving forward with” wearing masks, maintaining social distance, avoiding gatherings, and handwashing.
The administration’s coronavirus testing czar also expressed concern this week about the trajectory of the pandemic, pointing to the growing number of deaths to correct the president. “The cases are actually going up. And we know that, too, because hospitalizations are going up,” Adm. Brett Giroir told NBC’s “Today” show on Wednesday, adding: “We do know that deaths are increasing, unfortunately.”
Public health experts predict an even greater death toll throughout the fall and winter months, as the U.S. coronavirus outbreak collides with the annual flu season. “If things do not change, if they continue on the course we’re on, there’s going to be a whole lot of pain in this country with regard to additional cases and hospitalizations and deaths,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, told CNBC on Wednesday.
Adam Cancryn contributed to this report.