Trump Was Probably Wrong About Coronavirus and Suicides, But the Associated Press Botched Its Fact-Check
On Tuesday, President Trump warned that keeping the country under lockdown could drive people to recession-induced suicide and that the number of deaths “probably, and I mean, definitely, would be in far greater numbers than the numbers that we’re talking about with regard to the virus.”
To the extent Trump was suggesting that the economic costs of fighting the coronavirus are likely to produce more suicides than there would be deaths from the disease if the U.S. government did nothing, he’s almost certainly wrong. There were about 50,000 suicides in the U.S. last year. Even if this number increased dramatically, it would be very difficult to match the estimated deaths of COVID-19, which are in the hundreds of thousands or even millions under worst-case, do-nothing projections. If aggressive countermeasures to limit the coronavirus’ reduce the COVID-19 death toll to a bad flu season—the outcome many are hoping for—you would still have a problem at least as serious as the national suicide rate.
But while Trump likely exaggerated the trade-off here, the Associated Press—which published a fact-check of the president’s remarks—went too far in the opposite direction:
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