Fact Check: Hillary's Running Mate Uses False Statistic to Attack Trump Coronavirus Response

Posted: May 13, 2020 1:25 PM
Fact Check: Hillary's Running Mate Uses False Statistic to Attack Trump Coronavirus Response

Source: Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via AP, Pool

During his preening, political "questions" for Dr. Fauci at yesterday's Congressional hearing, Democratic Senator Tim Kaine of Virginia (whose state lags badly on testing, yet we haven't seen the scandal-plagued Democratic governor incessantly hounded by the media about it) won plaudits for supposedly placing the Trump administration's failures into devastating context. Though Kaine's hackery was outdone by Elizabeth Warren, as he bulldozed past Fauci when the doctor started to object to his partisan framing of "facts," it's important to note a few things. First, his hyper-focus on South Korea as the model that proves America's failures was largely misplaced -- which Fauci attempted to point out, but was talked over (watch the 40 seconds starting around the 2:30 mark):

Kaine had his own tendentious story to tell, and many in the media and on the Left lapped it up. I don't have a problem with people criticizing the federal response to the coronavirus. There were shortcomings and failures that deserve scrutiny -- including the huge lag in testing (significantly attributable to major CDC screw-ups) and the largely wasted month of February, following the president's correct decision to heavily restrict travel from China. But pretending as if the US was in any position to take South Korea's extremely aggressive steps as early as they did, and to suggest that this is the fault of the White House, is ridiculous. Bear in mind that the Mayor of New York City, the national COVID epicenter, was urging people to go to bars and restaurants well into March, and that New York's governor went ballistic over the suggestion of quarantining his state in late March, which may not have been the worst idea for the rest of the country, if implemented earlier:

New York City’s coronavirus outbreak grew so large by early March that the city became the primary source of new infections in the United States, new research reveals, as thousands of infected people traveled from the city and seeded outbreaks around the country. The research indicates that a wave of infections swept from New York City through much of the country before the city began setting social distancing limits to stop the growth. That helped to fuel outbreaks in Louisiana, Texas, Arizona and as far away as the West Coast...The central role of New York’s outbreak shows that decisions made by state and federal officials — including waiting to impose distancing measures and to limit international flights — helped shape the trajectory of the outbreak and allowed it to grow in the rest of the country...During crucial weeks in March, New York’s political leaders waited to take aggressive action, even after identifying hundreds of cases, giving the virus a head start.

Back to Kaine. In the wind-up to his questions, he asserted that the US has the seventh worst per capita death rate in the world. As we've covered in the recent past, as stated by Dr. Deborah Birx, this is flatly false. Among the ten nations hit hardest by the virus (I'll remind you that the US had strains arrive from China and Europe, long before we had any idea it was happening), the US death rate was second best, only behind Germany. Taking all nations into account, including countries with few cases, the US death rate was still dozens of slots away from the top. Where did Kaine get his "seventh worst" claim? Here, I suspect:

When compared only to the ten countries with the most cases, the U.S. ranks as the second-lowest mortality rate as a percentage of total cases. That means eight of those countries hardest-hit by the coronavirus have higher mortality rates than the U.S...When mortality is measured per 100,000 people among the ten countries with the most cases, the U.S. ranks seventh, with Iran, Germany, and China reporting lower numbers of deaths per 100,000 people

Based on this USA Today fact check from late April, the US was seventh worst on this measure in the world...among the ten most affected nations...and that's assuming China and Iran's data are correct, which we know they're not. I'd also add that we likely don't have a great handle on our death rate, given how many countless people likely had and recovered from the virus without even realizing it, which we're learning more about with each passing day. In any case, if I'm right about where this made-up statistic came from, Kaine is effectively swallowing propaganda from hostile regimes while also repeating a context-free indictment of America.

Based on the information from the fact check above, Kaine could have accurately said that among the most-affected nations, America's mortality and survival rates are second best, and significantly better than much of Europe. To paraphrase Daniel Patrick Moynihan, partisans are entitled to their opinions and blame games, but they're not entitled to their own facts, with which to underpin them. Updated data shows the US is similarly situated, especially if you eliminate Iran's non-credible official reported statistics (and the China numbers are outright laughable). I'll leave you with good news overall for the country, including some early indications that the initial freakout over gradual reopening in some red states may have overstated the risk. Imagine that:

It's too early to draw definitive conclusions on these matters, but some of the hysteria has not yet been, and hopefully will never be, backed up by data.

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