At a rally in Michigan on Friday, President Donald Trump repeated an extraordinary and unfounded claim that American doctors were profiteering from coronavirus deaths.
"You know our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID," Trump said, adding that in Germany and other countries, deaths are characterized differently if there appear to be multiple causes.
"With us, when in doubt, choose COVID," he said.
Medical professionals and organizations quickly decried those comments and lauded the work of nurses, doctors and other health care workers, many of whom have risked their lives and worried about the health of their families as they cared for people who were infected with the coronavirus.
"The suggestion that doctors — in the midst of a public health crisis — are overcounting COVID-19 patients or lying to line their pockets is a malicious, outrageous and completely misguided charge," Susan Bailey, the president of the American Medical Association, said in a statement Friday.
"Rather than attacking us and lobbing baseless charges at physicians, our leaders should be following the science and urging adherence to the public health steps we know work — wearing a mask, washing hands and practicing physical distancing," she added.
Misleading claims about inflated death counts related to the coronavirus surfaced as early as April.
Coronavirus cases are rising in Michigan as a third wave of infections spreads across the country. This week, the state recorded a 91% increase in new cases from the average just two weeks earlier.
Trump made a similar false claim about physicians at a campaign rally Oct. 24 in Wisconsin — another state that has seen a surge in cases this month — when he said that "doctors get more money and hospitals get more money" for reporting more deaths linked to the coronavirus.
That prompted a backlash from organizations including the Society of Hospital Medicine, the Council of Medical Specialty Societies and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
"These baseless claims not only do a disservice to our health care heroes but promulgate the dangerous wave of misinformation which continues to hinder our nation's efforts to get the pandemic under control and allow our nation to return to normalcy," the American College of Emergency Physicians said in a statement Sunday.
On the campaign trail, the president has often declared that the virus is vanishing, even as case counts soar.