By CATHERINE THORBECKE, ABC News
(WASHINGTON) — Facebook on Tuesday removed a post from President Donald Trump that appeared to downplay the severity of COVID-19 by comparing it to the seasonal flu.
The same post remains on Twitter, though it has been hit with a label on the platform identifying it as “spreading misleading and potentially harmful information related to COVID-19.”
“Flu season is coming up! Many people every year, sometimes over 100,000, and despite the Vaccine, die from the Flu,” Trump wrote in the twin posts. “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!!!”
A Facebook spokesperson told ABC News: “We remove incorrect information about the severity of COVID-19, and have now removed this post.”
Trump’s tweet comes just one day after he returned to the White House from the Walter Reed Medical Center where he was treated for COVID-19.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that the flu typically accounts for 12,000 to 61,000 deaths in the U.S. annually since 2010. That number has never risen above 100,000 in any year during that time period. More than 210,000 Americans have died of COVID-19 since March.
Shortly after his Facebook post was removed Tuesday, the president posted again, writing in all-caps: “REPEAL SECTION 230!!!”
His follow-up post refers to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which essentially shields online platforms from liability for content posted on their sites. Trump has previously said Section 230 provides social media behemoths “blanket immunity when they use their power to censor content and silence viewpoints that they dislike.”
This is not the first time Trump has equated the novel coronavirus to the common flu. In a March 9 tweet, the president wrote, “So last year 37,000 Americans died from the common Flu. It averages between 27,000 and 70,000 per year. Nothing is shut down, life & the economy go on. At this moment there are 546 confirmed cases of CoronaVirus, with 22 deaths. Think about that!”
Medical experts have long cautioned equating the seasonal flu to COVID-19, and warned the latter is a much more severe illness.
For one, COVID-19 is a novel virus, meaning much remains unknown about its path, spread and danger. Moreover, COVID-19 remains extremely dangerous because so many people show minimal or no symptoms at onset, which can potentially accelerate person-to-person transmission. The flu also has a vaccine but there is not one for COVID-19.
The flu also has a slew of FDA-approved treatments. While remdesivir, an antiviral agent, is being explored under emergency authorization as a treatment for hospitalized COVID-19 patients, there are currently no drugs or therapeutics approved by the FDA to treat or prevent COVID-19.
This is also not the first time Facebook has removed a post from Trump for false COVID-19 claims. In August, the platform took down a video link the president posted that downplayed the risk of children getting the virus.
The CDC recommends everyone 6 months or older receive the annual flu vaccine by the end of October to protect themselves and those around them. Even those that get the flu vaccine and develop the flu have less severe outcomes including less risk of death. There is currently no COVID-19 vaccine authorized by the FDA.
Copyright © 2020, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.