Coronavirus-infected US President Donald Trump has continued to downplay the severity of the virus that has so far killed 210,000 Americans.
Mr Trump has returned to social media in a flurry since his hospitalisation, yet his comments on Twitter likening COVID-19 to the seasonal flu were a step too far for the site who hid the “potentially harmful” tweet.
“Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” he tweeted.
“Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!! (sic)”
Covid-19 has already proven to be a more potent killer than flu, particularly among older populations, than seasonal flu, and has shown indications of having long-term impacts on the health of younger people it infects.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates influenza has resulted in far fewer yearly deaths than Mr Trump said — between 12,000 and 61,000 annually since 2010.
The current coronavirus death toll in the US exceeds the last five annual flu seasons combined, CDC data shows.
Twitter was quick to shut down the misinformation, saying: “The Tweet violated the Twitter Rules about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.
“However, Twitter has determined that it may be in the public’s interest for the Tweet to remain accessible.”
Connecticut Senator Chris Murphy was straight to the point in his response.
“This is a lie,” he wrote as Mr Trump faced a wave of criticism online for the claim.
This is a lie. The flu doesn’t kill 100,000 a year. https://t.co/knq0SiIDmF
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) October 6, 2020
— Frank Luntz (@FrankLuntz) October 6, 2020
Activist Amy Siskind said: “People will die because of this misinformation”.
Bishop Talbert Swan labelled Mr Trump “vile” and “inhumane”.
“Not everyone has a helicopter to fly them to the hospital to be pumped full of treatment and back home for a Mussolini moment of victory,” he said.
Trump’s rhetoric concerns experts
He’d spent three nights at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, yet his own illness appears to not have prompted a rethink to his often-cavalier attitude toward the disease.
Mr Trump’s attitude to coronavirus has alarmed infectious disease experts as the virus ripped through his administration, infecting the first lady and more than a dozen White House aides and associates.
“We have to be realistic in this: COVID is a complete threat to the American population,” Dr David Nace, from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, said of Mr Trump’s comment.
Anxious to project strength just four weeks from Election Day, Mr Trump, who is still contagious with the virus, tweeted Tuesday morning he was planning to attend next week’s debate with Democrat Joe Biden in Miami. “It will be great!” he said.
In a video on Monday, Mr Trump offered a nonchalant take on the virus, contravening the public health warnings of his own administration that Americans take the threat seriously and to take precautions to avoid contracting and spreading the disease as cases continue to spike across the country.
“Don’t be afraid of it,” Mr Trump said.
“You’re going to beat it. We have the best medical equipment, we have the best medicines.”
His remarks were strong, but he was taking deeper breaths than usual as he delivered them.
Left unsaid was the president’s experience with the disease has been far from typical as his doctors rushed him onto experimental anti-viral drugs and prescribed an aggressive course of steroids that would be unavailable to the average patient.
While most must cope with their symptoms — and fear of whether they’ll take a turn for the worse — at home and alone, Mr Trump had been staying in the presidential suite of one of the nation’s best hospitals and he’s now at the White House, where there is a team of doctors on call with 24-hour monitoring.
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