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Trump compares COVID-19 to flu in tweet, Twitter hides it for violating rules on disinformation

Trump again downplays virus that left him hospitalized, compares COVID-19 to flu
Posted at 5:59 AM, Oct 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-06 12:31:29-04

A day after returning from the hospital amid a severe case of the coronavirus, President Donald Trump encouraged Americans to learn to live with COVID-19 in a Tuesday morning tweet — a message that was later found to be in violation of Twitter's rules on spreading disinformation about the virus.

"Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu. Are we going to close down our Country? No, we have learned to live with it, just like we are learning to live with Covid, in most populations far less lethal!!!" Trump tweeted.

The CDC estimates that between 12,000 and 61,000 people have died of the flu in the U.S. each year dating back to 2010, though an estimated 100,000 people died of the flu in 1968.

While it is true that thousands of Americans die each year from the flu, more than 210,000 Americans, and more than 1 million people worldwide, have died of COVID-19 in about 10 months' time. And while researchers hope a COVID-19 vaccine will be available to the public in a few months, there are no drugs widely available that can prevent the spread of COVID-19.

A New York Times analysis of CDC data determined that about 200,000 more people had died than usual between March and August, when COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. totaled about 140,000.

Trump returned to the White House from Walter Reed Medical Center on Monday after spending the weekend in the hospital due to a COVID-19 infection. While Trump has maintained that he is only suffering mild symptoms, doctors confirmed he received supplemental oxygen treatments on Friday when he was admitted to the hospital. Even as he left the hospital on Monday, doctors said that Trump was not yet "out of the woods."

Trump sent Tuesday's tweet at aournd 8 a.m. ET. About three hours later, Twitter began covering Trump's tweet with a warning label, saying that it violated rules "about spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19."

Trump's Tuesday tweet was the second time in as many days that he downplayed the threat of COVID-19. Prior to leaving the hospital, Trump told Americans not to let the virus "dominate your life."

"Feeling really good! Don't be afraid of Covid. Don't let it dominate your life. We have developed, under the Trump Administration, some really great drugs & knowledge. I feel better than I did 20 years ago," Trump said.

Twitter also removed that tweet Tuesday for violating the platform's rules.

Trump responded to Twitter's decision to add warning labels to his tweets by tweeting a call to "REPEAL SECTION 230!!!" Section 230 refers to a provision of the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which states that websites and social media platforms should not be treated as a "publisher" or "speaker" when third parties post content on their pages. The repeal of Section 230 is used as a rallying cry among conservatives who claim social media companies promote liberal voices over conservative voices.

As president, Trump understandably had access to a level of COVID-19 care that most Americans would not have. CNN reports that Trump received at least one drug that has not yet been approved for emergency use authorization.

Trump also compared COVID-19 to the flu on March 9 — two days before rising case numbers forced Trump to block some from Europe in a live address to the nation.

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