Trump Versus George Washington: GW Stands By Mortality Findings From Puerto Rico

donald_trump_president-elect_portrait_cropped150px-GWUlogoGeorge Washington University has found itself in the eye of the storm over Hurricane Maria after President Donald Trump has lashed out at its findings that roughly 3,000 people died in Puerto Rico rather than a couple dozen cited by President Trump.  Trump has called the widely cited GW study “inflated” but the university (where I teach) is standing by its findings. Top Republicans have distanced themselves from Trump’s remarks and leaders like House Speaker Paul Ryan went public to say that there is no reason to doubt the GW findings. Even Trump supporter Florida Gov. Rick Scott who is running for the Senate tweeted “I disagree with @POTUS


Trump is arguing that the GW simply counted anyone who died during this period as a hurricane death: “3,000 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 3,000.”

Donald J. Trump


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…

He added: “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”
The study was actually done by George Washington University’s Milken Institute School of Public Health.  It was commissioned by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, who was previously praised by Trump.
 In its report last month GW estimated there were 2,975 excess deaths in Puerto Rico from September 2017 through February 2018 stemming from last year’s hurricane.
View image on Twitter

GW focused on “excess deaths” by comparing the number of deaths during the designated period with past mortality patterns. They found that the total number of deaths was 22% higher than the baseline and extrapolated from that figure.  It found that doctors often did not link deaths to the hurricane despite listing the causes as cardiac arrest, respiratory failure and septicemia.

Trump has directed much of his anger at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz.  Trump has previously complained about the failure of Cruz and local officials in dealing with the storm, including the lack of adequate infrastructure and preparation before the storm.  There may indeed be merit to the criticism, particularly in Cruz spending most of her time critiquing the federal offense rather than her own government’s performance.  However, that is entirely separate from the methodology and merits of the GW study which has been widely credited as reliable and credible.

162 thoughts on “Trump Versus George Washington: GW Stands By Mortality Findings From Puerto Rico”

  1. “If Trump’s Hurricane Killed 3,000, Obama’s Hurricane Killed 20,000

    The hurricane double standard from Sandy to Maria.

    …The study found that in the month that Hurricane Sandy struck, from October 28, 2012 through November 27, 2012 and in the quarter, October 28, 2012 through January 27, 2013, deaths rose by 6% for the month and 7% for the quarter.

    During the quarter, deaths due to infectious respiratory diseases went up 20% and from non-infectious respiratory diseases by 24%. Deaths due to unintentional injuries rose by 23% for the month and 10% for the quarter. Cardiovascular deaths went up 6% in the month and quarter.

    Deaths for people over 76 years old rose 10% in the month and 13% for the quarter. Deaths among the elderly caused by unintentional injury went up 33% for the month and 26% for the quarter.

    Back of the envelope calculation would suggest that this could add between 12,000 to 20,000 fatalities when you consider that New Jersey accounted for only a third of the deaths in Hurricane Sandy.

    Does this mean that Hurricane Sandy killed 20,000 people? About as likely that Maria killed 3,000. …

    When a Republican is in the White House, the media inflates the death toll and blasts the response. When a Democrat is in the White House, the media minimizes the death toll and praises the response.”

  2. Why do these overnight figures remind me so much of Harris and Booker????? I wonder if hey bothered to find out it was 2017 figures being used to predict 2018 outcomes? I don’t wonder if they cared they were falsifying not after last weeks perforamance.

  3. The president again provided no evidence to contradict the now widely accepted death toll, which was calculated after months of painstaking analysis of death records and expected mortality rates by researchers at George Washington University at the behest of the governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló. (Rosselló said in a statement on Thursday “it is a fact” that 2,975 people died following the hurricane.)

    In fact, the GWU researchers found that the death count remained low at 64 for many months after the storm
    Looks like the number of 18 is far closer than near 3,000

    Notice ‘after months of painstaking research?’
    Notice ‘remained at 64 for many months?’
    Notice they used some new untested theory to arrive at that figure?
    Notice they used all deaths in the time between .

    When did the storm hit?

    in Puerto Rico from September 2017, when hurricanes Irma and Maria hit

    What day was the President assaulted with this nonsense? October 15th 2018

    Hmmm … that’ s’many months? In fact the figures were for five months and were clearly labeled as conjecture

    So…Not on my calander

    Now what did the lame stream press imply?

    That it was a matter of days.

    GWU can figure but the media can certainly lie.

  4. Sadly, 7 people have died thus far due to Hurricane Florence… that’s 1,500 to all you Democrats.

    1. “Sadly, 7 people have died thus far due to Hurricane Florence… that’s 1,500 to all you Democrats.”
      And four pointy-heads sitting around the GW faculty lounge attested to it!! You now own the internet, Cindy!! LOL

        1. Cindy Bragg – the reported number of deaths is now 8, so you will have to adjust you figures expotentially upward.

          1. Paul C………thank you. Not to be disrespectful, but this math is hard. I don’t know how the Dems do it.
            So, if 16 actual deceased equals 3,000……then 8 would equal 1,650? (I’m a musician who failed math)

            1. Cindy Bragg – I know how nasty math can be. I moved over to Theatre Education because they did not require College Algebra to graduate. I got to take The Creative Art of Math, a survey of various math areas, which I took in the summer session from a Chinese couple where the husband’s English was worse than the wife’s. By the time we got to Algebra, I had enough points to get an A in the course. 😉

