• Trump believes the COVID-19 death toll as reported by CDC is inflated
  • He's pushing for CDC to change its death count methodology 
  • Data shows the CDC's numbers are underestimates

President Donald Trump believes the COVID-19 death toll in the U.S. is exaggerated, and is now questioning the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) methodology that continues to lead to a growing U.S. coronavirus death count.

On the other hand, noted epidemiologists and infectious disease experts such as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), assert the publicized U.S. death toll is, if anything, seriously an undercount.

"Almost certainly it's higher," affirmed Dr. Fauci at a virtual Senate hearing on Tuesday. "There may have been people who died at home who were not counted as COVID because they never really got to the hospital."

Trump's refusal to accept the death toll as accurate was first broached May 6 by a senior Trump administration official who said he expects Trump to begin publicly questioning the coronavirus death toll in the United States, Axios reported. Trump did exactly that one week later in his push for a new death toll count methodology.

The official also said Trump and some of his aides think the death numbers are inflated. He noted Trump wasn't pleased when New York added 3,000 unconfirmed but suspected COVID-19 cases to its tally.

Citing five administration sources, The Daily Beast on Wednesday said Trump is agitating for a new methodology along with Dr. Deborah Birx and other members of the coronavirus task force. Trump still believes the numbers being used by the CDC are inflated by current methodology.

"There is nothing from the CDC that I can trust," Dr. Birx told colleagues.

One source cited by The Daily Beast said Trump worries the criteria for defining a death as caused by COVID-19 are so broad it could include somebody with COVID-19 who died from falling down the stairs.

Trump and the White House want the CDC to work with states to change how they count coronavirus deaths and report them back to the federal government.

CDC officials are pushing back against Trump's order, claiming it might falsely skew the mortality rate at a time when state and local governments are struggling to ensure every person that dies from COVID-19 is counted.

coronavirus pandemic new guidelines issued by cdc
coronavirus pandemic new guidelines issued by cdc PIRO4D - Pixabay

On the other hand, Dr. Bob Anderson Ph.D., chief of the CDC's Mortality Statistics Branch, defended its methodology. He said doctors are specifically asked to say whether the coronavirus caused the death.

"We're almost certainly underestimating the number of deaths," he pointed out to The Daily Beast, echoing Dr. Fauci's observation.

"I don’t worry about this over reporting issue."

Dr. Anderson’s team is in charge of aggregating, calculating, and reporting coronavirus deaths for the agency.

"We’re almost certainly underestimating the number of deaths [in the country]," he pointed out.

CDC's latest updated total deaths due to COVID-19 alone in the U.S. as of May 13 place this number at 54,861. Deaths with pneumonia and COVID-19 come to 24,147. Total deaths from both these causes come to 79,008.

In contrast, there are 85,192 deaths in the U.S. as tallied by Worldometers, as of 8:15 p.m. ET, Wednesday.

Trump's skepticism highlights his break with the go-slow response to easing restrictions favored by doctors in favor of quickly reopening the U.S. economy shut down by the pandemic.