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Trump on 1,000 Americans a day dying from COVID-19: "It is what it is"

Trump says coronavirus pandemic is "under control"
Trump says U.S. coronavirus pandemic is "under control" despite rising death toll 02:05

President Trump appeared to downplay the U.S.' unparalleled coronavirus death toll in an interview that aired Monday, saying that the rate of about 1,000 Americans dying every day from the pandemic "is what it is." The president also rejected data showing the high rates of coronavirus deaths in proportion to the U.S. population.

Mr. Trump made the remarks in an interview with Axios' Jonathan Swan, who challenged the president on his claims that the pandemic is under control, even as infections are soaring in many states and the U.S. leads the world in confirmed cases and deaths.

"Well, what's your definition of control?" Mr. Trump told Swan. "I think it's under control."

"How?" Swan said. "A thousand Americans are dying a day."

"They are dying. That's true," the president replied. "And it is what it is. 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 that beset us."

The U.S. by far leads all other nations in confirmed coronavirus cases, with more than 4.7 million infections and 155,000 deaths as of Tuesday afternoon, according to Johns Hopkins University. That represents nearly 25% of the global death toll from the virus.

Mr. Trump and Swan also clashed over data about the pandemic in the U.S., with the president preferring to use statistics that make the death rate seem less severe.

"United States is lowest in numerous categories," Mr. Trump said, showing papers with charts and graphs. "We're lower than the world, we're lower than Europe."

Swan pointed out that Mr. Trump was focusing on the proportion of U.S. deaths to the country's total cases — rather than the proportion of deaths in relation to the U.S. population, which reveals a grimmer toll.

"You can't do that," Mr. Trump said. "You have to go by the cases."

Swan said that, as an example, South Korea has reported just 300 deaths in a population of more than 51 million people. Mr. Trump seemed to suggest, without evidence, that South Korea was reporting inaccurate numbers. 

Mr. Trump has relentlessly defended his handling of the pandemic and presented a positive outlook that is at odds with data and the warnings of his own health officials. The president this week falsely claimed that the virus is "receding," while members of the White House coronavirus task force said the pandemic is in a new phase where it is widespread in rural as well as urban areas.

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