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In VP debate, Pence and Harris offer conflicting views of nation’s reality

Kamala Harris
Kamala Harris

Democratic vice presidential nominee Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) participates in the vice presidential debate at the University of Utah on October 7, 2020 in Salt Lake City, Utah. The vice presidential candidates only meet once to debate before the general election on November 3. Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Trump administration’s pandemic response: decisive action that saved lives, or the greatest failure of any presidential administration? During Wednesday’s vice presidential debate, Vice President Mike Pence and the Democratic challenger, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, offered drastically different takes — from behind plexiglass screens — on how the president has handled the COVID-19 crisis.

Pence touted problematic claims, such as that President Donald Trump’s ban on travel from China helped the nation respond to the coronavirus (PolitiFact rated a similar claim “False”) and that the country would have a vaccine in less than a year (the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said a vaccine, yet to be approved, will not be widely available until next year).

Harris said the Trump administration misled the public about how serious the virus is, pointing to briefings Trump and Pence received in January. Trump told journalist Bob Woodward in a recorded interview that he purposely downplayed it.

Our partners at PolitiFact broke down a whole gamut of claims — on fracking, the economic recovery and the Supreme Court. The highlights regarding health care and coronavirus policies follow:

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Kamala Harris: “The president said [the coronavirus] was a hoax.”Rating: False

This often-repeated statement falsely attributed to Trump has its roots in a Feb. 28 rally in North Carolina. But it’s a mischaracterization of what he actually said, which was an attack on Democrats’ response to the virus.

Trump cast the Democrats’ criticism of his work as foisting a hoax on the public. “They tried the impeachment hoax,” he said. “That was not a perfect conversation. They tried anything. They tried it over and over. They’d been doing it since you got in. It’s all turning. They lost. It’s all turning. Think of it. Think of it. And this is their new hoax.”

Mike Pence: The Rose Garden event with Judge Amy Coney Barrett “was an outdoor event, which all of our scientists regularly and routinely advised.”Wrong

The event included an indoor component, during which Trump, Barrett and others posed for photos without masks. Public health officials do say outdoor activities are less risky — provided masks are worn — than indoor events, where it might be harder to keep people apart and there’s less ventilation. But attendees of the Sept. 26 White House event for the nomination of Barrett to the Supreme Court did not practice social distancing, and many did not wear masks throughout the event.

Pence: Trump “suspended all travel from China. … Joe Biden opposed that decision. He called it xenophobic and hysterical.”Misleading

There were exemptions in Trump’s travel restrictions on China. On Jan. 21, the CDC confirmed the first U.S. case of the

Doctors, White House staff offer conflicting messages on president’s health

The White House on Saturday sent conflicting signals about the president’s battle with the coronavirus, raising questions over the seriousness of his illness. 

Doctors Saturday afternoon offered a rosey assessment of Trump’s health less than 24 hours after he was checked into Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. 

But statements the Associated Press and other outlets later attributed to White House chief of staff Mark MeadowsMark Randall MeadowsTrump campaign manager tests positive for COVID-19 The Memo: Trump grapples with credibility gap in crisis Overnight Healthcare: President Trump has coronavirus MORE and other sources gave a more alarming account of the president’s health. 

Adding to the confusion, the doctors themselves sent mixed messages over basic facts about the president’s treatment. 

Trump was diagnosed with the coronavirus late Thursday night after top White House aide Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksTrump campaign manager tests positive for COVID-19 Trump given Remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 infection Kellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID-19 MORE tested positive for the disease. The president and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpTrump given Remdesivir as treatment for COVID-19 infection Kellyanne Conway tests positive for COVID-19 Trump to Woodward in April: I’m ‘just not’ worried about contracting COVID-19 MORE announced early Friday morning that they tested positive for COVID-19. 

Friday afternoon, the president was taken via Marine One to Walter Reed “out of an abundance of caution” according to White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany. The president was seen on camera walking out of the White House in a suit, blue tie and mask, where he waved to the press and boarded Maine One. 

At the time, White House physician Sean Conley released an update stating that the president was experiencing fatigue. 

But on Saturday, the White House staff and physicians began issuing mixed messages. 

At Saturday’s press conference outside Walter Reed, White House physician Sean Conley told reporters Trump was doing “very well.” 

“At this time the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made,” Conley said. “Thursday, he had a mild cough and some nasal congestion and fatigue, all of which are now resolving and improving.” 

“He’s in exceptionally good spirits,” Dr. Sean Dooley said following Conley, adding that Trump’s heart, kidney and liver seemed normal and that he was not experiencing any trouble breathing or walking around.

Moments after the press conference, however, a source familiar with the president’s health who was not initially on the record said that the president’s vitals over the past day had been “very concerning,” describing the next 48 hours as “critical in terms of his care.” 

“We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” the person, now reported as Meadows, said. The chief of staff was caught on camera outside Walter Reed talking to reporters and asking to go off the record to discuss the president’s health. 

These remarks from Meadows contrasted his statements Friday, when he said Trump was experiencing “mild symptoms” but was “very energetic.” 

Conley

Trump’s COVID-19 Diagnosis Date Clarified, Conflicting Update Cites ‘Very Concerning’ Vitals

Drew Angerer/Getty President Donald Trump departs the White House for New Jersey on Thursday

Shortly after Donald Trump’s physician announced that the president is “doing very well,” an anonymous White House source released a health update that greatly contradicts the doctor’s report.

Following Dr. Sean Conley’s address on Saturday morning outside of Walter Reed hospital, where Trump is scheduled to remain under observation for several days, a White House official said in a pool report that Trump’s vitals are “very concerning.”

“The president’s vitals over the last 24 hours were very concerning and the next 48 hours will be critical in terms of his care. We’re still not on a clear path to a full recovery,” the statement read.

The update from the anonymous source raises questions about Trump’s health as Conley shared vastly different information about the president, reporting that he was “doing great.”

RELATED: At Least 8 Test Positive for COVID-19 After Attending Trump’s White House SCOTUS Ceremony

“As reported yesterday, in consultation with this group I recommended we bring the president up to Walter Reed as a precautionary measure to provide state of the art monitoring and any care he might need,” Conley said during the Saturday morning press conference. “At this time the team and I are extremely happy with the progress the president has made.”

“The president’s been fever free for over 24 hours. We remain cautiously optimistic, but he’s doing great,” he added later, noting that his other symptoms, which included fatigue, “are now resolving and improving.”

During the press conference, Conley said they were “72 hours into the diagnosis.”

However, Conley later clarified in a press release that he misspoke about Trump’s diagnosis timeline.

“I incorrectly used the term ‘seventy two hours’ instead of ‘day three’ and ‘forty eight hours’ instead of ‘day two’ with regards to [Trump’s] diagnosis and the administration of the polyclonal antibody therapy,” he said in a statement.

Conley added, “The President was first diagnosed with COVID-19 on the evening of Thursday, October 1st and had received Regeron’s [sic] antibody cocktail on Friday, October 2nd.”

Another one of his physicians added during the conference that the president was not currently on oxygen or “having difficulty breathing” and was able to walk around. Dr. Sean Dooley also added that the president made a comment that day saying, “I feel like I could walk out of here today,” which the physician described as a “very encouraging” comment.

Trump’s doctors also said they plan to continue carrying out a five-day treatment plan of Remdesivir.

The president, 74, publicly revealed his coronavirus diagnosis in a tweet on early Friday morning.

And on Saturday afternoon, Trump praised the “Doctors, Nurses and