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Clinicians Incensed by Trump’s Claim They’re Inflating COVID Numbers

Medical groups and the clinicians they represent are criticizing President Donald Trump for his claim that their drive for reimbursement for COVID treatment may have raised reported United States fatality rates compared with those of other nations.

Speaking at a campaign event Saturday in Waukesha, Wisconsin, Trump said he thought US doctors were attributing deaths to COVID that their counterparts in other nations would not.

“If somebody is terminally ill with cancer and they have COVID, we report ’em and you know doctors get more money and hospitals get more money. Think of this incentive. So some countries do it differently. If someone is very sick with a bad heart and they die of COVID, they don’t get reported as COVID,” Trump said. “So then you wonder, ‘Why are their cases so low?’ “

Trump did not immediately in this speech cite any specific nations to which he was comparing the US, nor did he refer to any published reports on potential differences in COVID counting. He touched on this theme of testing differences briefly during his campaign appearance, mentioning it in between criticisms of Democratic lawmakers.

“Reprehensible Attack”

Trump’s remarks angered many medical groups and the clinicians they represent, healthcare workers who have endured increased personal risk and, in many cases, notable drops in income because of the pandemic — not to mention the high death rates of frontline healthcare workers. They also challenged Trump’s assertion about how COVID deaths are counted in the United States.

Eva Chalas, MD, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and Maureen G. Phipps, MD, MPH, chief executive officer of ACOG, issued a joint statement accentuating the deaths of those in harm’s way.

“Science is science and data are data. Doctors have no reason to make up or to inflate COVID-19 case numbers,” they said. “In fact, many physicians and other healthcare workers have died from the virus. It is irresponsible and dangerous to suggest that doctors, including obstetrician-gynecologists, have done anything other than bravely battle this pandemic on behalf of their patients and their communities.”

In a tweet, the American Medical Association (AMA) highlighted an October 12 research letter that appeared in JAMA regarding the toll of excess deaths in the US, as reported by Medscape Medical News.

The AMA also put out a tweet with the following statement condemning the “misinformation about how patients are counted”:


The American College of Physicians (ACP) made the same point in a statement Sunday, calling Trump’s comments “a reprehensible attack on physicians’ ethics and professionalism.”

“ACP notes that several recent studies suggest that the actual number of people who have died from COVID-19 is much higher than the terrible toll of 220,000 deaths officially attributed to the virus,” said Jacqueline W. Fincher, MD, president of ACP, in the statement.

Undermining Clinicians

Trump’s statements also may hinder efforts to control the pandemic, said

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