First, any spread of misinformation for political gain, from either party is really reprehensible. Also, we will report on any politician who spreads misinformation, regardless of their political affiliation. The worst offenders are the social media posts, particularly Facebook right now.
(1) Testing Confusion (Trump announcement, March 4):
“The Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing, and we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place at a much more accurate and rapid fashion,” Trump stated. “That was a decision we disagreed with. I don’t think we would have made it, but for some reason it was made. But we’ve undone that decision.”
The website, “Red State Poll” concluded: “An example of the unanticipated effects of over regulation, one of the many from the Obama administration.” Commentators followed by noting that many lives could have been saved it Obama hadn’t decided to over regulate the drug industry, with unnecessary regulations.
Problem with Trump’s claim and all the subsequent comments, is that the claim is false. Yes, the Obama administration was proposing ways that state testing could be better standardized, but this regulation was never passed as a rule. Trump did not “undo” anything passed by the Obama administration. Laboratory determined tests (LDT) at variance with FDA approved testing is permitted under FDA regulations, without pre-approval in emergency situations. See links from factcheck.org and politifact,com
Politifact: Trump’s claim is FALSE.
Factcheck: Experts, however, told us no such formal regulation was ever implemented under the previous administration.
(2) “Bad” Covid-19 Test Kits were distributed to health departments causing inconclusive results
This is true, according to the CDC website. It has been called a glitch or snag in the testing. The CDC confirmed this testing problem as follows:
After distribution of a CDC rRT-PCR test to diagnose COVID-19 to state and local public health labs started, performance issues were identified related to a problem in the manufacturing of one of the reagents. Laboratories were not able to verify the test performance.
There are two possible errors that can be made in testing, which are a false negative, when a patient is diagnosed as not having Covid-19 when in fact they do and a false positive, when a patient is diagnosed as having Covid-19 when they do not. If the tests were inconclusive, then the health departments may have erroneously interpreted this as the patient was suffering from the flu or other illnesses.
Apparently, the problem was in the manufacturing of one of the reagents in the test kits. The CDC website indicates that the faulty kits can still be used but with a new testing protocol. Of course, they are trying to produce as many good test kits as possible.
(3) Trump’s “seasonality” tweet
“On Feb 7 following a conversation with China’s president about the outbreak, President Donald Trump tweeted that as the weather becomes warmer the virus will become weaker and die out.”
The claim is FALSE
When asked about Trump’s tweet, Messonnier said most respiratory viruses are indeed seasonal, but COVID-19 is a new disease that health officials have been observing for only 6 weeks, so it’s premature to make assumptions on whether it will continue to circulate into the spring and summer. She added that the CDC, in its outbreak planning, isn’t counting on a drop in virus activity as the weather warms. [Note: Dr. Nancy Messonnier directs the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases].
(4) The Obama administration “didn’t do anything about” swine flu. (Trump’s interview with Sean Hannity, March 4)
The claim is FALSE according to Politifact. Obama’s acting director of health and human services declared H1N1 a public health emergency on April 26, 2009. That was when the United States had only 20 confirmed cases of H1N1 and no deaths.
Trump said: “There were 60 million cases of swine flu” during the Obama administration “and they didn’t do anything about it.” His assessment on the nation’s response is incorrect. The Obama administration issued two emergency declarations, triggering billions of dollars in spending toward vaccines and other public health response measures. The statement is False.
(5) Mike Bloomberg said of President Donald Trump’s actions on the coronavirus: “No. 1, he fired the pandemic team two years ago. No. 2, he’s been defunding the Centers for Disease Control.”
Politifact rates this claim as HALF TRUE.
According to Politifact: “Bloomberg had a point that the Trump administration ousted some of its officials dealing with global pandemics, but “defunding” the CDC is more complicated than he let on… It’s not accurate to say that Trump has been “defunding” the CDC, but he has tried to make cuts in key programs. It’s just that Congress didn’t listen.”
A graph on the Politifact website shows that through the Obama and Trump administrations, Congress has appropriated consistently increased annual funding for emerging and zoonotic infectious diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
I would probably have labeled Bloomberg’s claims as false, because Trump did not fire his “pandemic team” nor were the important areas of the CDC budget cut.
(6) Mike Pence: “With regard to the cost, let me be very clear: HHS has designated the coronavirus test as an essential health benefit. That means, by definition, it’s covered in the private health insurance of every American, as well as covered by Medicare and Medicaid.”
Politifact labels this claim as HALF TRUE.
Politifact concludes that simply labeling the Covid-19 testing as an essential health benefit (EHB) does not mean it is automatically covered. The requirements (as an EHB) don’t apply to many workplace plans (including those provided by large businesses and self-insured plans), even though most Americans ― about 157 million ― who have health insurance get it through their job. Most of these plans, though, do cover a wide range of benefits, including laboratory services, but they are not required by law to do so.
I will add that it makes a lot of good common sense for insurance companies to gain the goodwill of their customers, to pay for testing. His statement that insurance companies will pay for testing will prove to be true but not because of any action by HHS.
I’d say Trump is still the winner in the most egregious and politically motivated lie on the rescinding of Obama era regulations for Covid-19 testing. It is certainly a good contender in the Lie of the Year for 2020.
As I have blogged previously, the absolutely worst place to get information is social media. Politifact website list 14 comments qualifying as “Pants on Fire”, which includes baseless and very reckless comments from social media, primarily Facebook. Hopefully, Facebook will take action to force bloggers to remove these posts.
Politifact on testing regulations:
Politifact: Insurance coverage for testing
Politifact: Coronavirus fact checking