Trump Administration Backpedals on Official Claim of 'About 95,000' U.S. Coronavirus Deaths, Believes Number is Lower

The Donald Trump administration is reportedly questioning the official novel coronavirus death toll, suggesting the figures may have been inflated.

According to The New York Times, the president and key members of his administration have hinted that figures compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and state health departments may be higher than the actual number. Specifically, there is a suspicion among White House executives the figures collated by health officials include people who tested positive to coronavirus but died of other causes.

But last week, President Trump said he accepted the official toll and that he expected at least 95,000 people to die from coronavirus in the U.S, but that the figure could reach 100,000.

"We may be talking about 95,000 people ultimately," he told reporters at the White House last Friday. "We may be talking about something more than that."

As of Saturday morning, more than 96,000 deaths have been recorded in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University, which has been tracking the outbreak using combined data sources. Over 1.6 million cases of coronavirus have been reported in the U.S., by far the highest tally of any country in the world. There have been over 350,000 confirmed recoveries.

More than 338,000 people have died globally since the outbreak of coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, a city located in China's central Hubei province, late last year. There have been over 5.2 million confirmed cases globally.

In a press conference last month, Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House's coronavirus response coordinator, hinted the U.S. health care system's definition of coronavirus-related deaths was looser than in any other countries.

"There are other countries that if you had a pre-existing condition, and let's say the virus caused you to go to the I.C.U., and then have a heart or kidney problem—some countries are recording that as a heart issue or a kidney issue and not a COVID-19 death," she said.

Deaths at nursing homes and the lack of widespread testing are a major stumbling block in producing an accurate death toll.

Health officials have repeatedly warned that could mean the actual death toll is likely to be higher than the official count, as opposed to lower.

Earlier this week, a new study published by Columbia University found that up to 54,000 lives could have been saved had the U.S. implemented social distancing measures and locked down metropolitan areas from the beginning of March.

California, one of the hardest-hit states, did not issue stay-at-home orders until March 19.

The White House issued a blunt response to the findings, suggesting the Trump administration had done all it could to prevent loss of life.

"What would have saved lives is if China had been transparent and the World Health Organization had fulfilled its mission," it said in a statement. "What did save American lives is the bold leadership of President Trump, including the early travel restrictions when we had no idea the true level of asymptomatic spread."

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks in the Roosevelt Room at the White House May 19, 2020 in Washington, DC. Doug Mills/Getty