The outbreak of a pandemic is when the accuracy of information is as important as it ever will be. Yet more than two months into it, misinformation and dubious claims continue to penetrate — many of them thanks to President Trump and some of his allies on Fox News.

Below is a rundown of these persistent claims, along with the facts.

1. The persistent flu comparison

As the number of daily deaths from the coronavirus has leveled off somewhat and certain projections have been adjusted downward, a number of people have rekindled previously abandoned comparisons between the novel coronavirus and the seasonal flu.

Fox News contributor Bill Bennett offered perhaps the most high-profile comments on this in recent days, doubting this is even a “pandemic.”

“If you look at those numbers, and see the comparable, we’re going to have fewer fatalities from this than from the flu,” Bennett said, citing the latest projections. “For this, we scared the hell out of the American people, we lost 17 million jobs, we put a major dent in the economy, we closed down the schools … shut down the churches, and so on. You know, this was not and is not a pandemic.”

Fox News host Laura Ingraham has made similar arguments and also played up the idea that the death toll could be similar to that of the seasonal flu.

Claims about hydroxychloroquine to treat covid-19 have gained traction despite a lack of scientific evidence. How did this happen? (The Washington Post)

“Given the fact that the death rate for covid-19 may end up being only slightly worse than a very tough flu season, we want answers,” she said recently.

Two points: One is that the reason the numbers are leveling off in certain areas of the country is because of the severe measures taken.

The second is that data in recent days have filled out the picture of how much more deadly this was than the flu. A piece this week from the New Atlantis compared deaths from the novel coronavirus to other causes, both nationally and — importantly — in the key hot spot of New York. The combined picture is that the weekly death toll from the novel coronavirus nationally was already surpassing even that of cancer and heart disease and, in New York, was far outpacing all other causes of death combined during the 2017-18 flu season.

It’s not difficult to see what might have happened had even fewer precautions been taken.

2. That models being ‘wrong’ prove we overreacted

This is part and parcel of the above claim and has been used by the same pundits to push the idea that the country overreacted to the threat.

“At this point, we should not be surprised that the model got it wrong,” Fox News host Tucker Carlson said recently, calling the University of Washington model used by the White House “completely disconnected from reality.”

Ingraham has repeatedly called the projections things such as “lame, panic-inducing models,” while her show used chyrons including, “Did flawed projections tank the economy?”

Bennett added in the same interview as above that the University of Washington model has “been wrong most of the time — by a lot.”

Similar arguments were previously made about an Imperial College London study that was scaled back once serious mitigation efforts began.

As Anthony S. Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has said, models are indeed only as good as the underlying assumption, and they are always updated to respond to new data. The old scientific idiom goes, “All models are wrong but some are useful.”

The limitations of each model become evident over time. But while the model spotlighted by the White House has been adjusted downward, other localized ones project much-later peaks for the disease.

In other words, investing too much in any given model will undoubtedly make that model look faulty, and it’s not difficult to cherry-pick the ones that wind up projecting more deaths than eventually result. Epidemiologists William Hanage and Helen Jenkins have a good piece in The Washington Post exploring all of this.

3. That health officials said there was no human-to-human transmission

This claim has rather curiously been advanced by two of the most significant figures in dealing with the outbreak: New York Mayor Bill de Blasio (D) and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R).

Kemp said early this month when issuing a statewide stay-at-home order that he was “finding out that this virus is now transmitting before people see signs” and that “we didn’t know that until the last 24 hours.”

In a radio interview a day later, de Blasio, whose own handling of the matter has been criticized, made a similar claim.

“Only in the last, really, 48 hours or so did they feel they’ve seen evidence from around the world … that shows more evidence that this can be spread by asymptomatic people,” de Blasio said. Pressed on the claim, he said that “there was suspicion, but there was not evidence.”

Trump and his own aides have accused the World Health Organization of saying there was no human-to-human transmission. “As you know, they made a statement on January 14 — I guess it was that there was no human-to-human transmission,” Trump said last week. “Well there was.”

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway echoed this Wednesday, saying WHO had said there was “no human-to-human transmission.”

In fact, the Jan. 14 WHO statement cited by Trump didn’t rule out human-to-human transmission, but said there wasn’t yet evidence of it. And as early as Jan. 22, the WHO said, “Data collected through detailed epidemiological investigation and through the deployment of the new test kit nationally suggests that human-to-human transmission is taking place in Wuhan {China].”

