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Trust Index: Fact-checking Trump-Biden final debate claims on COVID surge, lockdowns, Michigan governor’s boat

Candidates make claims on pandemic projection, mortality rate, excess deaths, state lockdown

We’ve tested claims about the pandemic in just about every Trust Index report during the late election season.

During Thursday night’s final presidential debate between President Trump and Joe Biden, the candidates had claims about the recent spike in cases and hospitalization and the possibility for steps back into another shutdown if the trend worsens.

Biden’s claim about pandemic’s direction

We’ll start with one from Biden about the direction of the pandemic.

“There’s not another serious scientist in the world thinks it’s going to be over soon,” Biden said.

We’ll call this true.

It's True

We’ve reviewed information surrounding this topic and confirmed that It’s True.

What is the Trust Index?

While it depends on the definition of soon, estimates from prominent public health researchers and institutions all place the pandemic stretching into 2021. One estimate from the health reporting outlet Statnews says widespread vaccines may not be available until June of next year.

Biden’s claim on pandemic timeline, grim projection

Next is another claim from Biden shortening the timeline and zeroing on a grim projection.

“The expectation is we’ll have another 200,000 Americans dead by the time, between now and the end of the year. If we just wore these masks — the President’s own advisors told them — we could save 100,000 lives,” he said.

We’re calling this true, but Biden is actually under the estimate number.

It's True

We’ve reviewed information surrounding this topic and confirmed that It’s True.

What is the Trust Index?

According to a recent projection from the University of Washington, which has been cited repeatedly by the White House Task Force, projects 375,000 deaths by the end of the year if not more, if restrictions in states continue to be lifted. The study also found that a mask national mask mandate could lower that number to 262,000, so roughly 100,000.

Trump’s claims on COVID mortality rate, excess deaths

Next we’re taking a pair of claims from the President at the same time.

“If you notice the mortality rate is down 85%. The excess mortality rate is way down and much lower than almost any other country,” Trump said.

The first part of that is true but needs context.

It's True

We’ve reviewed information surrounding this topic and confirmed that It’s True.

What is the Trust Index?

According to the CDC, since the highest recorded number of deaths in April of nearly 6500 deaths are down about 85 percent. But that spike is an outlier, when using the 7-day average numbers, which is a better look at the virus' trends, the decrease in deaths is closer to 73 percent.

As for the excess deaths, That’s not true.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

According to several studies including a report from the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease and Research Policy, the Journal of American Medicine and the Cleveland Federal Reserve show the US has the highest excess death rate compared to other similar developed countries.

What Trump said about Michigan governor’s husband

Finally, we’ll take a look at what the President said about Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s husband.

“Take a look at what’s happening with your friend in Michigan, where her husband’s the only one allowed to do anything. It’s been like a prison,” Trump said.

This is not true.

Not True

After review, we've found this information is Not True.

What is the Trust Index?

The President is referring to Whitmer’s husband attempting to have his boat in the water for Memorial Day weekend saying, “I am the governor’s husband, will that help?” a statement the governor said was a failed attempt at a joke, which she did not find funny either. His boat was not put in the water that weekend.

As for the comment about Michigan being a prison, while the perception and attitude surrounding the governor’s shutdown orders did and still vary, no one was ever confined to their homes during the most strict orders. Essential workers, certain kinds of travel and essential shopping trips were allowed.


More fact checks from the final presidential debate:


Presidential Town Hall fact checks from the Trust Index:


First Presidential debate fact checks from the Trust Index:


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