Trump is pressuring the CDC to change its death toll methodology and produce a lower figure, report says

Trump is pressuring the CDC to change its death toll methodology and produce a lower figure, report says
President Donald Trump and coronavirus response coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx at a White House coronavirus briefing on April 21, 2020.Jonathan Ernst/Reuters
  • President Donald Trump and his aides have argued that the CDC should change its coronavirus death toll methodology, the Daily Beast reported.
  • It cited five sources who said the White House has pushed for a different system that would produce a lower figure for US deaths.
  • The sources said that Dr Deborah Birx had lobbied for two categories of death to be excluded.
  • The first is people who likely have COVID-19 but do not yet have lab test confirmation. The second is people who definitely have COVID-19 but may have died from unrelated causes.
  • A CDC official defended its method of counting, and said that if anything the figures are are too low.
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President Trump Donald Trump and members of his coronavirus task force have put pressure on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to alter how it counts the virus death rates, according to a report from the Daily Beast.

The outlet cited five unnamed administration officials working on the government's coronavirus response, who said that Trump is pushing for a new methodology that could lead to a much lower death toll for the US.

The report said that task force coordinator Dr Deborah Birx asked the CDC to exclude two categories of people from its death count.

It said that Birx argued for the exclusion of people who are presumed to have the virus, but whose lab test results have not yet come back.

It also said that she argued for the exclusion of those who did have the virus but who may not have died from it.


The US has reported 82,389 deaths from the coronavirus as of Wednesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.

The CDC counts coronavirus deaths by tallying two information streams: data from local health departments, and data from a death certificate digital coding system, according to the Daily Beast.

One official the Beast cited said that Trump worried that the current criteria are so broad that it would include the death of somebody with coronavirus who died from falling down the stairs.

One official told the Beast that the White House pushed for changes because of genuine concern for the integrity of the data, rather than any desire to obscure the reality.

In on-the-record comments to the Beast, CDC mortality statistics chief Bob Anderson defended its existing statistics.


He said that doctors are already specifically asked to say whether the coronavirus caused a death, seeming to rule out the scenario in which somebody dies from a fall but is still counted.

He also said that: "We're almost certainly underestimating the number of deaths."

Trump has publicly supported the CDC's numbers, though there have been other reports that he and his circle are suspicious that the figures are too high.

According to the Washington Post, on May 9, Birx said that she does not trust the CDC's numbers, saying they could be as much as 25% too high.

Read the full story at the Daily Beast

Read the original article on Business Insider