Making final arguments before Tuesday’s election, President Donald Trump asserted the U.S. was shaking off a coronavirus pandemic that is only getting worse, falsely claimed Democrat Joe Biden would lock down the country for years and baselessly alleged that the COVID-19 death count is being inflated by doctors.
His weekend comments capped the 2020 campaign's final week in which the actual crisis of the coronavirus pandemic and a manufactured crisis over voting fraud featured heavily.
TRUMP: “Biden wants to LOCKDOWN our Country, maybe for years. Crazy!” — tweet Sunday.
TRUMP: “Biden is all about lockdowns. They want to lock it down ... for a couple years, and let it go away.” — Michigan rally Sunday.
THE FACTS: To be clear, Biden isn't promising to push wide-scale stay-at-home orders to stem the coronavirus if elected, and most certainly not “for a couple years," which is beyond when most scientists think a vaccine could become widely available.
Biden has publicly said he would shut the nation’s economy only if scientists and public health advisers recommended he do so to stem the COVID-19 threat. The former vice president has repeatedly criticized Trump for disregarding scientists on the pandemic response, such as his shunning of masks, but has said repeatedly that no one knows what January would look like.
Biden told an ABC interviewer in August that he “will be prepared to do whatever it takes to save lives” when he was asked if he would be willing to shut the country again.
“So if the scientists say shut it down?” asked ABC’s David Muir.
“I would shut it down,” Biden responded. “I would listen to the scientists.”
Decision 2020 Coverage
TRUMP: “How do you like the $2 gasoline? You’ll have it for a long time if you elect Trump.” — Michigan rally Sunday.
THE FACTS: Trump is wrongly taking credit for lower gas prices that were the byproduct of a pandemic that has killed more than 230,000 Americans.
Gasoline prices didn’t fall because of the Trump administration. They plunged because of the coronavirus forcing people to abandon their offices, schools, business trips and vacations.
As more people worked from home, they needed to fill up their cars less frequently. Airlines didn’t need to burn through as much fuel. Here’s the statement from the U.S. Energy Information Administration: “Reduced economic activity related to the COVID-19 pandemic has caused changes in energy demand and supply patterns in 2020.” World demand for oil has fallen by 8 million barrels a day, according to that agency’s estimates.
Underscoring the connection to the pandemic shutdown, U.S. gas prices were at their lowest in April when people were staying home most. Gas prices have mostly risen since then, according to the information agency.
TRUMP: "You can have the vaccine, but without it, we’re rounding the corner.” — Iowa rally Sunday.
THE FACTS: No, the coronavirus isn’t going away, and Trump is contradicted by his own top health experts. New cases are on the rise toward their summer peak. Deaths have also been increasing.
The United States is averaging about 76,000 new confirmed cases a day, a rate that is up 43% over the past three weeks and the highest since the pandemic began. The number of confirmed coronavirus deaths in the U.S. is now over 230,000, the most in the world. It is averaging just over 800 coronavirus deaths a day, up 14% over the past two weeks.
Rebutting Trump, Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government's top infectious diseases expert, says the U.S. will grapple with “a whole lot of hurt” in the weeks ahead due to surging coronavirus cases. He told The Washington Post the U.S. “could not possibly be positioned more poorly” to stem cases as more people gather indoors during the colder fall and winter months.
He said the country could surpass 100,000 new coronavirus cases a day and predicted rising deaths in the coming weeks.
Dr. Scott Gottlieb, a former head of the Food and Drug Administration under Trump, agreed Sunday that “things are getting worse.”
“I think as we get into the next two or three weeks, it will be unmistakable what’s happening around the country, and we’re going to have to start taking tough steps,” Gottlieb told CBS' “Face the Nation.” “I think December is probably going to be our toughest month.”
TRUMP: “You know, our doctors get more money if somebody dies from COVID. You know that, right? I mean, our doctors are very smart people. So what they do is they say, ‘I’m sorry, but, you know, everybody dies of COVID.’” — rally Friday in Waterford Township, Michigan.
THE FACTS: No, the virus death count has not been overstated because of doctors lying to get more money. No evidence has emerged of such systemic fraud.
Over 230,000 deaths from COVID-19 have been confirmed. The true number is almost certainly higher by a considerable margin.
As of Oct. 3, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention counted 299,000 more U.S. deaths than would be expected in a normal year. Some of those deaths are sure to have been from COVID-19 — how many cannot be known.
It's true that hospitals may get higher reimbursement from the government to treat COVID-19 patients. Hospitals were given a 20% add-on for Medicare patients who test positive for the virus to cover the additional costs of treating the disease, such as buying supplies. The higher reimbursements are based on a COVID-19 diagnosis, not on the cause of death as Trump stated.
The Healthcare Financial Management Association, which works with hospitals on billing matters, says providers must support COVID-19 billing with test results or a physician's statement. The organization says hospitals expect to be audited for this billing and know that Medicare cheaters may have to pay back three times what they overcharged or even lose access to Medicaid patients.
Susan R. Bailey, president of the American Medical Association, said Trump's allegation of COVID-19 overcounting, which he has made several times, “is a malicious, outrageous, and completely misguided charge.”
Associated Press writers Arijeta Lajka in New York, Tom Murphy in Indianapolis, Paul Wiseman and Darlene Superville in Washington; Kathleen Ronayne in Sacramento, California; Michelle L. Price in Las Vegas and Nicholas Riccardi in Denver contributed to this report.