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Trump’s False Claim on Tijuana Coronavirus Cases

President Donald Trump falsely claimed, “Tijuana is the most heavily infected place anywhere in the world, as far as the plague is concerned,” referring to the novel coronavirus.

Trump made the inaccurate statement in remarks June 5 at a roundtable on supporting America’s fishermen in Bangor, Maine.

You don’t have to look very far from the Mexican city to find a place with a much higher infection rate: the city of San Diego, California, right across the border.

Tijuana has had 2,335 cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, according to the latest statistics from the Baja California secretary of health. Mexico estimates Tijuana’s 2020 population at 1,789,531 – which would result in an infection rate of 130.5 per 100,000 people. It currently has just 69 active cases.

San Diego has had 3,880 COVID-19 cases and a rate of 273.3 cases per 100,000 through June 8, according to the county website. That’s twice as high as Tijuana’s rate.

At the same time, though, COVID-19 has been much deadlier in Tijuana. The city has experienced 643 deaths, while all of San Diego County, which includes the city, has had 301.

San Diego is hardly the only place with more infection than Tijuana.

For example, the District of Columbia, home of the White House and the Trump International Hotel, has about half of Tijuana’s population. Yet, according to Johns Hopkins University’s Coronavirus Resource Center, the nation’s capital, as of June 10, has had 9,474 cases of COVID-19, or 1,348.7 cases per 100,000 residents — a rate that is about 10 times higher than the Mexican city.

And the numbers are far more dramatic in such big-city disease hotspots as Cook County, Illinois, Chicago’s county, whose population of about 5.15 million has suffered 83,271 cases, and Los Angeles County, population about 10 million, with 65,945 cases.

Queens County, New York, where Trump grew up, has had 62,466 cases for a rate of 2,741 cases per 100,000 — 21 times Tijuana’s rate, according to Johns Hopkins. 

And Palm Beach, Florida, home of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, also has a far higher per capita rate than Tijuana. As of June 10, it has had 7,518 cases or 505.9 cases per 100,000 – nearly four times Tijuana’s rate.

Baja California Gov. Jaime Bonilla fired back at Trump’s off-base shot at Tijuana. “Mr. Trump sees the straw in someone else’s eye but does not see the beam in his own — instead of looking at the other side of the fence to see what is wrong, first take a look within your own house,” Bonilla said.

But Tijuana Mayor Arturo González said he felt Trump’s pain.

“The statements made by @realDonaldTrump are understandable, I don’t judge it,” the mayor tweeted. “In the country with the most Covid 19 deaths in the world, protests in more than 50 cities and elections on the doorstep, it is understandable that he has to distract attention from something or someone and it was our turn #Tijuana.”

Trump has mentioned Tijuana and the coronavirus before in connection with his campaign to build a wall to improve security along the Mexican border.

Trump, May 5: And in Tijuana, right along the border, they have a tremendous outbreak. And we have just completed 172 miles of wall. And it’s real wall, not the kind you were having built over the years that were sort of scoffed at, right?

He sounded a similar note three weeks later.

Trump, May 28: Mexico is having a very, very hard time, as you know, with COVID, especially along the border … with Tijuana and various places along the border. And fortunately, we have brand-new wall along there, and the wall is saving us.

While Trump was wrong about Tijuana’s numbers, there is no doubt Mexico, as so much of the world, has been hit hard by COVID-19. But not as badly as the United States.

According to data from Johns Hopkins University as of June 10, Mexico has 124,301 cases and 14,649 deaths. There have been 1,973,230 cases and 111,694 deaths in the U.S. The U.S. has a death rate (34.14 deaths per 100,000 people) that is nearly three times Mexico’s (11.61 deaths per 100,000).

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