The US surpassed China in coronavirus deaths Tuesday. Or did it? Bloomberg News reports that the US intelligence community thinks Beijing is lying about its stats, both in terms of infections and deaths. The story is based on interviews with three anonymous US officials familiar with a classified report given to the White House. The officials say China's numbers are "intentionally incomplete," per Bloomberg, and two of the officials say the report concludes the figures are flat-out fake. The COVID-19 outbreak first surfaced in China's Hubei province late last year, and the official numbers out of the country—roughly 82,000 cases and 3,300 deaths—suggest the worst of China's outbreak is over. One problem: As Time points out, China has changed its definition of what it counts as a COVID-19 infection eight times since the outbreak began.
For a while, China did not count cases of those who tested positive but showed no symptoms—even though asymptomatic people are thought to be big spreaders of the disease, reports the Voice of America. That criteria changed only Tuesday, when China added more than 1,500 asymptomatic cases to its total, per Bloomberg. (On Wednesday, China reported 36 new coronavirus cases, all but one from abroad, notes the AP. It did not say if any were asymptomatic.) Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House response, alluded to the Chinese figures Tuesday. "The medical community ... interpreted the Chinese data as: 'This was serious, but smaller than anyone expected,'" she said. But "I think probably we were missing a significant amount of the data, now that we see what happened to Italy and see what happened to Spain." (Read more China stories.)