A remarkable soundbite — “It is what it is” — from a 37-minute US President Donald Trump interview telecast on HBO is emerging as a bizarre anthem for the catastrophic American experience with the coronavirus pandemic as the country’s caseload spirals towards the 5 million mark.
The virus has killed more than 157,000 Americans in less than 8 months since the first case and the US president is still touting “fantastic” US testing numbers as the defining metric of America’s state of play. The US has the dubious distinction of leading the world in coronavirus cases after months of chaotic policy response and widespread resistance to masking up.
Fact checked in real time, Trump repeatedly told his interviewer – Jonathon Swan of Axios – that America is showing more cases “because we are so much better at testing than any other country in the world.”
“We’ve tested more people than any other country, more than all of Europe put together times two, we have tested more people than anybody ever thought of. India has 1.4 billion people, they’ve done 11 million tests.”
Trump claimed that the “United States is lowest in numerous categories” basing his interpretation of deaths as a proportion of cases rather than as a proportion of population.
“You can’t do that,” Trump said about assessing deaths as a proportion of total population. Trump insisted that deaths must be seen through the lens of total cases rather than population as the denominator.
According to data from Johns Hopkins, America is currently recording 47 deaths per 100,000 people. The US has a 3.3 per cent case fatality ratio – which is deaths per 100 confirmed cases.
“We’re at the bottom of the list. We have four or five different lists. We have the lowest numbers by far,” Trump repeated at Tuesday’s White House news briefing. Trump’s comments collide with the evidence on the coronavirus’ relentless spread across America.
New cases in the US are topping 60,000 a day, down from a peak of over 70,000 in late July. Cases are rising in more than half of all US states and deaths are on the rise in 35 states. Daily deaths have climbed past the 1,000 mark in the last two weeks.
“It’s under control as much as you can control it,” Trump said about his handling of the virus in an interview being described variously as “bananas”, “bizarre”, “nonsense” and “fantasy” in wall to wall prime time coverage in the US.