The number of deaths in Wuhan, China — ground zero for the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2 — has always been remarkably low. So low, in fact, that as the virus began to sweep across the globe, there was not widespread fear because the death rate was not alarming.
In the Hubei province, where Wuhan, a city of more than 11 million residents, China said there were just 1,290 deaths. But on Friday, Beijing raised Wuhan’s coronavirus death toll by nearly 50 percent after weeks of charges that communist party officials were underreporting the numbers.
Now, China is reporting 3,869 deaths. The number of confirmed cases was also raised dramatically, from 325 to 50,333. That number accounts for two-thirds of China’s total 82,367 announced cases.
Johns Hopkins Center for Systems Science and Engineering reports that China has had 83,760 and 4,512 deaths.
Let’s do some math. The U.S. has a population of about 328 million. To date, American has had 671,493 and 33,288 deaths.
But China, a nation with 1.4 billion people, has had just 82,367 cases and 3,869 deaths? And that’s where the virus emerged and spread rapidly as Chinese traveled extensively to celebrate the lunar new year?
Not a chance. Both sets of numbers — from China and Johns Hopkins — are both likely way short of the actual numbers.
“Chinese state media claimed Friday that the reason for the sudden leap was that medical facilities were overwhelmed during the peak of the outbreak and because of that, ‘belated, missed and mistaken reporting occurred,’” Fox News reported.
“Due to the insufficiency in admission and treatment capability, a few medical institutions failed to connect with the disease prevention and control system in time, while hospitals were overloaded and medics were overwhelmed with patients,” the official Xinhua News Agency reported.
The dramatic change in the numbers did not surprise U.S. critics.
The new numbers Friday were not a surprise to critics though.
“Well, well, well: After repeatedly defending the accuracy of their data, Chinese officials revise the coronavirus death toll in Wuhan,” Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) wrote on Twitter.
Well, well, well: After repeatedly defending the accuracy of their data, Chinese officials revise the coronavirus death toll in Wuhan to 3,869, 50% higher than previously reported https://t.co/aY0drUkKw2 via @WSJ
— Senator John Cornyn (@JohnCornyn) April 17, 2020
U.S. officials have long suspected that China is cooking the books.
“China has concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country, under-reporting both total cases and deaths it’s suffered from the disease, the U.S. intelligence community concluded in a classified report to the White House, according to three U.S. officials,” Bloomberg News reported in early April.
The officials asked not to be identified because the report is secret, and they declined to detail its contents. But the thrust, they said, is that China’s public reporting on cases and deaths is intentionally incomplete. Two of the officials said the report concludes that China’s numbers are fake.
The report was received by the White House last week, one of the officials said.