In May, Donald Trump estimated “anywhere from 70,000, 80,000 to 100,000” could die from the coronavirus.
In a campaign rally just a day ago, the president told the crowd the virus “infects virtually nobody” young as he again downplayed the impact of COVID-19.
The latest numbers tell a very different story.
By Wednesday morning, the official number surpassed 200,000. But the exact toll could be much higher than what has been officially reported by Johns Hopkins University.
The grim milestone was actually reached by August 12, according to the New York Times which analysed data from the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Their estimation exceeded the death toll by more than 60,000.
Whichever way its measured, the US has the highest number of fatalities in the world, as well as one of the worst figures on a per capita basis.
Yet at a campaign rally in Ohio on Tuesday (Australian time), the President falsely claimed the coronavirus “affects virtually nobody” below the age of 18, and the country’s fatality rate was “among the lowest in the world”.
“It affects elderly people, elderly people with heart problems,” Mr Trump said.
“In some states, thousands of people – nobody young. Below the age of 18, like, nobody. They have a strong immune system, who knows? Take your hat off to the young, because they have a hell of an immune system.
“But it affects virtually nobody. It’s an amazing thing.”
It goes against the advice of most public health experts.
His words also contradict what he told the Washington Post in a March interview.
As revealed earlier this month when the recording was released, Mr Trump acknowledged at the time the virus had affected “plenty of young people”.
“Now it’s a turning point,” he told reporter Bob Woodward during the March interview.
“Just today, and yesterday, some startling facts came out. It’s not just old, older.”
Every day in the US, about 40,000 people are diagnosed with COVID-19. While the US has less than 5 per cent of the world’s population, it accounts for about 20 per cent of the known deaths from the virus.
The country also leads the world by far in the number of confirmed coronavirus cases, at more than 6.8 million, followed by India and Brazil.
The latest grim milestone for the US comes nearly seven months after it announced the first confirmed fatality from the coronavirus in late February.
Trump calls on UN to hold China accountable
In a pre-recorded video released on Wednesday morning (Australian time), Mr Trump urged the United Nations General Assembly to “hold China accountable for their actions” related to the pandemic.
He claimed: “The Chinese government, and the World Health Organisation – which is virtually controlled by China – falsely declared that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission.”
“Later, they falsely said people without symptoms would not spread the disease … The United Nations must hold China accountable for their actions.”
Also in a pre-recorded address to the UN General Assembly, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing has “no intention to fight either a Cold War or a hot one with any country”.
“We will continue to narrow differences and resolve disputes with others through dialogue and negotiation. We will not seek to develop only ourselves or engage in zero sum game,” Mr Xi said.
“We should follow the guidance of science, give full play to the leading role of the World Health Organisation,” he added.
However, in May, Mr Trump vowed to pull the US out of the WHO, accusing it of protecting China.
In another pre-recorded speech, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun said the US should be held responsible for its “irresponsible behaviour” in the handling of the pandemic.