White House chief of staff Mark Meadows on Monday reiterated President Donald Trump’s baseless claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless.”
The commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration on Sunday declined to defend the President’s unfounded claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless” and repeatedly refused to say whether Trump’s remark is true or false.
“I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
During his remarks Saturday at the White House Independence Day event, Trump claimed without evidence that 99% of coronavirus cases “are totally harmless.”
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 35% of cases are asymptomatic, but even people with mild or no symptoms can spread the virus to others.
While the World Health Organization has said the global fatality rate is likely less than 1%, the WHO also said about 20% of all people who are diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care.
“I totally support the CDC and the information that they’re putting out with respect to this pandemic,” Hahn said Sunday.
Meadows, who spoke with reporters at the White House, insisted “a lot of these cases are asymptomatic.”
“Additionally, when we look at a population of over 325 million people and what we’re looking at, those statistics would indicate about 102%. When that 99% came, it came from actual numbers. And you can look at numbers a number of different ways,” he said.
Data from Johns Hopkins University suggests a coronavirus fatality rate of 4.6%, not to mention effects on many Americans who are getting very sick but not dying.
The former congressman also said Trump did not intend to downplay people getting sick as a result of the virus.
“I don’t think it was the President’s intent to downplay that as much as saying let’s look at the risk and let’s look at this in an appropriate way based on facts and figures,” he said.
Asked about the new policy that rallygoers in New Hampshire will be “strongly encouraged” to wear a mask, he told Fox News, “It’s more a factor of precaution.”
“As we start to open up, if masks were appropriate in your life, the President mentioned that he’s willing to wear a mask if appropriate in tight quarters. I know a number of us have done the same. But it’s all trying to make sure that we deal with this virus and make sure that the American people know that help is on the way,” he said.
Rallygoers at Trump’s recent Tulsa, Oklahoma, event were required to agree to a disclaimer stating they acknowledge the “inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19 exists in any public place where people are present” and could not sue the campaign if infected.
Meadows noted that they “have not seen major outbreaks” after the Tulsa event but told Fox News that a “few” had contracted coronavirus. He clarified to reporters later that he was referring to the advance staffers who tested positive.
Asked if the President’s message is that “we have to live with this,” Meadows essentially confirmed that, saying the economy would not be shut down again.
“The theme is that we have to adjust our personal lifestyle in a temporary basis because help is on the way,” adding that the administration is coming up with plans to get schools open in the fall.
He also announced that the President will be signing executive orders as soon as this week.
“A sneak preview here: We’re going to be looking at how we make sure that China is addressed, how we bring manufacturing back from overseas to make sure the American worker is supported. We’re also going to look at a number of issues as it relates to immigration. We’re going to look at a number of issues as it relates prescription drug prices. And we’re going to get them done when Congress couldn’t get them done,” he said.
Despite reports that he will be leading the next round of coronavirus stimulus negotiations, Meadows said that Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin will continue to lead the negotiations and the two have been working closely. He said to expect Mnuchin to “lead the charge coming up probably the second or third week of July.”
Meadows reiterated that Trump is “very supportive” of another stimulus check, and noted that a payroll tax deduction and incentives for manufacturing are “critical” to the White House, but said there’s no red lines “right now.”
And on the reporting that Russia offered Taliban soldiers bounties for killing Americans, Meadows criticized congressional Democrats and said the intelligence was “not actually substantiated,” but said if it were, the administration will defend American troops.
“If it’s actionable intelligence, which it is not, if it’s actionable intelligence, he will take – let me be clear. I’ll speak directly to the fighting American men and women: We have your back if people are coming after you, whether it’s Russia or anybody, we have your back, we will defend you. This President has made it clear,” he said.
CNN’s Veronica Stracqualursi and Sara Westwood contributed to this report.