President Donald Trump on Friday continued the false and misleading claims that have become a part of White House briefings on coronavirus, wrapping up a week in which the number of confirmed cases across the country topped 100,000.
Trump claimed that 22 days ago, “everything was going beautifully” before the US got hit by what he calls “the invisible enemy.” He said, “22 days ago we had the greatest economy in the world, everything was going beautifully, the stock market hit an all-time high”
Facts First: While the market had previously set all-time records under Trump, on March 5, 22 days before Trump’s comments, the Dow dropped 3.6% or 970 points, then its fifth-worst single-day point drop on record, adding to a 3,000-point drop since its peak on February 12. That day’s fall in the Dow followed drops of 1,000 points and 800 points earlier that week.
How unforeseen the coronavirus crisis was
Multiple times throughout Friday’s press briefing, the President claimed the current situation was unprecedented and unforeseen. According to Trump, “nobody was prepared for this,” not even past presidents. He added, “In all fairness to all of the former presidents, none of them ever thought a thing like this could happen.”
Facts First: This is false. The US intelligence community and public health experts had warned for years that the country was at risk from a pandemic. Experts had also warned that the country would face shortages of critical medical equipment, such as ventilators, if a pandemic occurred.
You can read a full fact check here about some of the pandemic warnings. You can read a full fact check here about warnings about the need for additional ventilators in a pandemic.
The former GM plant in Lordstown, Ohio
As he did on Twitter earlier
on Friday, Trump suggested at the briefing that General Motors should manufacture ventilators at its plant in Lordstown, Ohio.
“…frankly, I think that would be a good place to build the ventilators, but we’ll see,” Trump said.
Facts First: General Motors sold the shuttered Lordstown facility in November 2019. Trump had applauded the potential sale in a tweet in May 2019. Ohio Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said on Twitter after Trump’s Friday tweet but before the briefing: “General Motors sold Lordstown. If the President cared about its former workers, he would know that.”
The coronavirus and the flu
Trump said of the coronavirus
: “You can call it a germ, you can call it a flu, you can call it a virus, you know you can call it many different names. I’m not sure anybody even knows what it is.”
Facts First: You cannot accurately call the coronavirus “a flu.” They are, simply, different viruses with different characteristics, though they share some symptoms the coronavirus has a much higher mortality rate.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said Thursday during an online chat with NBA star Stephen Curry that the coronavirus is “very much more transmissible than flu and more importantly, it’s significantly more serious” — with a mortality rate approximately 10 times higher than the 0.1% for the flu.
It’s also obviously untrue that there is not “anybody” who knows what the coronavirus is. Though it was initially seen as a mystery virus when it emerged in China, we knew its genetic information by early January.
New York and ventilators
“We sent thousands of ventilators to New York and they didn’t know about it at the time, they were complaining. Thousands. We had 2,000 and then 2,000 and then 4,000, and they were going there in large numbers.” Trump also said at the briefing that New York had been unaware of thousands of ventilators sitting in “a warehouse.”
Facts First: There is no evidence that New York did not know ventilators had arrived from the federal government when Gov. Andrew Cuomo was demanding additional ventilators. “Not true,” New York state Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker told CNN’s Chris Cuomo on Friday night. “We knew the ventilators arrived — and we need more ventilators. This is just the beginning of addressing the problem that we have.” Zucker specified that a total of 4,000 ventilators had been received, not the 8,000 Trump suggested here.
Here’s a rough timeline of what happened.
Cuomo said last weekend that the state needed 30,000 ventilators. Trump tweeted
Tuesday morning that 400 ventilators had been secured for New York City. Cuomo replied at a news conference that 400 ventilators were not cause for self-congratulation, adding, “What am I going to do with 400 ventilators when I need 30,000?” It was later on Tuesday that Vice President Mike Pence announced that 2,000 additional ventilators had been shipped to New York that day and that 2,000 more would be shipped the following day.
Cuomo told CNN on Friday that Trump was “incorrect and grossly uninformed” in his comments
about New York having been unaware of a stockpile of ventilators sitting around in New York. Cuomo said the state does not need to dip into the stockpile at the moment; he said his estimate of 30,000 ventilators needed is about the expected peak of the crisis in approximately 21 days, not about the present moment.
“So the point is, ‘Well they’re in a stockpile, you must not need them’ is just ignorant — of course you don’t need them today!” Cuomo said. “You need them when you hit the apex, which is 30,000. We’re not there yet.”
Tariffs on China
Trump said, “China pays 25% interest on $250 billion worth of product that they send in.”
Facts First: Trump was inaccurately describing his 25% tariff on $250 billion worth of Chinese products. A tariff is, simply, not the same as “interest.” It is a tax paid by the importer — the American purchaser — not a charge paid by an entity that has borrowed money.
Study after study has shown that Americans are bearing the cost of the tariffs; Americans make the actual tariff payments.
This story has been updated with additional fact checks.