President Joe Biden, in a prime-time address Thursday night, exaggerated elements of the coronavirus pandemic along with his, and his predecessor’s, response to it. Here’s a fact-check.
WHAT BIDEN SAID: “A year ago we were hit with a virus that was met with silence and spread unchecked, denials for days, weeks, then months.”
This is exaggerated. It is true that President Donald Trump downplayed the severity of the coronavirus pandemic for months. But he was not exactly silent and did not fail to respond completely. One year ago, on March 12, 2020, Trump delivered an address from the Oval Office acknowledging the threat and announced new travel restrictions on much of Europe.
WHAT BIDEN SAID: “As of now, total deaths in America, 527,726. That’s more deaths than in World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War and 9/11 combined.”
This is exaggerated. According to estimates from the Department of Veterans Affairs, a total of 392,393 died in combat in those three wars. Combined with the 2,977 people who died in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, that figure would be indeed smaller than the coronavirus death toll Biden cited. It would also be lower than the 529,000 death figure tracked by The New York Times. But factoring in deaths that occurred in service but outside of combat, the toll from the three wars (more than 610,000) would be higher than the current total number of virus-related deaths Biden cited.
WHAT BIDEN SAID: “Two months ago this country didn’t have nearly enough vaccine supply to vaccinate all or anywhere near all of the American public. But soon we will.”
This is misleading. By the end of last year, the Trump administration had ordered at least 800 million vaccine doses that were expected for delivery by July 31, 2021, the Government Accountability Office reported. That included vaccines undergoing clinical trials as well as those not yet approved by the Food and Drug Administration. According to Kaiser Health News, that would have been enough to vaccinate 200 million people with authorized vaccines, and more than enough for 400 million once all the vaccines were cleared for use. The current U.S. population is roughly 330 million. And, contrary to Biden’s suggestions, both administrations deserve credit for the current state of the vaccine supply.
WHAT BIDEN SAID: “When I took office 50 days ago, only 8% of Americans after months, only 8% of those over the age of 65 had gotten their first vaccination. Today, that number is 65%.”
This is misleading. When Biden took office on Jan. 20, the vaccination effort had just begun, after the FDA authorized Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for emergency use in mid-December.
Moreover, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people between ages 65 and 74 receive the vaccine only after it has been administered to health care workers, residents of long-term care facilities, frontline essential workers and people over 75.
It’s also worth noting that about 62.4% of people over 65 have received one vaccine dose, but just 32.2% are fully vaccinated, according to the CDC.