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AP FACT CHECK: Actually, 20% of US lives in a virus hot spot

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AP FACT CHECK: Actually, 20% of US lives in a virus hot spot

MGN WASHINGTON (AP) It’s been a frequent Trump administration talking point on the recent spike in COVID-19 infections: Don’t worry, only a small sliver of U.S. counties is at greater risk.

In offering this reassurance, Vice President Mike Pence and Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar have said that only 3% or 4% of counties in the country are seeing a surge in cases. Focus on the “encouraging signs,” Pence told senators last week.

But they and other administration officials are skirting a key fact: More than 20% of Americans live in those relatively few counties.

The White House has repeatedly cited the low county tally, and Pence reaffirmed the point in a televised interview Sunday. He argued that states, not the federal government, should take the lead with reopening guidelines because virus outbreaks are happening in about “4% of all the counties in this country.”

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Azar asserted Friday only 3% of counties represent “hot spots” that are “very concerning.”

The emphasis on a percentage of counties makes for a misleading portrayal of the virus threat.

The White House provided The Associated Press with the full list of U.S. counties that reported increases in COVID-19 cases as of Friday. It showed 137 of the 3,142 counties in the U.S. that were under a higher alert — indeed, about 4% at the time.But measured by population, those counties represent a vastly higher share — over 1 in 5 people in the U.S.Altogether there are 68.3 million people living in those 137 counties, while there is a total U.S. population of 322.9 million. That means 21.1% of U.S. residents actually live in a virus “hot spot.”In […]

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