WASHINGTON — As cases of the coronavirus continue to spread around the world and the U.S., President Donald Trump is not backing away from spreading personal beliefs about the virus that contradict veteran health officials and experts.
Trump has a long history of distrusting experts, most notably his own intelligence community and government scientists, and he frequently claims to know more than his career experts on a wide range of subjects. But with the world teetering on the edge of a global pandemic, the stakes for Trump's pushback have never been so high. As of Thursday afternoon, 12 U.S. patients had died and more than 100 Americans had been diagnosed with COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus.
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Trump has painted criticism about his comments on the virus as a Democratic "hoax" and media "hysteria." On Thursday, the president's re-election campaign sent out a memo claiming that the "media's obsession with weaponizing the coronavirus against President Trump remains at pandemic levels."
Here is a look at the gap between what Trump has said and what health experts say:
Experts say the death rate is 3.4 percent. Trump says that's 'false.'
The World Health Organization said this week that about 3.4 percent of coronavirus patients have died.
"Globally, about 3.4 percent of reported COVID-19 cases have died," Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the WHO, said at a news conference in Geneva this week.
During an interview with Fox News host Sean Hannity on Wednesday night, Trump claimed that the WHO estimate was "false," citing a "hunch" he had.
"I think the 3.4 percent is really a false number — and this is just my hunch — but based on a lot of conversations with a lot of people that do this, because a lot of people will have this and it's very mild, they'll get better very rapidly. They don't even see a doctor. They don't even call a doctor. You never hear about those people," Trump said.
Death rates can vary over time and are different for each country. Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Congress on Wednesday that it's too early to know the real mortality rate, because it's not clear how many people have been infected.
Experts predict 'more cases.' Trump says U.S. cases are 'going very substantially down.'
During a news conference at the White House last week, multiple health officials warned that the virus will continue to spread throughout the U.S.
Anne Schuchat, a senior career official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said at the news conference that "we do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare," and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar also said the U.S. should expect more cases.
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But Trump has repeatedly downplayed the potential for the coronavirus to spread throughout the U.S., even suggesting without scientific evidence that the number of cases would soon decrease.
At the same news conference, Trump said the number of cases "within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero. That's a pretty good job we've done."
"We're going very substantially down, not up," Trump added.
Trump says a vaccine is coming soon. Experts say not so fast.
During a coronavirus roundtable Monday with his task force and heads of pharmaceutical companies, Trump appeared to suggest that a vaccine for the coronavirus could be just a few months away.
"I don't know what the time will be. I've heard very quick numbers, that of months. And I've heard pretty much a year would be an outside number. So I think that's not a bad range. But if you're talking about three to four months in a couple of cases, a year in other cases," Trump said.
Fauci corrected Trump at the roundtable, explaining to the president that it would be more than a year by the time a vaccine was developed, tested and "deployable" for public use.
During the roundtable, Trump also asked whether the seasonal flu shot could be used to prevent infection in the meantime.
"You take a solid flu vaccine, you don't think that could have an impact, or much of an impact, on corona?" Trump asked.
"No," a pharmaceutical researcher attending the meeting replied.
Trump says coronavirus is 'like a flu.' Experts say it's 'multiple times' worse.
Trump has also repeatedly conflated the coronavirus with the seasonal flu, downplaying the severity of the new virus.
In the Hannity interview, Trump referred to the virus as "corona flu," and during a news conference last week he claimed that coronavirus "is like a flu."
Many experts have cautioned that the coronavirus is different from influenza, especially because no vaccine is available. So far, the coronavirus appears to be more contagious and more deadly than the flu.
Fauci said during hearings this week that the mortality rate of the coronavirus "is multiple times what the seasonal flu is."
Trump says it's OK to go to work when sick. Experts say 'do not go to work.'
In the same Fox interview, Trump suggested that people infected with the virus could still go to work and make full recoveries. This is in direct contrast to what the CDC has advised people to do.
"If we have thousands or hundreds of thousands of people that get better just by, you know, sitting around and even going to work — some of them go to work, but they get better," he said.
The CDC has said people displaying symptoms should stay home and self-quarantine unless they are seeking medical care.
"People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are able to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis," the CDC website says.
Trump later denied saying people could work while ill.
Trump says warm weather could 'kill the virus.' Experts say that's 'premature.'
Trump — continuing to draw comparisons between the coronavirus and the flu — has suggested that coronavirus cases will decrease as the weather warms up, similar to the flu every spring.
At a White House meeting in February, Trump said, "There's a theory that, in April, when it gets warm — historically, that has been able to kill the virus."
But as many experts have pointed out, the coronavirus is a new virus, so health officials don't know what exactly will happen when temperatures increase.
"I think it's premature to assume that," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the head of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases at the CDC, said of Trump's claims during a call with reporters. "We haven't been through even a single year with this pathogen."