We are still reviewing some of Trump’s comments at the daily White House coronavirus briefing. We’ll update this article with additional fact checks.
The Food and Drug Administration recently gave doctors emergency authorization to use the medicines, chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, to treat Covid-19 in hospitals but not at home. The FDA has not fully “approved” the drugs for Covid-19, which requires a much higher scientific standard.
“You are not going to die from this pill,” Trump said, before acknowledging that he isn’t a doctor but has reviewed some of the medical studies, adding, “I really think it’s a great thing to try.”
Facts First: There is no conclusive scientific evidence to support what Trump is saying. Clinical trials are underway, but the FDA and top public health officials have not endorsed Trump’s view that the drugs are already known to be effective against Covid-19 and can be taken safely.
Over the past few weeks, there has been a glaring messaging gap between Trump and top public health officials about these drugs. While Trump touts them as miracle drugs that are on the brink of saving lives, the medical experts are cautiously waiting for scientific evidence.
Some medical research suggests that the drugs could work against coronavirus, but the study most commonly cited by Trump was incredibly small and didn’t follow typical procedures for randomized trials. A more robust, large-scale clinical trial is underway now in New York.
On Tuesday, Trump also referenced a Democratic state lawmaker in Michigan who tested positive for the coronavirus but recovered, and now credits hydroxychloroquine for her success.
The lawmaker’s story is compelling, but anecdotal. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious disease expert, has said that at this point, there is only anecdotal evidence that the drugs work.
Revisionist history on the flu
“You said I said it was just like a flu. So the worst pandemic we ever had in this world was a flu, and it was called — you know that — it was in 1917, 1918. And anywhere from 50 (million) to a hundred million people died. That was a flu. OK. So you could say that I said it was a flu, or you could say the flu is nothing to — sneeze at,” he said.
Facts First: Trump was inaccurately portraying his own comments. When he likened the coronavirus to the flu in February and March, he was saying or strongly suggesting that the virus was like a conventional flu — a “regular flu” or “common flu” — not warning Americans that they could be facing something equivalent to the catastrophic flu pandemic of 1918 and 1919.
“You can’t compare this to 1918 where close to 100 million people died,” he said.
European travel ban
Trump claimed Tuesday that he had “closed it down to Europe” and then that he had “closed it down to all of Europe.”
Facts First: Trump never closed the US to travelers from “all of Europe.” Rather, he imposed restrictions on travel from most European countries but exempted others. And his restrictions did not apply to some people traveling from Europe: US citizens, permanent US residents, certain family members of both citizens and permanent residents and some other groups of travelers.
Trump’s restrictions initially applied to the 26 countries in the Schengen Area, a European zone in which people can move freely across internal borders without being subjected to border checks. Trump later added the United Kingdom and Ireland. That still left out some European countries, including Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Ukraine and Russia.
The World Health Organization
During Tuesday’s White House coronavirus task force briefing, Trump claimed that the World Health Organization downplayed the coronavirus and criticized his January 31 order restricting most travel between the United States and China.
“Take a look, I mean go through step by step, they said there’s no big deal, there’s no big problem, there’s no nothing, and then ultimately when I closed it down they actually said that I made a mistake in closing it down, and it turned out to be right.”
Facts First: Trump is correct that the World Health Organization organization didn’t support his travel restrictions with China — the WHO opposes most international travel restrictions and sees them as ineffectual — but he overstated the case when he insinuated that the WHO downplayed the virus.
Trump overstates when he insinuates that the WHO knew about the global threat the virus posed, but downplayed it. The WHO defines an emergency of international concern as “an extraordinary event” that constitutes a “public health risk to other States through the international spread of disease” and “to potentially require a coordinated international response,” meaning that the organization recognized that the virus posed an international threat beyond China.