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As Deaths Rise, Trump Sticks with Old Numbers

During his July 14 press conference from the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump made the outdated claim that U.S. deaths from COVID-19 are down “tenfold.”

Data from three different sources show that, as of July 14, the total number, and seven-day average, of daily deaths from the disease caused by the coronavirus had declined between threefold and fourfold from its peak more than two months ago.

Trump made the claim as he argued that news organizations have recently highlighted record increases in cases of the disease in several states, rather than focusing on the fact that deaths from COVID-19 have declined from their previous high.

Trump, July 14: And when I turn on the news, I see, “cases, cases, cases.” They don’t talk about deaths being cut down to a level that — actually, “tenfold,” they use. I got that from one of the very respected media outlets — “Tenfold.” Cut tenfold. Yes, but they don’t talk about that; they talk about cases.

Trump’s “very respected” source appears to be the Washington Times, which was merely quoting his press secretary. We searched the Nexis news database and couldn’t find any other news organization using the “tenfold” language.

On July 7, Trump tweeted about a Washington Times article that quoted White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany saying, in a July 6 press briefing, that there had been a “tenfold” decrease in deaths.

“The president is not downplaying the severity of the virus,” McEnany said in response to a reporter’s question about Trump’s false claim that “99%” of COVID-19 cases “are totally harmless.” She explained: “What the president is noting is that at the height of this pandemic we were at 2,500 deaths per day. We are now at a place where on July 4 there were 254. That’s a tenfold decrease in mortality.”

We don’t know where McEnany got those figures; the White House didn’t tell us.

The data aggregation website Worldometer reports that there were 2,748 coronavirus-related deaths on April 21 — at the peak — and 265 deaths on July 4. Those aren’t the same totals McEnany cited — but it was a tenfold decrease, as she said.

However, daily deaths have increased in the days since — including in Arizona, California, Florida, South Carolina and Texas — meaning Trump’s “tenfold” talking point is stale.

On July 14, the day of Trump’s press conference, there were 935 deaths, according to Worldometer. That’s only a threefold decrease from the number of deaths on April 21.

Slightly different totals from two other sources also show less of a decline in daily deaths than Trump claimed.

There was a high of 2,752 deaths on April 15 and a total of 954 deaths on July 14, according to the New York Times. That’s a threefold decrease, as well.

In addition, the COVID Tracking Project reports that there were 736 deaths on July 14, which would be a nearly fourfold decrease from the peak of 2,742 deaths it reports for May 7. We have included a chart of that website’s totals to better illustrate how the number of daily deaths has changed over time. (Scroll to the right to see the full chart.)

There also hasn’t been a tenfold decline in the seven-day average of deaths, which accounts for fluctuations in daily totals over a full week.

Here are those averages at their high point, and on July 14, according to Worldometer, the New York Times and the COVID Tracking Project.

7-Day Average of COVID-19 Deaths
High point  July 14
Worldometer 2,254 (on April 21) 743
New York Times 2,232 (on April 17) 724
COVID Tracking Project 2,429 (on April 21) 689

Each source shows a decline of less than fourfold over those time periods.

Trump does have a point that daily deaths from COVID-19 “are way down” from their previous highs, as Trump noted in a July 9 interview on Sean Hannity’s Fox News show. The president claimed a “tenfold” decrease in “mortality” then, too. But on July 9, the number of daily deaths was already higher than it had been over the July 4 weekend.

And on July 14, it also was no longer the case that deaths had been “cut tenfold,” which is what Trump said in the Rose Garden. He has simply ignored the increases in daily deaths that have occurred since July 4.

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