President Donald Trump falsely claimed Monday that the coronavirus is abating in the U.S., despite data showing that the virus is on the rise in some states and a lack of testing leaves experts unsure about infection rates elsewhere.
"Coronavirus numbers are looking MUCH better, going down almost everywhere. Big progress being made!" Trump tweeted Monday morning. The claim dovetails with the president's push to reopen the country to try to restart the economy amid historic unemployment numbers, even as thousands of people die from the virus daily and researchers raise predicted death tolls.
"Anybody that claims we're on a downward trajectory nationally is out of touch with reality," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, director of the Columbia University National Center for Disaster Preparedness, who is a public health analyst for NBC News and MSNBC.
Redlener said low testing rates have kept the U.S. from knowing the scope of the virus' hold.
"There isn't a single state in the union that has sufficient testing," he said.
Still, state data and projections offer some indication of how the U.S. is doing — and they don't back Trump up, either.
Cases of COVID-19 are rising in nine states, according to an analysis of state and local data by The New York Times. In 27 other states, Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C., the Times analysis says, the growth of the virus might be slowing, but a lack of widespread testing suggests that infections are also being undercounted. Cases are decreasing in 14 states and Guam, the analysis says.
The Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington — whose projections the White House has touted — recently raised its death toll projections because Americans are moving around more and states are easing social distancing restrictions.
More activity raises the rate of infection and deaths, researchers said, particularly as governors reopen their states to encourage economic activity.
The institute's state-level projections show estimated infections on the rise in Arizona, Florida, Missouri and other states. Other states are at or near their estimated infection peaks, without proven declines. In some states, testing does not exceed or even come close to the estimated number of infections, something that suggests an undercount and makes the data more unreliable, Redlener said.
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States that were hit hard early on, like New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey, have had some successes as they have flattened their curves and are on a well-documented downslope — but that is not a nationwide win.
"It's not appropriate to say the U.S. is consistently on a downward trend at all," Redlener said. "In some places, it might be the direct opposite of that."