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 from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University, which used a model trained on seven year’s of monthly mortality and census data to estimate the excess mortality during a six month period between September 2017 when Hurricane Maria struck and February 2018 and found the 95 percent confidence level to be at 2,658-3,290.

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 based on household surveys that found around 9.8 to 18.9 deaths per 1,000 in their survey of 3,299 randomly chosen households across Puerto Rico.

The number Trump cited represents an early estimate of the confirmed direct deaths.


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

Fact check:

While initially reported direct deaths were less than a hundred, after six months the excess mortality rates very likely led to around three thousand indirect deaths. Since the assertion refers to death in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico, the statement is technically true, albeit somewhat misleading.

We rate Trump’s claim true.

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