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‘You Can’t Do That’: Trump Argues That Number of COVID Deaths Per Capita Is an Irrelevant Stat

President Trump argued that the number of COVID deaths per capita is irrelevant and pointed to the number of deaths in proportion to cases as a sign that the U.S. is doing well in its battle against the virus during an interview with “Axios on HBO” Monday.

“I’m talking about death as a proportion of population,” Axios’ Jonathan Swan told the president. “That’s where the U.S. is really bad. Much worse than South Korea, Germany, etc.”

“You can’t do that,” Trump responded, adding that the data should “go by the cases.”

“It’s surely a relevant statistic to say if the U.S. has X population and X percentage of death of that population vs. South Korea,” Swan pushed back, citing reporting from Seoul showing 300 deaths out of the country’s population of 51 million.

As of Tuesday morning the U.S. death toll stands at 155,000, according to data from Johns Hopkins University

“You don’t know that,” Trump said in response to South Korea’s numbers, leading Swan to ask the president if he believes the country is faking its statistics. 

“I won’t get into that because I have a very good relationship with the country,” Trump answered. “But you don’t know that, and they have spikes.” 

During the interview, which was recorded last Tuesday, before the virus death toll topped 150,000, the president said the COVID-19 pandemic is “under control as much as you can control it” in the U.S. 

“They are dying, that’s true. And you have — it is what it is,” Trump said. “But that doesn’t mean we aren’t doing everything we can. It’s under control as much as you can control it. This is a horrible plague.”

He claimed that the U.S. has reported more cases because it has done more testing and pointed to the U.S. accomplishments in ventilator production, testing increases and improved treatment that have decreased the total fatality rate as wins for the country.

The U.S. ranks fourth in the world at 51.83 COVID deaths per 100,000 people. Only the U.K., Peru, and Chile have suffered greater losses relative to their populations.

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