The watchdog group Public Citizen on Tuesday challenged President Donald Trump's repeated claims that casualties in the United States related to the coronavirus are "very low," adding to mounting criticism from across the globe over how his administration has handled the crisis.
"Trump's habitual disregard for the facts and his fantasies about his administration's grossly negligent pandemic response pose an ongoing mortal danger to U.S. citizens," Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen's Health Research Group, declared in response to the president's Monday night COVID-19 briefing.
After a reporter at the briefing asked whether Trump agreed that putting coronavirus mitigation practices in place earlier would have saved lives, the president rambled on about the spread of the virus in recent months before saying that "by the way, we're doing very well because when you look at all of those flat graphs and you add it all up, the United States is very low, and per capita we're very low. We're doing very well."
Carome pushed back against that comment in his statement Tuesday. "The facts, again, remain Trump's biggest albatross," he said. "The per capita numbers of confirmed COVID-19 cases and deaths in the U.S. compared with other countries are very high."
According to Carmone:
Data compiled by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control reveal that among 204 countries and territories, the U.S. ranks 17th in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 15th in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.
Similarly, among the 36 economically advanced countries comprising the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the U.S. ranks eighth in the number of confirmed COVID-19 cases and 11th in the number of COVID-19 deaths per capita.
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The United States had at least 589,048 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 25,163 related deaths as of press time Tuesday, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker. Globally, there were 1,956,077 cases and 125,123 deaths.
As the U.S. has become the epicenter of the global pandemic—which experts believe began in China late last year—both Trump and congressional leaders have faced intense criticism for responding to the country's outbreak with inadequate measures to limit the spread of the virus and provide health and financial relief to the public.
Trump's "disastrous crisis management" throughout the pandemic has left people within and beyond the United States asking, in the words of German news magazine Der Spiegel: "Are we witnessing the implosion of a superpower?"
Viet Thanh Nguyen, a contributing opinion writer at the New York Times, suggested Friday that "if anything good emerges out of this period, it might be an awakening to the pre-existing conditions of our body politic. We were not as healthy as we thought we were. The biological virus afflicting individuals is also a social virus."
"Its symptoms—inequality, callousness, selfishness , and a profit motive that undervalues human life and overvalues commodities—were for too long masked by the hearty good cheer of American exceptionalism, the ruddiness of someone a few steps away from a heart attack," Nguyen continued. "Even if America as we know it survives the coronavirus, it can hardly emerge unscathed."
"If the illusion of invincibility is shredded for any patient who survives a near-fatal experience," he added, "then what might die after COVID-19 is the myth that we are the best country on earth, a belief common even among the poor, the marginal, the precariat, who must believe in their own Americanness if in nothing else."