(CBS News)–President Trump was speaking at a rally in Ohio on Monday evening when he said the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody.” On Tuesday, the U.S. reached the grim milestone of 200,000 COVID-19 deaths. The United States has for many months had the highest number of infections and deaths in the world, with more than 6.8 million confirmed cases as of Tuesday, according to Johns Hopkins University data.
When he made the false claim about coronavirus, Mr. Trump was addressing a crowd at Toledo Express Airport in Swanton, Ohio — one of two campaign stops that day in the battleground state. The president criticized how he thinks Joe Biden would handle the pandemic and impending vaccine if he were to be elected president, claiming Biden would “shut down the country” again.
At the beginning of the pandemic, many states and cities did go into lockdowns to help slow the spread of the virus. Some like New York were able to “flatten the curve,” but others resisted imposing safety measures like mask-wearing and quickly reopened even as cases kept spreading.
Mr. Trump implied that shutting down businesses was not necessary. “We now know the disease. We didn’t know it,” he said at the rally.
“Now we know it. It affects elderly people. Elderly people with heart problems and other problems. But they have other problems, that’s what it really effects, that’s it,” Mr. Trump continued. “You know in some states, thousands of people [are infected] — nobody young,” he said, which is incorrect. “Below the age of 18, like nobody. They have a strong immune system, who knows.”
“But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing,” he said.
While the risk of serious complications does increase with age, young people are not immune to the virus. Children as young as a few months old have died from COVID-19, as have many young adults. A growing number of younger patients have also experienced crippling battles with the virus, slow recoveries and “long-haul” symptoms that last for months.
On Twitter, people who have been personally affected by COVID-19 blasted the president’s remarks. “My Dad was not a nobody,” tweeted Kristin Urquiza. In July, she wrote an obit for her father that went viral, blaming his “completely preventable” death on the “carelessness of the politicians.”
“If you, or a family member, or a friend got sick or died of #COVID19, to Trump you are ‘virtually nobody,’” wrote Peter Gleick, a climate and water scientist.
“Here’s a way to think about how devastating it is: One out of every 1,600 people in the United States has died of covid,” author Mikel Jollett tweeted.
“Nobody? The 200,000 people who have died of the virus were all Americans who left behind loved ones. There’s no bottom with this president,” Senator Chuck Schumer tweeted.
In Ohio, where several thousand people gathered Monday to hear the president speak, there have been 145,800 confirmed cases and 4,635 deaths, according to the state’s department of health. More than 17,000 of those illnesses were in children and teens, and another 31,600 cases affected young adults in their 20s.
Many health experts fear another surge in infections is likely this fall and winter, coinciding with flu season, as cooler weather keeps people indoors.
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