USA

Fact check: In jobs speech, Trump does more dishonest downplaying of the pandemic

Trump claimed that, just like in China and Europe, the situation in the US is "getting under control." He said health experts "continue to address the temporary hot spots in certain cities and counties." And he said "we have some areas where we're putting out the flames or the fires, and that's working out well ... I think you'll see that shortly."

Facts First: As government officials have confirmed this week, the pandemic situation in the US is worsening; it is not a matter of isolated outbreaks, and the problem is not being extinguished. The US set a single-day record on Wednesday for confirmed coronavirus cases, hitting 50,000 for the first time. As of Thursday, 37 states were seeing increases in the rate of confirmed new cases. And it's not just mild cases: Robert Redfield, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told Congress on Tuesday that hospitalizations were rising in 12 states.

Asked during congressional testimony on Tuesday if the pandemic is under control, Dr. Anthony Fauci said that although some parts of the country are doing well, the broader numbers "speak for themselves."

"I'm very concerned, and I'm not satisfied with what's going on, because we're going in the wrong direction if you look at the curves of the new cases. So we've really got to do something about that and we need to do it quickly. Short answer to your question is that clearly we are not in total control right now," he said.

Fauci said he would "not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around, and so I am very concerned."

A senior administration health official, Dr. Brett Giroir, told Congress on Thursday that the spike in recorded cases is a result of a genuine increase in infections, not just (as Trump has repeatedly claimed) the country doing more testing. He cited the increase in the percentage of tests coming back positive.

"There is no question that the more testing you get, the more you will uncover -- but we do believe this is a real increase in cases, because the percent positivities are going up," Giroir, assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services, told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis.

Giroir said we did flatten the curve earlier during the pandemic, but "we are not flattening the curve right now; the curve is still going up."

Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, told CNN on Thursday that Trump's description of the crisis is inaccurate.

"These are not 'hot spots' or 'embers.' Instead, we are seeing a massive resurgence of Covid-19 across the American South, especially in our metro areas, now at 50,000 cases per day and rapidly approaching 100,000 cases per day in the coming weeks," Hotez said.

"This is not a temporary problem and it is not limited to a few hot spots," said Jennifer Horney, professor and founding director of the epidemiology program at the University of Delaware.

Horney said a robust system of contact tracing, in which health workers attempt to identify and track down anyone with whom an infected person was in personal contact, is necessary to control outbreaks. Given the high number of new cases per day and the high reproduction rate of the virus in multiple states -- she listed Florida, Nevada, Michigan, Arizona, Texas, Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina and Louisiana -- she said "it would be very difficult to scale up a contact tracing program to effectively control the pandemic in those locations."
Trump's comments were similar to misleading remarks last week by Vice President Mike Pence. They were in line with Trump's repeated insistence in mid-June and late June, against all evidence, that the virus is "dying out" or "fading away."

Hotez said the Trump administration is so far "unable to articulate the extent of the problem, the devastation it is causing currently, and the deaths and permanent injuries that will surely follow."

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