The head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Tuesday contradicted a number of false claims pushed by Donald Trump about the current COVID-19 outbreak.
CDC Director Robert Redfield was testifying before the House Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies about his agency's budget request for the 2021 fiscal year.
During the hearing, Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL) read a list of statements Trump had made about the outbreak and the administration's response efforts in recent weeks, asking Redfield whether he agreed with any of them.
"'Our tests have been perfect,'" she said, quoting Trump. "That 'the Coronavirus is like the regular flu.' That it's 'a hoax.' That 'anyone who wants to be tested can be tested.' That 'the number of cases will soon be down to zero. They'll 'magically disappear.' 'You can still go to work.' And it's 'okay to shake hands.'"
She added, "I'm assuming you agree that those are misleading statements."
Redfield appeared to agree that the majority of the statements were misleading. "I don't think I heard any that [are] not," he said.
He added, however, that the "availability of testing in the last two days, through Quest and LabCorp, is finally getting us where we need to be."
Trump has repeatedly praise himself and his administration for their response to the ongoing outbreak, which has infected nearly 114,000 people worldwide. The United States has reported at least 472 cases alone, as well as 19 deaths resulting from the virus.
During a visit to the CDC on Friday, Trump said that the tests for the virus — like his communications with Ukraine's president — "are all perfect." He also falsely claimed that "As of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test [can get one] and that's the important thing."
On Monday, he tweeted that the "CoronaVirus [sic]" has been less deadly "the common Flu."
"Nothing is shut down" for influenza, he argued, and "life & the economy go on."
At rallies last month, he blasted criticism of his response to the coronavirus as a "new hoax," like impeachment, though he later clarified he did not mean the threat of the virus itself was a hoax. He also predicted that once spring weather arrived in April, the virus would "miraculously" go away.
At a Feb. 27 briefing, Trump noted that there were 15 people diagnosed in the United States at that point and incorrectly predicted "the 15, within a couple of days, is going to be down to close to zero, that's a pretty good job we've done."
Last week, Trump also suggested in a Fox News interview that many people with the virus heal "by sitting around and even going to work." He attributed this to a "hunch."
Trump has defiantly refused to stop shaking hands with supporters, even after he himself was exposed to several people now under quarantine. "I love the people of this country, and you can't be a politician and not shake hands," he explained Thursday. "And I'll be shaking hands with people — and they want to say hello and hug you and kiss you — I don't care."
Trump and his administration have faced widespread criticism for their botched handling the coronavirus crisis. But Trump in particular has repeatedly contradicted his own health officials and spread misinformation.
Frankel said Tuesday that the latter was especially dangerous.
"We are in the middle of a public health emergency," she said in an email Tuesday afternoon. "By spreading misinformation, Trump is putting people at risk. We need to ensure all Americans know the facts so they can keep themselves healthy and help prevent the spread of the coronavirus."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.