The coronavirus pandemic was the dominating issue during the only Vice Presidential debate. Vice President Mike Pence was tapped to head the White House Coronavirus Task Force and was pressed Wednesday night over what has been widely described as a bungled response to the virus.
We’re starting with this claim from the Vice President about the President’s often touted Chinese travel restrictions.
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“President Donald Trump did what no other American president has ever done. And that was he suspended all travel from China, the second largest economy in the world,” Pence said.
This is not true.
According to the restrictions which went into effect Feb. 2, Americans and their family members were allowed to return home. According to reporting from the New York Times in April, in the two months after the restrictions were in place nearly 40,000 people took direct flights from China to the US. Certainly not a total ban on all travel.
Next, we’re taking a look at the early days of the pandemic as Senator Harris described them to viewers.
“Can you imagine if you knew on Jan. 28 as opposed to March 13. What they knew? What your mind had done to prepare? They knew and they covered it up,” Harris said.
We’re calling this true.
Harris is describing recordings of the President released by journalist Bob Woodward about actively downplaying the severity of the virus after a briefing at the end of January. The president indicates he understood the virus was more lethal than he let on publicly and indicated it was also airborne. As for calling it a cover-up, according to the dictionary definition of a cover-up it can be as simple as concealing something. The president has said he was trying to conceal what he knew from the public in order to not spread fear.
Then, there’s this claim from Pence about the future of a vaccine.
“Under President Trump’s leadership operation worksheet, we believe we’ll have literally tens of millions of doses of the vaccines before the end of this year,” Pence said.
We’re calling this be careful.
There are a few things to unpack here. It’s hard to gauge the speed of vaccine development. The Food and Drug Administration has recently been trying to strengthen regulations on the vaccine trials. Most recently saying they want data after two months of trials but that puts the earliest data at mid-November and still a ways from full blown production. There is a meeting at the end of October to address the vaccine regulations that could change this timeline.
Finally, this one from Harris on the White House plan for COVID.
“…in spite of all of that, today, they still don’t have a plan,” Harris said.
We’re calling this a be careful as well because it depends on what you mean by plan.
Harris is likely talking about a single national plan which in that case she’s right. There is no unified national strategy, according to both the White House and Trump Campaign websites.
However, the Trump Administration does have a series of guidelines for state and local governments to follow regarding COVID, which the White House is using to direct states.