In Depth

Trump claims coronavirus has ‘passed peak’ in US - has it?

President accused of electioneering as he prepares to reopen the country

Donald Trump has claimed the US has “passed the peak” of new Covid-19 cases and predicted some states would reopen within weeks.

Speaking at yesterday’s daily briefing, the US president said: “The battle continues but the data suggests that nationwide we have passed the peak on new cases. Hopefully that will continue, and we will continue to make great progress.”

He added that new reopening guidelines would be announced on Thursday after he speaks to governors. “We’ll be the comeback kids, all of us,” he said. “We want to get our country back.”

Is he right?

Trump’s plan to start reopening the US has already been greeted with disquiet. His taskforce had tentatively set the date of reopening for 1 May, but Trump suggested it would be earlier, claiming 29 states “are in good shape”.

The Guardian points out that he offered no evidence for his claim that the US is passed the peak and the The Washington Post said he used “more hopeful language than his own medical experts are willing to use”.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the US’s chief immunologist, who has not appeared at the last two press briefings, had said on Tuesday that the 1 May date was “a bit overly optimistic”. 

CNN says the president’s “make American open again campaign” is a dangerous “election-year political device that positions him as leading the resurgence and those who oppose him as laggards holding America back”. 

Public health officials and political leaders have warned that “most of the country is not conducting nearly enough testing to track the path and penetration of the coronavirus in a way that would allow Americans to safely return to work”, reports The New York Times.

For example, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti has said that large gatherings are not likely to resume until 2021. “Until there’s either a vaccine, some sort of pharmaceutical intervention, or herd immunity, the science is the science,” he said, adding that public health officials had made clear it has “miles and miles to walk before we can be back in those environments”.

Asked about the risk of reopening the nation too soon, Trump cited mental health issues and said: “There’s also death involved in keeping it closed.”

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The US figures

The Telegraph points out that a few hours after Trump’s briefing, Johns Hopkins University said the US had posted 2,569 deaths in the past 24 hours, “a new global record”.

The US currently has the highest number of officially reported coronavirus cases in the world: 644,089, which makes up 31% of the world's 2,083,607 confirmed cases. With a death toll of 28,529 (global deaths are at 134,669), it also has the most fatalities.

Asked why the US accounted for such a significant proportion of the global deaths, Trump referred to China and asked: “Does anybody really believe the numbers of some of these countries?”

Dr Deborah Birx, coronavirus response coordinator on the White House taskforce, said that, over the past six days, the rate of new cases has declined across the country. There were nine states with fewer than 1,000 cases each and fewer than 30 new cases daily, she said.

Meanwhile, Vice President Mike Pence said more than 3.3 million tests have been “conducted and completed”. He claimed that 24% of all counties in the country have not reported a single case of Covid-19 and half of all states have fewer than 2,500 cases each.

“We’re going to reflect on the fact that, as the president said, there will be areas of the country that will require continued mitigation and strong efforts and there will be other areas of the country that will be given guidance for greater flexibility, the president has so directed our team,” Pence said.

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