Another story about Republicans cooking the books on coronavirus stats? Why it's been at least 10 minutes since we had to talk about Florida. Or Arizona. Or, hey, Florida again. Or Fox News spreading blatant lies about the CDC! Or, shoot, we didn't even get to talk about Georgia yet. But now with Herr Dumppentweet getting in on the action, look for the entire GOP to start belting out the No Death Toll! No Death Toll! You Are The FAKE NEWS Death Toll! aria in unison.

Axios reports that "Trump has complained to advisers about the way coronavirus deaths are being calculated, suggesting the real numbers are actually lower — and a number of his senior aides share this view, according to sources with direct knowledge." Apparently, that idiot is particularly pissed off that states are retroactively adding presumptive positive covid cases to their tallies, as New York did last month, increasing the state's reported death toll by 3,000 people.

A rational person might infer that widespread testing shortages imply an undercount of coronavirus cases, since no one can get a test. But rational people are thin on the ground in the White House just now. Instead Trump is surrounded by sycophants and cranks who whisper nonsense into his ear hair about states propping up their death numbers to get their mitts on that sweet, sweet government cheese.


"Some members of the president's team believe the government has created a distorting financial incentive for hospitals to identify coronavirus cases," an unnamed official tells Axios, hinting darkly that hospitals are paying themselves back for canceled elective surgeries by falsely classifying patients as suffering from coronavirus. It makes complete sense if you are a person who knows absolutely nothing about medical billing, but spends a lot of time trying to concoct elaborate scams to cheat the system.

Naturally, other members of the Trump administration rushed in to assure Jonathan Swan that Daddy was just joking, silly, he doesn't mean it when he says he hates you and wishes you'd never been born!

"Skepticism isn't the right way to frame it. The numbers have been revised up to include presumptive cases — meaning deaths that are believed to be related to COVID but not known for sure," a senior White House official told Axios. "So he's expressed the need to properly convey that to American people so they're not startled by why numbers ticked up."

Yes, that's very on-brand for Donald Trump. He's always very careful in his language to avoid startling the American people. Like when he claimed that states like Arizona and Florida, which count absentee ballots in close elections, were "finding votes out of nowhere" and said, "Do you notice, the votes never go the other way [in Republicans favor]?" The president is just constantly trying to properly convey to the American people that complex data sets should be carefully interpreted, so they don't get startled and jump to insane conclusions that help him politically.

Haha, just kidding! The Trumpers all think it's woo, and can't wait to pretend that New York, New Jersey, Maryland, and Massachusetts are scamming the feds to get a "Blue State Bailout" by pretending to store bodies in ice rinks and refrigerated trucks.

"With something like this virus, where you've got this weird coagulation in the lungs . . . we need more autopsies," another official told Axios. "America's out of practice of how to deal with something like this and to report it accurately . . . We don't have uniform reporting standards in the United States or internationally. And we're not getting good data."

Jared, is that you?

Here on Planet Earth, the real death numbers are clearly much higher than reported. Without widespread testing, we'll probably never know who died from the virus. But we can get a rough proxy by counting the number of excess deaths over what would normally be anticipated from all causes, and subtracting out the covid numbers. Here's a table from the New York Times, but be careful since the data sets are not consistent in duration.

Trump's minions have gestured vaguely towards "deaths of despair" due to suicide and drug overdose during quarantine, but have presented zero evidence of 7,400 "extra" suicides and overdoses in New York and New Jersey during the relevant time frames. (Not to mention the fact that traffic fatalities were substantially reduced with no one out on the roads.) It's much more likely that many of those are coronavirus deaths, meaning the state tallies are too low, not too high.

But that's, like, boring facts 'n' shit. Can't win an election with that! And you can't convince people to go to the mall if they think it's dangerous. Better to pretend that the government's own data is bullshit. Sure they might notice that their friends and neighbors are dropping dead, but that's a problem for another day.

And with that it's time for OPEN THREAD!

[Axios]

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Liz Dye

Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.

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