Liberals, like the Daily Show's Trevor Noah, mocked President Donald Trump when he argued the coronavirus' mortality rate was likely lower than the 3.4% estimate offered by the World Health Organization. Film producer Andy Ostroy called the president a "gaslighting sociopath" and "reckless," while Vox's Aaron Rupar accused Trump of spreading a "blizzard of dangerous misinformation." But now a senior health official says the president is probably right.
At a press briefing on Friday morning, Health and Human Services Assistant Secretary Admiral Brett Giroir declared, "The best estimates now of the overall mortality rate for COVID-19 is somewhere between 0.1% and 1%."
Giroir noted the figure is "lower than you heard probably in many reports," but that the real mortality rate is "not likely in the range of 2% to 3%."
The number of people with the coronavirus may be much higher
Giroir cited several reasons for why health officials believe the actual mortality rate for COVID-19 is likely significantly lower than 3.4%. He listed first that the real number of people who have been infected with the virus is harder to track and likely much larger. As the denominator (number of people with the disease) goes up, overall mortality rate goes down.
"Why is this?" Giroir asked. "Number one is because many people don't get sick and don't get tested — this reflects the overseas experience — so probably for every case, there are at least two or three cases that are not in that denominator."
"It certainly could be higher than normal flu, it probably is, but it's not likely in the range of 2% to 3%."
According to Giroir, the seasonal flu mortality rate is 0.1% to 0.15%.
Some patients with mild symptoms may go unreported
In some cases, coronavirus can be so mild that people who have it may not display symptoms before their body beats it. Meanwhile, others who have the disease may experience symptoms akin to those of a common flu and not go to the doctor at all.
As of Friday afternoon, there were 14 confirmed deaths in the United States due to the coronavirus with more than 225 people infected across the country, according to official estimates. If Giroir is correct that the actual mortality rate from the illness is closer to 1%, it would imply that there could be upward of 1,400 people with the virus in the United States.
On Friday morning, President Trump signed a $8.3 billion emergency spending package to combat the coronavirus, according to NBC News.