Fact check: Trump's tweet about Hurricane Maria

U.S. President Donald Trump has taken issue with an updated death toll for Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico in September 2017.

Here’s the tweet:

Donald J. Trump on Twitter

3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000…

Trump was likely referencing this study.

The study, from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, showed that between 2,658–3,290 excess deaths were due to the hurricane (95 percent confidence interval). The official death toll was then revised to the estimate of 2,975.

Many of these deaths were a result of indirect causes such as destruction of infrastructure, a lack of hospital services due to power outages, and a lack of clean water. Many people who initially survived later died due to complications. The study showed that an increased mortality rate persisted until the end of the study period for some groups.

The number Trump cited did not take into account these causes of death and was a very early estimate of confirmed direct deaths. He provided no evidence that the Milken Institute’s study was false.

Harvard public health researchers in July 2018 published a study in the New England Journal of Medicine that showed an even higher estimate of excess deaths of 4,645. The researchers also mentioned that this number was likely to be an underestimate due to survivorship bias.


“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico.”

Fact check:

The Puerto Rico government’s official (CNN) death toll from the hurricane is 2,975, with some published research estimates much higher.

We rate Trump’s claim false.

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