President Trump made several major errors on Wednesday night when he delivered his prime-time address to the nation on the US response to coronavirus, including the scope of his travel ban, whether it affects trade, and the nature of his administration’s agreement with the health insurance industry. Here’s a look at how his statements compare with the facts.
Who is affected by the travel ban?
President Trump: “We will be suspending all travel from Europe, except the United Kingdom, for the next 30 days.”
The facts: That’s not exactly his plan.
First, the restriction does not apply to legal permanent residents of the US or their families when they are returning from Europe. It also does not apply to US citizens coming back from Europe, as Trump acknowledged. There are also several exceptions for foreign nationals who are determined not to pose a “significant risk” of transmitting the virus, or “whose entry would be in the national interest.”
Additionally, it does not apply to Ireland, Romania, Croatia, Ukraine, and several other European states. The proclamation released by the White House says the travel ban will affect the 26 European states in what’s known as the Schengen Area. That’s most of Europe, but not “all.”
According to the proclamation, the countries include: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland.
The Department of Homeland Security quickly issued a statement following Trump’s speech:
The action @POTUS is taking to deny entry to foreign nationals who have been in coronavirus-affected areas will keep Americans safe & save lives. These are not easy decisions but they are required. I will issue guidance within 48 hours outlining details.https://t.co/KYXE7JKswC pic.twitter.com/zgi6r5FoZq— Acting Secretary Chad Wolf (@DHS_Wolf) March 12, 2020
Cargo and trade is still allowed
Trump: “These prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval.”
The facts: That is also wrong. The White House quickly clarified that the restriction on movement from Europe "only applies to human beings, not goods and cargo.”
Later, Trump himself clarified via Twitter that trade with Europe would not be shut down.
Hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats, and please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
Anti-viral therapies won’t be available soon
Trump: “We are cutting massive amounts of red tape to make antiviral therapies available in record time. These treatments will significantly reduce the impact and reach of the virus.”
The facts: People suffering from COVID-19 or those who get it in the current outbreak should not expect those therapies to be available to them. Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health told a congressional committee Wednesday that while antivirals are being tested, “we don’t know if it works. I don’t want to promise anything.”
An antiviral is a medicine that specifically attacks a virus to hasten recovery. An experimental drug named remdesivir, which was being developed to fight Ebola, is being tested in COVID-19 patients in the US and abroad. There also are studies underway using combinations of some HIV-attacking drugs.
No insurance copays for testing, not treatment
Trump: “Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing.”
The facts: A White House official said Trump misspoke when he said that the insurance industry would waive all copays for treatment. In fact, he only meant to reiterate a previously announced agreement that copays would be waived for coronavirus testing.
Trump tonight said health insurers “have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments.” WH official says Trump meant to echo what VP said yesterday that insurers “have agreed to waive all copays on coronavirus *testing.”— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) March 12, 2020
Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Lauran Neergaard, and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.