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Fact check: Trump is incorrect about some of his own coronavirus actions in Oval Office address

President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic from the Oval Office on March 11, 2020.
President Donald Trump addresses the nation on the COVID-19 pandemic from the Oval Office on March 11, 2020. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press)

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump misstated his administration’s intended actions on the coronavirus pandemic when he spoke to the nation off a Teleprompter in his prime-time address on Wednesday night. This has become a pattern of behavior for the president, who has made a series of false or misleading statements on his administration’s response. At a press gaggle at the CDC on Friday, the president falsely claimed, for example, that anyone who needs a coronavirus test can get one — which is incorrect.

Here’s a look at what Trump said Wednesday from the Oval Office:

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TRUMP: “We will be suspending all travel from Europe, except the United Kingdom, for the next 30 days.”

THE FACTS: That’s not precisely the plan.

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First, the restriction does not apply to legal permanent residents of the U.S. or their families when they are returning from Europe. It also does not apply to U.S. citizens coming back from Europe, as Trump acknowledged later, after the speech.

As well, it apparently 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 much of Europe, but it is not “all,” by any stretch.

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.”

Trump corrected himself in a tweet after the address.

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 U.S. and abroad. There also are studies underway using combinations of some HIV-attacking drugs.

TRUMP: “Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatment...”

THE FACTS: Again, wrong. A spokesperson for the lobbying group that represents the American health insurance industry told a Politico reporter that insurers are waiving fees for coronavirus testing, not treatment. It’s not clear if that will change now.

A White House official later said Trump meant to say that the copayments would be waived for tests, but would still apply to treatments for the disease.

Chicago Tribune staff contributed

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