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President Trump said in a press conference Wednesday that the U.S. coronavirus death toll is "very low ... if you take the blue states out," while defending the nation's response to the pandemic compared to other countries around the world.

Why it matters: Of the top five states with the largest death tolls from the virus, three have Democratic governors, suggesting there is little relation between the spread of the virus and the political parties of state leaders.

Of note: It is unclear precisely what Trump's definition of a "blue state" is, nor did he offer specifics to back up his claim that blue states managed the virus at all differently from red states.

What he's saying: "If you take the blue states out," he continued, "we're at a level that I don't think anybody in the world would be at. We're really at a very low level, but some of the states — they were blue states, and blue-state management."

  • He then went after states' reopening strategies, saying: "By the way, we'd recommend they open up their states. It's hurting people far more than the disease itself."

The other side: "Trump continues to politicize the coronavirus," the Democratic National Committee tweeted. "COVID isn't a red state or blue state issue. 9 of the 10 states with the most infections per capita have Republican governors. This virus has impacted all Americans."

The big picture: New York (D), New Jersey (D), Texas (R), California (D) and Florida (R) have to date reported the highest number of deaths from the virus in the U.S., according to Johns Hopkins University.

  • These are the states with the largest populations in the country.
  • "But red states and battlegrounds, such as Louisiana, Mississippi, Arizona and Michigan were also in the top ten," USA notes.
  • Meanwhile, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) announced last week that the state's coronavirus infection rate has remained below 1% for 30 days and COVID-19 hospitalizations have dropped to 410 — the lowest since March 16. The state, once a coronavirus epicenter, is curbing the spread of the virus, even as restrictions ease.
  • To date, the U.S. has reported 196,485 deaths associated with COVID-19, JHU reports.

What to watch via the Washington Post: "The University of Washington’s Institute on Health Metrics estimates that there will be nearly 413,000 deaths by the end of the year.

  • "Of that total, almost precisely half are projected to have occurred in red states."

Go deeper

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Airline recovery falters before it even gets off the ground

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Any hope for a rebound in air travel this year has vanished, with coronavirus cases surging in much of the U.S. and some states imposing quarantines to keep visitors away.

Why it matters: The airline industry is already suffering the worst crisis in its history. The soaring infection rates mean planes will be grounded even longer, putting tens of thousands of people out of work in the coming months.

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Biden embarks on a consequential presidency

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump tried everything to delegitimize the rival who vanquished him. In reality, he's set Joe Biden on course to be a far more consequential U.S. president than he might otherwise have become.

The big picture: President Biden now confronts not just a pandemic, but massive political divisions and an assault on truth — and the aftermath of the assault on the Capitol two weeks ago that threatened democracy itself.