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Sunday, July 5, 2020

FDA commissioner declines to back Trump assertion on ‘harmless’ coronavirus cases

FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn on Sunday declined to provide supporting evidence for President Donald Trump’s assertion that 99 percent of coronavirus cases are “totally harmless.”

"Now we have tested almost 40 million people … by so doing, we show cases 99 percent of which are totally harmless," President Donald Trump said in a Saturday speech to mark Independence Day celebrations.

The president may have been referring to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention statistic this week that 102.5 per 100,000 recorded cases warrant hospitalization. But the long-term health ramifications of coronavirus are unknown, and mortality rates continue to vary greatly for reasons that are not immediately clear. There are now more than 2.8 million diagnosed cases in the United States and more than 129,000 deaths.

On ABC’s “This Week,” co-anchor Martha Raddatz asked Hahn if Trump’s statement was accurate.

“Well, let's talk about where we are right now. We're seeing cases around the Sun Belt,” Hahn said. “We are certainly concerned, at the White House corona task force, about this … We've sent teams into those states to actually help with taking care of the patients who are now with Covid-19.”

“I want to ask you again, Dr. Hahn,” Raddatz said. “How many cases would you say are harmless?”

“You know, any case, we don't want to have in this country. This is a very rapidly moving epidemic, rapidly-moving pandemic. And any death, any case is tragic. And we want to do everything we can to prevent that,” Hahn replied.

Hahn made a similar point on CNN’s “State of the Union” to host Dana Bash: “I'm not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” adding: “We have seen the surge in cases. We must do something to stem the tide.”

He also said to follow the guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and protocols from local and state governments — though, as several local leaders have said, those can often be at odds.

The country has conducted more than 4 million tests in the past week — more than ever before — but the jump in testing capacity is overshadowed by daily, record-breaking new infections as states reopen. This is especially true in places like Arizona, Florida and Texas.

In his Saturday speech, Trump contradicted several public health experts to say that the U.S. will “likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year.”

On Sunday, Hahn said he can’t predict when a vaccine will be available.

“Yes, we are seeing unprecedented speed for the development of a vaccine,” Hahn said. But with respect to the FDA’s role: “Our solemn promise to the American people is that we will make a decision based upon the data and science on a vaccine with respect to the safety and effectiveness of that vaccine.”

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