In his Fourth of July speech, President Donald Trump reflected on the nation’s history and its accomplishments. He also made several false claims about the coronavirus and his administration’s response to the pandemic.
Coronavirus response efforts
According to Trump, his administration’s strategy to address coronavirus “is moving along well.” He added, “We’ve learned how to put out the flame.”
Facts First: It’s misleading for the President to claim the US has “learned how to put out the flame” of coronavirus when the country has experienced its highest daily rate of cases over the past week.
In the days leading up to Trump’s remarks, the US set a new global record for the most number of coronavirus cases recorded in a day. And the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention testified last week that at least 12 states reported an increase in daily hospitalizations for coronavirus patients.
To be fair, Trump did acknowledge that the virus is still a problem, saying, “It goes out in one area, it rears back its ugly face in another area.”
But still, to claim that the US response to the pandemic is “moving along well” is disingenuous, and ignores not just the current situation in the US, but also how it compares to other countries.
The US response to coronavirus is also not “moving along well” when compared with other countries. While coronavirus cases remain high in the US, other countries in Europe and across the world have seen clear downward trends in the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases. The European Union has also banned US residents from traveling there given the sudden spike in coronavirus cases in the US.
Impact of coronavirus
In his remarks Saturday evening, Trump falsely suggested, not for the first time, that the recent rise in US coronavirus cases is due to increased testing, and claimed that a majority of the cases that test positive for coronavirus are “totally harmless.”
“Now we have tested, almost 40 million people. By so doing, we show cases – 99% of which are totally harmless – results that no other country can show because no other country has testing that we have,” Trump said.
Facts First: While higher case numbers can sometimes be attributed to better testing, experts say the recent surges in coronavirus cases are outpacing the increase in tests.
Even officials from Trump’s own government have testified to that fact. Last week, Admiral Dr. Brett Giroir, assistant secretary for health for the US Department of Health and Human Services, told the House Select Subcommittee on the Coronavirus Crisis, “There is no question that the more testing you get, the more you will uncover – but we do believe this is a real increase in cases, because the percent positivity’s are going up. So, this is real increases in cases.”
Furthermore, it is unclear how the President could be under the impression that 99% of US coronavirus cases are “totally harmless.” Out of the at least 2.8 million cases of coronavirus in the US, Johns Hopkins estimated a fatality rate of 4.6%, as of Saturday. The US death toll from coronavirus is also more than twice as high as that of the country with the second-highest death rate, Brazil, according to the latest data from Johns Hopkins.
While the World Health Organization has said the global fatality rate is likely less than 1%, the WHO also said about 20% of all people who are diagnosed with coronavirus are sick enough to need oxygen or hospital care.
The commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration on Sunday declined to defend the President and repeatedly refused to say whether Trump’s remark is true or false.
“I’m not going to get into who is right and who is wrong,” Dr. Stephen Hahn, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, told CNN’s Dana Bash on “State of the Union.”
The White House has not returned CNN’s request for comment on the President’s claim.
Continuing to frame his initiatives as successful, the President said, “We are unleashing our nation’s scientific brilliance. And we’ll likely have a therapeutic and/or vaccine solution long before the end of the year.”
Facts First: Trump’s timeline is more optimistic than both experts’ and his own previous predictions. Last week, some top health officials said the US could be on track to have a vaccine by the end of the year, but not “long before.” While several vaccine candidates have shown positive early data, all of them still have to undergo more trials.
Trump touted efforts led by his administration to manufacture the equipment needed to fight the outbreak. He claimed, “We’ve made ventilators where there were none.”
Facts First: It’s not true that the Trump administration was left no ventilators by the Obama administration, something Trump has falsely claimed on numerous occasions. In March, there were 16,660 ventilators available in the national stockpile for immediate use, according to a spokesperson for the Department of Health and Human Services.
Trump has previously claimed that he inherited “no ventilators” from the previous administration. While the stockpile did have depleted stocks of some supplies like masks, there were significant quantities of other items. You can read a fact check here about Trump’s broader claim about empty shelves and cupboards.