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Tom Kertscher
By Tom Kertscher March 6, 2020

Donald Trump wrong saying Barack Obama did nothing about swine flu

If Your Time is short

  • There were more than 60 million cases of swine flu in the United States during 2009 and 2010.

  • The Obama administration responded with two emergency declarations, triggering billions in spending and other public health responses.

Asked about reassuring Americans about the coronavirus, President Donald Trump downplayed the number of people stricken, then went on the attack.

Without mentioning President Barack Obama, Trump criticized the Obama’s administration response to another outbreak — H1N1, commonly known as swine flu.

Trump made the attack during an interview on March 4, 2020, with Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity:

Hannity: "You have said that you are evaluating (the coronavirus) on a daily basis. ... What are we prepared as a country to do to keep our citizens safe?"

Trump: "Well, I just say that it's, you know, a very, very small number in this country. And we're going to try and keep it that way as much as possible. I will say, though, the H1N1 — that was swine flu, commonly referred to as swine flu — and that went from around April of '09 to April of '10, where there were 60 million cases of swine flu. And over — actually, it's over 13,000. I think you might have said 17—. I had heard it was 13—, but a lot of — a lot of deaths. And they didn't do anything about it."

We wanted to fact-check Trump’s claim that the Obama administration "didn't do anything" as millions of swine flu cases mounted.

The Trump campaign didn’t respond to our requests for information.

Swine flu outbreak

The H1N1 influenza virus was discovered in the United States in the spring of 2009 and spread around the world. 

It was originally referred to as "swine flu" because many genes in the virus were similar to influenza viruses that normally occur in pigs in North America.

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From April 12, 2009, to April 10, 2010, in the United States, there were 60.8 million cases of swine flu, as well as 274,304 hospitalizations and 12,469 deaths, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated.

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.

Two days later, the administration made an initial funding request for H1N1 to Congress. Eventually $7.65 billion was allocated for a vaccine and other measures.

On Oct. 24, 2009, six months after his administration declared H1N1 a public health emergency, Obama declared it a national emergency. 

By then, H1N1 had claimed more than 1,000 American lives, according to the CDC.

When Obama made his declaration, thousands of people were lining up in cities across the country to receive vaccinations, as federal officials acknowledged that their vaccination program had gotten off to a slow start, with some states having requested 10 times the amount they had been allotted, the New York Times reported at the time.

The national emergency declaration allowed the federal government to temporarily waive or modify requirements of the Medicare, Medicaid, and State Children's Health Insurance programs. It also permitted doctors and hospitals to bypass certain requirements as they responded to H1N1.

Our ruling

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.

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Donald Trump wrong saying Barack Obama did nothing about swine flu

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