Television personality Dr. Phil criticized the potential economic fallout from the coronavirus on Thursday, noting that the country does not shut down because of deaths from automobiles, cigarettes or swimming pools.

The TV host, whose real name is Phil McGraw, was interviewed by Fox News’ Laura Ingraham on Thursday.

“The economy is crashing around us and they’re doing that because people are dying because of coronavirus,” McGraw said told Ingraham. “The fact of the matter is, we have people dying — 45,000 people a year die from automobile accidents, 480,000 from cigarettes, 360,000 a year from swimming pools. But we don’t shut the country down for that.”

He continued, “But yet we doing it for this? And the fallout is going to last for years because people’s lives are being destroyed.”


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The numbers McGraw referenced, however, were not entirely accurate.

The 480,000 figure of smoking-related deaths is in line with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s data, but he was off with his automobile and swimming pool death estimates.

While he said 45,000 people a year every from automobile accidents, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 36,750 traffic deaths in 2018, though this number does fluctuate each year.

The CDC said there were 3,709 deaths from accidental drowning or submersion in 2017, the most recent year with data available — a far stretch from McGraw’s “360,000” deaths per year claim. The CDC’s number also includes all bodies of waters, not just swimming pools.

In an April 17 video on Facebook and Instagram Live, McGraw said he “misspoke” about the drowning statistics. He said he was referencing the worldwide number, which the World Health Organization says is 320,000 deaths per year, still 40,000 fewer than what he told Ingraham.

The novel coronavirus has claimed the lives of more than 155,000 people worldwide. In the US, there have been over 37,000 fatalities — more than automobile or swimming pool deaths.

Further, coronavirus has only been in the U.S. for three months, as the first known case of COVID-19 in the U.S. was confirmed on Jan. 20. The numbers McGraw tried to cite are all annual statistics; the coronavirus has only existed within the U.S. for a quarter of that time.

Swimming pool, cigarette and automobile deaths are also not contagious, unlike the virus.


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