Fauci said on Jan. 31: “Now we know for sure that there are [asymptomatic transmissions].”

He added Feb. 4: “We had been getting reports from highly reliable people in China — scientists, investigators and public health people who we’ve known over the years — and they’ve been telling us, ‘There’s asymptomatic disease, for sure, and we are seeing asymptomatic transmission.' ”

4. That Democrats strongly opposed Trump’s China travel ban

Trump has frequently played up his Jan. 31 decision to ban travel from parts of China as evidence that he took the virus seriously. And in doing so, he has claimed he did so despite overwhelming opposition.

The reality is much different.

Trump and an ad from his campaign have pointed to Joe Biden’s comments the same day about Trump’s record of “hysterical xenophobia.” In fact, though, the former vice president made no reference to the travel restrictions and made the comments around the exact same time the ban was first announced. It’s not even clear he knew about the ban at the time.

Trump has also alluded to Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) allegedly opposing the ban. But this appeared to be based on a well-trafficked but fake tweet Schumer had supposedly sent and deleted. The fake tweet continues to show up on social media to this day.

Other examples cited frequently by Trump supporters include a Jan. 31 tweet from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.). But the tweet was actually about Trump’s expanded travel ban for many Muslim-majority countries, which happened to occur around the same time — not the China travel ban.

Lastly, Trump has alleged that the WHO opposed his ban. The WHO has long-standing guidance resisting such travel bans, but as STAT News noted, there is no evidence it weighed in specifically against Trump’s decision.

There was some resistance among experts to the decision, but I scoured for examples of widespread opposition or partisans speaking out against it, and I came up virtually empty.

5. That this is the 19th edition of the virus

Conway on Wednesday morning suggested the WHO was at fault because it has dealt with similar coronaviruses many times before.

“This is covid-19, not covid-1 folks, and so you would think the people in charge of the World Health Organization, facts and figures, would be on top of that,” Conway said on Fox News.

Conway was recycling a claim previously made by others including Rush Limbaugh.

“I said yesterday there are numerous types of coronavirus. This is coronavirus 19,” Limbaugh said. “Now, the official name of it is covid-19. But it’s in common parlance so that even people in Rio Linda can follow along, it’s coronavirus number 19.

Drew Pinsky has also affirmed it when a caller suggested there had been 18 previous coronaviruses.

In fact, the virus is called covid-19 because of the year in which it was discovered, 2019. And even as there have been past coronaviruses, they’re all different, and this one has proved significantly more contagious and deadly than many predecessors.

6. The death toll is significantly oversold because people with coronavirus might actually die of something else

This theory has been popularized by Fox News analyst Brit Hume and began to spread last week.

Hume has argued that people who had the coronavirus and died might actually have died of other underlying conditions but are being logged as coronavirus deaths. He compared it to someone with prostate cancer dying with the disease rather than of it.

Carlson picked up that ball and ran with it on a show featuring Hume last week, suggesting that a decline in the number of weekly pneumonia deaths suggests some of those deaths are being wrongly blamed on the coronavirus.

A Republican Minnesota state senator who is also a physician appeared on Ingraham’s show and advanced a similar argument, suggesting doctors were being overly encouraged to cite coronavirus as a cause of death.

The White House task force itself, though, has rejected the notion that the numbers are being padded. The coronavirus coordinator on the task force, Deborah Birx, noted that when people have underlying conditions and die of the coronavirus, it’s because the virus exacerbated the situation.

“Those individuals will have an underlying condition, but that underlying condition did not cause their acute death when it’s related to a covid[-19] infection,” Birx said. “In fact, it’s the opposite.”

The idea that people die in the relatively short period after coming down with the virus but that the actual cause was a more long-term condition also strains logic and credulity.

Carlson’s claim about pneumonia deaths also ignores that the numbers he was referring to were incomplete and are weeks-old, coming at a time when there were very few coronavirus deaths. So even if recorded pneumonia deaths were dropping, it wouldn’t be because those deaths were suddenly being logged as coronavirus deaths.

What’s more, there’s even more convincing evidence that coronavirus deaths are actually being undercounted.