              1. Paul…..LOL ….You certainly took an interestingly circuitous path to get that A, I am impressed!
                My.high school algebra teacher, a Rice-educated genius, was a deacon in our church and felt so bad that I was failing that he called my parents. If I would just stay in class until the end of the week, he would put me in a nice study hall. So on that Friday, I took my last math test, my swan song, and made a 96!!! Mr. Tate was dumbfounded. I explained that I really did not perform well under pressure….and the pressure had been lifted. I also failed typing because the typing teacher hovered above me, constantly, checking my work!
                That’s so funny about your Chinese tutors. My parents had several Chinese and Korean ” godchildren” ( they were adults)..such dear people, all. And brilliant! My mother taught English to Asian immigrants at our church… seemed that usually the wives’ English was better than the husband’s.
                End scene. (LOL)

                  1. Paul C…. Sorry, yes, creative Art of Math teachers. In your theater ed. courses, or in teaching, ever hear the name Ruth Denney, theater ed icon in Texas?

  5. The fake news tells us 3,000 and common sense says maybe 20 died as a direct result. If someone has a heart attack a week later from the landing of the hurricane I cannot put two and two together. Trump is right. The media is fake and wrong and a fraud.

    1. Objectivism teaches observe everything and see if any of your conclusions make sense. If so why not equally if so why? Eventually mathematical proofs are required. (remember Heinlein?) If jumping from 18 to 64 to 3975 in the space of a few days does not meet the smell tense why not? We then apply the number one standby If the answer is an error then one or more of the premises is false.

      Find out which, make corrections and identify the source of the error.It still may be a clue or cue to something entirely new that is useful.

      In this case the trusting headlines from two different sources who labor under some silly ass rule of limiting by words or numbers of letters may well have been the cause of the false premises.

      As well as the editing staff more concerned with 800 words than the value of the words

    1. Ind. Bob………..Re: printing Obama’s lies…If analysis pieces are limited to 800 words, I don’t think they could cut it down to that size…..😅

  6. I actually read the study findings from the Milken Institute of Public Health at George Washington University. If you assume the researchers looked at recorded deaths and the causes related thereto, you will be disappointed.

    The study is pure statistical inference. It compares the historical death rate from a selected band of years to reported deaths from September 2017 through February 2018. The difference between predicted and observed deaths are counted as excess deaths which are assumed to be a consequence of Hurricane Maria.

    There are numerous assumptions in the study, many of which have questionable validity. First, the study had to account for displacements – those Puerto Ricans that left the island for the mainland. How they came up with this number is a mystery.

    Secondly, the study included deaths in Puerto Rico for a full six-month period AFTER the hurricane made landfall and ASSUMES that any increase in observed deaths versus THEIR statistically predicted deaths for that entire period MUST be attributed to Hurricane Maria.

    For the first few weeks after the hurricane made landfall, the death toll was only put at 16. It was then bumped up to 64 for those that died from hurricane related causes and stayed at 64 for months. Academics and JOURNALISTS claimed the death toll MUST be higher. Thus, we have the GWU study.

    From my perspective, the study is dubious and I suspect there ARE ulterior political motives. Why is it so critical that any group expend resources in an attempt to raise the death toll? There is only one reason.

      1. They used info from a previous storm to second guess this storm and apparently other storms to second guess Marie/Irma. The Governor of Puerto Rico bought it to get more funding and this time WaPo bought the story to save their failing business.

        Simple as that.

        The Washington Post’s Slander on Hurricanes and Climate Change

        The Washington Post editorial board says that President Trump is “complicit” in Hurricane Florence, because his climate policies fuel “extreme weather.” In reality, empirical data from as far back in time as it extends show that:

        * global hurricane frequency, hurricane intensity, hurricane duration, and general rainfall trends have been level.

        * Atlantic hurricane frequency and intensity trends have been level.

        * U.S. hurricane strikes, major hurricane strikes, and flood trends have been level.


    1. Blaine McAvoy — Epidemiology is a difficult application of statistical reasoning. The assumptions in this study appear reasonable to me. More important, it appears to survive peer review.

      Another example is excess deaths due to the Fukushima Dai-ichi events following to great Tohoku earthquake and tsunami. None were due to radiation release; all were due to the stress of relocation. Correctly stating that matter has been a considerable effort.

      1. Not specifically to David, but anyone involved in the field of science that has to read scientific journals knows that in the end peer review isn’t a guarantee of a properly controlled or written study. It only means that a potentially similar group of people sign off on the article.

        Those not scientifically oriented instinctively know this because they constantly see changes recommended by dieticians, doctors etc. that all might be relying on peer reviewed studies replacing older studies. I think in recent years a lot of our scientific studies in fields that lack the purity of the hard sciences have deteriorated. Politics has enterred into science once again and soon the leftist crazies might prove that the sun revolves around the earth.

    2. Agree. Apparently there are no standards – US or worldwide ( UN) for calculating the indirect death toll for disasters.

      In Katrina, there was an arbitrary cutoff date of Oct 1 for the calculations of indirect deaths, in Maria , GW researchers /statisticians use 6 months after Maria hit PR as the cutoff date.

      Apples to oranges.

    3. Statistical inference is a nice way of saying polling. Another form is a straw poll being used to ‘deem’ something is correct. Another way is wishfuil thinking does not influence reality nor does lack of facts and lack of recognizing reality. To this day that is Clintons real problem. She is NOT the smartest woman in the world.No matter what the party says.. and neither is The Party.;

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