Trump Says Coronavirus 'Affects Virtually Nobody,' As U.S. Has World's Highest Death Toll

President Donald Trump and Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden struck different tones regarding the COVID-19 pandemic at their respective campaign events on Monday. While Trump said the coronavirus affects "virtually nobody," as the U.S. death toll neared 200,000, Biden said such a statistic cannot become "background noise."

At a campaign rally at the Toledo Express Airport in Ohio on Monday, Trump said: "Now we know it. It [the coronavirus] affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems and other problems. If they have other problems. That's what it really affects. That's it.

"You know, In some states, thousands of people—nobody young. Below the age of 18, like, nobody. They have a strong immune system, who knows? You look...Take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system. But it affects virtually nobody. It's an amazing thing."

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that anyone can catch the coronavirus, but the risk of hospitalization and death increases with age, as well as for those with certain underlying health conditions.

Newsweek has contacted the White House for comment.

Trump did not mention the nearing milestone of 200,000 deaths, but said his administration had saved millions of lives.

The president, who has admitted to downplaying the threat of the coronavirus, addressed the crowd in the crucial swing state without a face covering, with mask-wearing supporters stood close together behind him. The state's Republican Governor Mike DeWine's administration previously said campaigns do not need to adhere to the state's mask mandate, social distancing and indoor crowd size limitations, The Review newspaper reported.

"It affects virtually nobody," Trump says of the coronavirus, which has now killed 200,000 Americans and counting

— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) September 22, 2020

In contrast, at a campaign event in Manitowoc, in the key battleground state of Wisconsin, Biden addressed the U.S. coronavirus death toll, and said he was worried people may be becoming numb to the figure as the pandemic has lasted so long. Biden wore a mask against a backdrop of the U.S. flag.

There was a limited group of attendees and reporters at the Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry, who sat apart from one another as Biden spoke, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

"We can't lose the ability to feel the sorrow and the loss and the anger for so many lives lost," Biden said. "We can't let the numbers become statistics, background noise, just a blur that we see on the nightly news.

"200,000 moms, dads, sons, daughters, grandparents, uncles, aunts, friends, co-workers who are no longer with us. And so many of them didn't have to lose their lives to this virus, quite frankly if only the president had acted sooner."

For months, the U.S. has had the highest COVID-19 death toll in the world, currently accounting for more than one in five fatalities worldwide at 199,884 of 964,839. It also has the highest number of cases, at more than 6.8 million of 31.3 million globally.

Peter Drobac, a physician and specialist in infectious diseases and public health at the Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford, U.K., told Newsweek: "The pandemic affects virtually everybody. I'm not sure what these mistruths accomplish. They certainly don't stop people from dying, or from suffering chronic complications of COVID. They don't get people their jobs back. They don't get kids back into school.

"We are on track to see a quarter of a million Americans dead by year end, and it continues to be largely preventable. As we head into winter, there is a good chance things could get worse. It's a catastrophic failure of governance. And it wouldn't be that hard to do the right thing and start to turn this around. Follow the science, tell the truth, show some compassion, work together."

This article has been updated with comment from Peter Drobac.

donald trump, toledo express airport, swanton, ohio,getty
President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally at the Toledo Express Airport on September 21, 2020 in Swanton, Ohio. Matthew Hatcher/Getty Images