Vaccines, 'cures,' and conspiracies: Trump's most desperate lies about the virus

Dr. Anthony Fauci doesn't see the United States returning to normalcy any time soon.

"We're not in a good place," Fauci, the country's top disease expert, told a panel Wednesday. "Now we're averaging about 70,000 [cases per day]. That's a bad position to be in."

He added that even if a coronavirus vaccine is developed in the next few months, a "substantial proportion" of people won't have access to it until late next year.

 
 

Fauci's remarks came during a virtual panel discussion hosted by the University of Melbourne on Wednesday. During the panel, he once again implored Americans to wear masks to stem the virus' spread.

"If you don't want to shut down, at least do the fundamental, basic things," he said. "We can't have this very inconsistent wearing that you see, where you see some states that absolutely refuse to wear a mask."

Fauci's warnings stand in stark contrast to claims made by Donald Trump and his allies that attempt to downplay his administration's massive failure to control the virus' spread in the United States.

As the election nears, Trump and his surrogates have continued to make outlandish claims about the pandemic, painting an overly rosy picture meant to allay concerns about Trump's handling of the virus.

But Trump's lies don't seem to be working as well as they once did — 57.6% of Americans disapprove of his response to the public health crisis, according to FiveThirtyEight.

Here are eight ways Trump and his allies have tried to spin his administration's virus response ahead of the election.

A vaccine is just around the corner!

For months, Trump has claimed that a vaccine would arrive, conveniently enough for his reelection chances, before Nov. 3rd.

"I've spoken to Pfizer, I've spoken to all of the people that you have to speak to, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and others. They can go faster than that by a lot," Trump said during the first presidential debate. "It's become very political."

"We're weeks away from a vaccine," Trump added.

On Tuesday, Pfizer revealed they could not currently determine if trial participants receiving a vaccine fared better than those taking a placebo. The CEO of Pfizer has pushed back against Trump's claim that a vaccine is imminent, decrying a "politicized" process undercutting the scientific method.

Dr. Fauci predicted a safe, effective vaccine would not become available until next year. "Could be January, could be later. We don't know," Fauci told the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The cure is already here, actually

Following his release from the Walter Reed Medical Center, Trump gushed about the top-notch medical treatment he'd received and even suggested it constituted a cure for COVID-19.

"I wasn't feeling so hot and within a short period of time they gave me Regeneron," he said from in front of the Oval Office. "It was unbelievable. I felt good immediately. I felt as good three days ago as I do now."

"I call that a cure," he later added.

But not only is the treatment in its experimental stage, it's unlikely to be available to most Americans. Dr. George Yancopoulos, the president and chief scientific officer of Regeneron, emphasized the difficulty of making the drug widely available and ensuring its safety.

"We, as a society, are literally trying to fly a plane while we’re trying to build it here," he said.

A "Fake News Media Conspiracy"?

On Monday, as the official coronavirus infection rate topped 68,767, Trump took to Twitter to blame the media.

"Cases up because we TEST, TEST, TEST. A Fake News Media Conspiracy. Many young people who heal very fast. 99.9%. Corrupt Media conspiracy at all time high. On November 4th., topic will totally change. VOTE!"

Erik Trump also claimed the media was part of a vast conspiracy to sink his father's reelection, predicting the pandemic will "magically all of a sudden go away and disappear" after election day.

But it's not the case that higher rates of infection are the result of more widespread testing. Experts point out that more tests don't explain why U.S. hospitals are filling up with seriously ill patients.

"What is really going on is a lot more infections, and we can see that in the fact that hospitalizations and deaths are also climbing. More testing wouldn't explain that," Dr. Ashish Jha, the dean of the Brown University School of Public Health, said on "CBS This Morning" Monday.

It's also false that 99.9 percent of young people easily recover. A Journal of American Medicine study found that 21 perfect of people between the ages of 18-34 who are hospitalized for the disease need intensive care.

The virus is going away very, very soon. We promise.

Trump has consistently made the baseless claim that the nation is "rounding the corner" on the virus, which he predicted would "go away" even without a vaccine.

Trump's White House science office went so far as to claim Trump had ended the pandemic, citing it as one of his signature achievements.

Suffice it to say, the skyrocketing infection and death rates aren't likely to be resolved in the next week.

Joe Biden wants to delay the vaccine

Former Vice President Joe Biden has raised valid concerns that a coronavirus vaccine could be rushed through before it is fully vetted in order to help Trump's political fortunes.

Trump seized on his challenger's commitment to follow vaccine safety protocols, telling his supporters that Biden would deprive them of a vaccine in his crusade to destroy America.

"We will crush the virus, our opponents will crush America," Trump told attendees at a September rally in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

Democratic governors are using stay-at-home orders to hurt Trump's reelection

In May, Trump accused Michigan's Gretchen Whitmer and other Democratic governors of playing political games in their efforts to curb the virus' spread in their states.

"You have a lot of, unfortunately in this case, Democrat governors, I think they think it's good politics to keep it closed," Trump told reporters in Michigan when asked about reopening the economy. "I think they're being forced to open, frankly. The people want to get out. You'll break the country if you don't."

Trump has gone as far as to suggest that Democratic governors in swing states are imposing stay-at-home orders not to keep their constituents safe and control the spread of the virus, but to sink Trump's reelection chances.

"Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, what do they have in common? North Carolina? Democrat governors," Trump ranted at an Oct. 24 rally in Waukesha, Wisconsin. "On Nov. 4 they'll announce, 'We're open for business!' Your state has to open."

Trump's administration "saved 2 million people"

At least 227,600 Americans have died from the coronavirus since the start of the pandemic, yet Trump has the audacity to claim that his administration actually saved 2 million lives.

"We were expected to lose — if you look at the original charts from original doctors who are respected by everybody — 2.2 million people," Trump told an NBC News town hall on Oct. 15. "We saved 2 million people."

That figure appears to originate from a paper from March that predicted more than 2.2 million people could lose their lives if the country didn't properly shut down — a measure that Trump has consistently opposed.

A recent study from Columbia University found that between 130,000 and 210,000 Americans who died from the virus would still be alive today — if not for the Trump administration's botched response to the pandemic.

Herd immunity or bust!

Health officials have warned that Trump is pursuing the policy of herd immunity, the widely discredited idea that the virus should be allowed to "burn through" the population until a certain percentage is immune.

Although the Trump administration has publicly denied pursuing "herd immunity," an anonymous member of the government's COVID-19 response team told the Daily Beast that in private, White House officials are looking to protect the elderly while allowing "everyone else to get infected."

Scientists and public health experts have called the idea "pixie dust thinking," and have warned that pursuing "herd immunity" would have catastrophic results.

"We have never successfully been able to do it before, and it will lead to unacceptable and unnecessary untold human death and suffering," immunologist Kristian Andersen told Nature. "In the U.S., probably one to two million people would die."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

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