By Alexandra Alper and Deena Beasley WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coronavirus patient himself, President Donald Trump on Tuesday said Americans were learning to live with the pandemic, posting comments online that drew a rebuke from Facebook and Twitter for likening the COVID-19 death toll to that of the annual flu. A day after leaving a […]
Back from hospital, Trump conflates COVID-19 death toll with false flu numbers
By Alexandra Alper and Deena Beasley
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A coronavirus patient himself, President Donald Trump on Tuesday said Americans were learning to live with the pandemic, posting comments online that drew a rebuke from Facebook and Twitter for likening the COVID-19 death toll to that of the annual flu.
A day after leaving a nearby hospital for the White House, where he will receive intensive treatments unavailable to most people, the Republican, 74, again understated the effects of the virus on social media.
“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!” Trump wrote on Twitter and Facebook.
Twitter Inc responded by putting a warning label on the post, saying it included potentially misleading information. Facebook Inc removed the Trump post for breaking its rules on COVID-19 misinformation, according to CNN.
“This is a lie. The flu doesn’t kill 100,000 a year,” Senator Chris Murphy, a Democrat, tweeted.
The United States has the world’s highest death toll from the pandemic, with more than 209,000 deaths. By comparison, influenza typically kills between some 22,000 and 64,000 people a year in the United States, U.S. government statistics show.
Trump’s chances of winning November’s election have taken a hit over the millions of jobs lost during coronavirus lockdowns, and he has frequently sought to encourage a return to work despite the pandemic.
Trump’s doctor said on Tuesday he was doing “extremely well” and reporting no COVID-19 symptoms. Sean Conley, a Navy commander, said a team of physicians met with the president on Tuesday morning.
“He had a restful first night at home, and today he reports no symptoms. Vital signs and physical exam remain stable, with an ambulatory oxygen saturation level of 95-97%,” Conley said in a statement released by the White House. “Overall he continues to do extremely well.”
Trump had no public events listed for Tuesday and it was unclear when he would resume a full schedule of presidential duties and campaigning ahead of Election Day, Nov. 3.
He tweeted that he was looking forward to a scheduled second debate with Democratic election opponent Joe Biden on Oct. 15 and wrote that he was feeling great. He had yet to be seen in public or to release a new video since Monday night.
Trump spent three days at a military hospital and was due to receive further doses of the antiviral drug remdesivir and the steroid dexamethasone, which is normally used in the most severe cases.
Trailing Biden in opinion polls, Trump’s campaign sought to project an image of a strong president who is overcoming his illness and planning to get back on the campaign circuit.
“We’re looking forward to him getting back on the trail when the doctors say it’s physically feasible for him to do so. He’s ready now,” Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley told Fox News.
A Twitter post by Biden showed images of himself donning a mask and Trump removing his. “Masks Matter. They save lives,” the caption read.
Trump returned to the White House on Monday in a made-for-television spectacle, descending from his Marine One helicopter wearing a white surgical mask, only to remove it as he posed, saluting and waving, on the mansion’s South Portico.
The severity of his illness has been the subject of intense speculation, with some experts noting that, as an overweight, elderly man, he was in a high risk category.
#GaspingForAir began trending on Twitter after video showed Trump appearing to take several deep breaths while standing on the White House balcony.
“Don’t let it dominate you. Don’t be afraid of it,” Trump said in a video after his return on Monday night. “I’m better, and maybe I’m immune – I don’t know,” he added. “Get out there. Be careful.”
Trump mocked Biden at last Tuesday’s presidential debate for wearing a mask when campaigning.
“I was aghast when he said COVID should not be feared,” said William Schaffner, a professor of preventive medicine and infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville.
Many Trump aides and confidants have been diagnosed with the disease since his announcement last week that he had tested positive, intensifying scrutiny and criticism of the administration’s handling of the pandemic.
Media outlets reported two more White House staffers had tested positive for the disease. One was a Trump valet, an active member of the U.S. military who traveled with the president last week, a Bloomberg News reporter said on Twitter, citing unnamed sources. Bloomberg, CNN and NBC also reported that a military aide to Trump had COVID-19.
White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany, herself diagnosed with the virus, said the rise in COVID-19 cases at the White House and among some Republican senators was not disrupting the functioning of the U.S. government.
“We are regularly meeting,” although some staff must attend remotely,” she told Fox Business Network.
The top U.S. military leaders are isolating after the Coast Guard’s No. 2 tested positive for the coronavirus, Pentagon officials said.
(Additional reporting by Alexandra Alper, Doina Chiacu, Ross Colvin, Steve Holland and Mohammad Zargham in Washington and by Deena Beasley in Los Angeles; Writing by Alistair Bell; Editing by Howard Goller)