In the opening segment of the second presidential debate, President Donald Trump was pressed on his administration's response to the COVID-19 pandemic. As he often does, Trump attempted to downplay the toll the virus has taken on the US, claiming that the nation's excess mortality rate is "way down and much lower than almost any other country." Excess mortality refers to the number of deaths observed over a specific period of time, compared to the number that would typically be expected, and it reveals a lot about the losses the country has actually suffered.
According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 300,000 excess deaths in the US from late January to early October. Only two-thirds of these deaths were attributed to COVID-19, which means that the death toll from the virus is likely higher than reported. Meaning, some people who may have had COVID-19 were either never tested or their cause of death was not accurately reported. As the Washington Post noted, others counted among these excess deaths may have died at home or in nursing homes from conditions like heart attacks or strokes because they were unable to seek care at hospitals.
Trump's claim that the nation's excess mortality rate is lower than most other countries is undeniably false. Data published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that the US had high rates of COVID-19 and excess all-cause mortality compared to other countries, with the differences only growing more stark as the year went on.
As of Oct. 22, the US had recorded more than 223,000 deaths from COVID-19. That's 20 percent of the global toll, despite the US making up less than 5 percent of the world's population. The numbers paint a much different picture of how the administration has handled the virus, and they should be cause for concern, considering Trump and his staff seem unwilling to correct course.