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FDA head rejects Trump's 'harmless' coronavirus claim

President Trump said the U.S. was testing too much and falsely asserted that “by so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless."

WASHINGTON — The Food and Drug Administration commissioner is declining to back up President Donald Trump’s claim that 99% of coronavirus cases are “harmless.”

Dr. Stephen Hahn tells CNN and ABC that he’s “not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” but that government data clearly show “this is a serious problem.”

He adds that “any case is tragic” and that to stem the tide of surging cases people should follow government guidance to practice social distancing and wear a mask.

During his Fourth of July remarks, Trump said the U.S. was testing too much and falsely asserted that “by so doing, we show cases, 99% of which are totally harmless.”

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The World Health Organization in fact has said about 20% of those diagnosed with COVID-19 progress to severe disease, including pneumonia and respiratory failure. Those with mild or no symptoms, meanwhile, could spread the virus to others.

The mayor of Austin, Texas, where COVID-19 cases are surging, called Trump’s remarks “dangerous” and “wrong.” Mayor Steve Adler urged people to listen to local officials for public safety guidance rather than the “ambiguous message coming out of Washington.”

The United States has dipped under 50,000 new coronavirus cases for the first time in four days, according to a tally by Johns Hopkins University, but experts fear celebrations for the July 4th Independence Day weekend will act like rocket fuel for the nation’s surging outbreak.

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Johns Hopkins counted 45,300 new coronavirus infections in the U.S. on Saturday after three days in which the daily count reached as high as 54,500 new cases. The lower figure on Saturday does not necessarily mean the situation in the U.S. is improving, as it could be due to reduced reporting on a national holiday.

The United States has the most infections and virus-related deaths in the world, with 2.8 million cases and nearly 130,000 dead, according to the university. Experts say the true toll of the pandemic is significantly higher, due to people who died before they were tested and missed mild cases.