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Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/02 Update)

News and Analysis
Falsehoods and Failures: Trump During COVID-19 (10/02 Update)

Donald Trump’s compulsive lying about the pandemic has endangered our safety and our lives for months, and has ultimately proven to be harmful to his own health: After months of encouraging his supporters to flout health and safety guidelines, Trump has tested positive for COVID-19.

His situation now reflects that of hundreds of thousands of people across the country: Since September 9, the date of our most recent national peak, confirmed cases have risen to 45,300 a day—a 32 percent increase. On September 26, the U.S. passed seven million total cases. But none of that has affected Trump’s political strong-arming of federal health agencies or his dangerous lies and behavior.

Prior to his diagnosis on October 1, Trump continued to dismiss and peddle falsehoods about the pandemic much as he has since its inception:

  • The first presidential debate between Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden took place on September 29, and as anticipated, it was riddled with Trump’s blustering and lies about how he has handled the coronavirus. Here are a few of his many egregious false statements:
    • Trump claimed that he respected the face mask guidelines recommended by the nation’s top health experts, which was false as recently as last week.
    • After Biden said that 100 million people could lose preexisting conditions if the Supreme Court overturns the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Trump claimed that “there aren’t 100 million people with preexisting conditions.” In fact, as many as 133 million Americans could lose their insurance coverage if the ACA is overturned – and that number will only grow along with the COVID-19 case count.
    • Despite the mountains of evidence – and his own statements to the contrary – Trump again incorrectly claimed that young children aren’t harmed by COVID-19.
    • Trump falsely depicted Biden’s plans to confront the pandemic and accused him of wanting to “close down the whole country.”
    • Trump continued to make unfounded promises that the broader public will have access to a vaccine in a matter of “weeks.”
    • Trump falsely claimed that disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci thought he’d done a “great job” on addressing COVID-19, despite Fauci’s assessment one day earlier that the U.S. is “not in a good place” regarding the pandemic.
  • To no one’s surprise, a Cornell University study concluded that, out of 38 million articles, the “single largest driver” of coronavirus misinformation in the English-language world is Trump himself.
  • This week, current and former Health and Human Services (HHS) officials expressed concerns over an HHS ad campaign that Michael Caputo – the disgraced HHS spokesperson now on leave – spearheaded to “defeat despair” over Trump’s COVID response. “We could use that quarter of a billion dollars on buying PPE,” said one anonymous HHS official. Josh Peck, a former HHS official from the Obama administration, described the campaign as “every red flag I could dream of,” pointing out that the “CDC hasn’t yet done an awareness campaign about COVID guidelines, but they are going to pay for a campaign about how to get rid of our despair? Run by political appointees in the press shop? Right before an election?”
  • The New York Times reported on September 28 that Trump and his administration pressured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to play down the danger inherent in reopening schools during a pandemic. Trump has continued to insist that schools reopen or stay open for in-person teaching. Data continue to make clear how dangerous this has already become: Young adults account for more than 20 percent of all confirmed cases from June through August. Cases are rising in young children as schools have reopened, and young people are likely spreading the virus to older people in their communities.
  • Trump blocked the CDC’s order to restrict cruise ships from sailing until February 2021, according to a report from the New York Times on September 30. Lobbyists for the cruise industry, which has close ties to Trump, and Republican politicians in Florida, which he is fighting hard to win in the election, have called for a premature end to the no-sail order.
  • Trump’s failure to manage the pandemic has resulted in mass layoffs and furloughs, which continue to ripple throughout the country. This week has been filled with news of mass layoffs in the airline, retail, sports, insurance and others. On September 30, the Washington Post reported that “the COVID-19 recession is the most unequal in modern U.S. history.”
  • Additionally, because Trump has taken no measures to boost or protect health care insurance during coronavirus, many small businesses are being forced to consider eliminating health care insurance for their employees.
  • Trump’s vow to produce and distribute 300 million N95 face masks by September has proven to be yet another baseless claim. As of September 25, the federal government had produced less than one-third of that amount.

Trump’s unhinged debate performance and his unceasing stream of lies were not a surprise, particularly to those of us who closely track his responses to this public health crisis. However, it was a jarring point of proof that he is unfit to lead this country on any day, let alone during as dire a national and global emergency as this.

If we want to protect our communities from further harm, we must get out the vote to defeat Trump. Early voting centers are open now, and many mail-in ballots have already been delivered. If you don’t have a plan to vote yet, make one today – and ensure that all of your family and friends who are eligible to vote have one too. We cannot let Trump sit in the highest office of our country for another four years – we might not survive it.