- Three crucial components of President Donald Trump’s nationally televised Wednesday-night address on the US response to the novel coronavirus were quickly walked back or contradicted.
- After Trump announced a 30-day ban on travel from most of Europe to the US, the Department of Homeland Security clarified that it would exclude US citizens and permanent residents.
- Trump also issued a tweet saying that trade of goods between the US and Europe would not be halted after saying the opposite in his speech.
- A major US health-insurance industry group contradicted Trump’s claim that major health insurers would waive co-payments on coronavirus treatments, clarifying the waivers would apply to testing.
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Minutes after President Donald Trump delivered a major address Wednesday night on the US response to the novel coronavirus, his own administration and other US officials publicly contradicted three important claims from his speech.
Trump and the officials quickly walked back his nationally televised statements that 1) the administration would ban all travel from Europe to the US, 2) the ban would also apply to trade and cargo between the US and Europe, and 3) major health insurers would waive co-pays on coronavirus treatment.
The outbreak of the new coronavirus, first identified in China, has now spread to 118 countries and regions, infecting an estimated 126,000 people and causing more than 4,600 deaths worldwide. On Wednesday, the World Health Organization officially declared the coronavirus a pandemic.
There are now more than 1,300 confirmed cases and 38 deaths from the coronavirus in the US. The cases are spread throughout Washington, DC, and 38 states, many of which have made emergency declarations.
The US has been relatively slow to respond to the coronavirus compared with other nations, testing far fewer people per capita for the coronavirus and dispatching fewer coordinated resources to combat its spread as Trump has publicly downplayed its severity.
Here are the important claims about the US coronavirus response from Trump’s speech that were later clarified or walked back:
The Department of Homeland Security issued a major clarification to Trump’s travel-ban announcement
In his speech, Trump announced that the United States would take the drastic step of banning all travel from most of Europe for 30 days to limit the spread of the coronavirus from abroad.
“I have decided to take several strong but necessary actions to protect the health and well-being of all Americans to keep new cases from entering our shores. We will be suspending all travel from Europe to the United States for the next 30 days. The new rules will go into effect Friday at midnight. These restrictions will be adjusted subject to conditions on the ground. There will be exemptions for Americans who have undergone appropriate screenings, and these prohibitions will not only apply to the tremendous amount of trade and cargo, but various other things as we get approval. Anything coming from Europe to the United States is what we are discussing. These restrictions will also not apply to the United Kingdom.”
Shortly after Trump’s speech, however, the Department of Homeland Security issued major clarifications to Trump’s remarks, announcing that the travel ban would not apply to US citizens or permanent residents abroad.
A key clarification from DHS on the European travel ban – it doesn’t apply to US citizens or permanent residents. pic.twitter.com/NzpbYnsjK9
— Michael Li 李之樸 (@mcpli) March 12, 2020
The update also made clear the specific countries affected, listing the 26 members of the Schengen Area travel agreement that covers most of mainland Europe but excludes the UK and Ireland.
Trump hadn’t mentioned Ireland’s exemption in his announcement, prompting Dublin Airport to make clear that it was not part of the new ban.
— Dublin Airport (@DublinAirport) March 12, 2020
Trump himself walked back his remarks on halting trade
About an hour after his speech ended, Trump sent out a tweet announcing that “trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe,” a significant departure from what he said in his speech.
It’s unclear whether the incorrect details about the trade halt were written into the speech or whether Trump misread his teleprompter and misspoke.
Hoping to get the payroll tax cut approved by both Republicans and Democrats, and please remember, very important for all countries & businesses to know that trade will in no way be affected by the 30-day restriction on travel from Europe. The restriction stops people not goods.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) March 12, 2020
A powerful insurance lobby contradicted Trump’s comments on insurance waivers
In his speech, Trump made another major announcement, telling Americans that major health insurers would not only cover the costs of coronavirus treatment in insurance plans but also waive co-payments for all coronavirus treatments.
What Trump said:
“Earlier this week, I met with the leaders of health insurance industry who have agreed to waive all co-payments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments, and to prevent surprise medical billing.”
Not long after his speech, however, a representative for the insurance-industry group America’s Health Insurance Plans told Politico that major health insurers had agreed to waive co-pays only for coronavirus testing, not the far more costly coronavirus treatments.
Trump's claim tonight that health insurers "have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments" seems to be news to them.
“For testing. Not for treatment.” a spokesperson for the major insurance lobby AHIP says.
— Sarah Owermohle (@owermohle) March 12, 2020
Trump tonight said health insurers “have agreed to waive all copayments for coronavirus treatments, extend insurance coverage to these treatments.” WH official says Trump meant to echo what VP said yesterday that insurers “have agreed to waive all copays on coronavirus *testing.”
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) March 12, 2020
- Read more:
- Trump says he’ll ask Congress to provide payroll tax relief and waivers for small businesses to tackle the US coronavirus outbreak
- Trump suspends travel from Europe – except the United Kingdom – for 30 days to contain the coronavirus spread
- Trump cancels upcoming trips to Nevada and Colorado ‘out of an abundance of caution from the Coronavirus outbreak’
- Trump was caught saying ‘oh f—” into a ‘hot mic’ moments before he began his televised speech on the coronavirus