FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn had at least two chances Sunday morning to correct the president’s claim that 99 percent of coronavirus cases “are totally harmless;” he declined both.
“Now we have tested almost 40 million people, by so doing we show cases—99 percent of which are totally harmless,” President Trump said in his Fourth of July speech at the White House.
When CNN’s Dana Bash asked Hahn to respond to the assertion, he repeatedly dodged the question. “I’m not going to get into who’s right and who’s wrong,” he said. “What I’m gonna say, Dana, is what I’ve said before, which is that it’s a serious problem that we have. We’ve seen this surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide.”
“I’m not going to get into who’s right and who is wrong,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn says when pressed about the misleading claim President Trump made — that 99% of coronavirus cases in America are "totally harmless." https://t.co/W6TLmb2Uvs #CNNSOTU pic.twitter.com/WpJmQRdGVQ
— State of the Union (@CNNSotu) July 5, 2020
Similarly, when ABC’s Martha Raddatz pushed Hahn to address the claim, asking, “How many cases would you say are harmless?” he responded by saying that “any case is tragic.”
“You know, any case, we don’t want to have in this country,” Hahn said. “This is a very rapidly-moving epidemic, rapidly-moving pandemic. And any death, any case is tragic. And we want to do everything we can to prevent that.”
As Bash pointed out on CNN this morning, there is no evidence that 99 percent of cases are “harmless.” “No health expert that we have found can back that up,” she said. The CDC estimated in May that about a third of COVID-19 cases are asymptomatic, but said that estimate is subject to change as scientists gather more information about the virus.
Meanwhile, the US still leads the world in coronavirus infections, and cases in Texas, Florida, and Arizona continued to surge this weekend. Florida saw a record-breaking spike of 11,458 cases Saturday, Politico reported, just shy of New York’s single-day record in April of 11,571 new cases. On Saturday, Texas reported 8,258 new cases, and Arizona reported 2,695 new cases.
It’s unclear where the president got his 99 percent number. Politico has a guess:
The president may have been referring to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic this week that 102.5 per 100,000 recorded cases warrant hospitalization. But the long-term health ramifications of coronavirus are unknown, and mortality rates continue to vary greatly for reasons that are not immediately clear. There are now more than 2.8 million diagnosed cases in the United States and more than 129,000 deaths.
Trump has been making lofty claims about the coronavirus since the pandemic took hold of the country. Mother Jones built a timeline of the first 100 days of Trump’s coronavirus denial. View it here.