In late February, Trump claimed there were only 15 coronavirus cases in the United States — a vast understatement — and promised “within a couple of days,” the number would be close to zero. That number has now soared past 14,000 and is climbing exponentially. He seized on figures about how many people the seasonal flu killed annually — 37,000 last year alone — without the country needing to shutter most businesses. His own health officials categorically rejected the comparison.
Then, Trump promised the administration would have 1.4 million coronavirus tests available by mid-March. But as of Thursday, only 100,000 people had been tested, causing one of the president’s top infectious disease experts to concede, “Clearly, more needs to be done.”
Public health specialists say Trump’s use of misleading numbers to downplay the coronavirus outbreak — a challenge that could make-or-break his presidency — has had dangerous consequences, leading Americans to ignore official warnings about modifying behaviors to slow the disease’s spread.
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