FACT CHECK: McAuliffe Spreads COVID Misinformation at Candidate Forum

October 8, 2021

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe incorrectly stated on Thursday night that there were 1,142 children in Virginia's intensive care unit beds, a gross overestimation of the virus's current impact in the state.

"We in Virginia today, 1,142 children are in ICU beds," McAuliffe stated during a roundtable discussion with local reporters. The statistic is a massive overestimation. Virginia Department of Health statistics show that there are a total of 443 people of all ages currently in ICU beds, a fraction of the figure McAuliffe put forth for children.

The state database shows the number of Virginians in ICU beds infected with COVID-19 has never come close to 1,142 since the first hospitalizations in March 2020—the peak of individuals hospitalized in the ICU with COVID-19 was on Jan. 13, when there were 587 cases. State records show that just 1,094 individuals younger than 19 years old have been hospitalized with COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Children, who rarely get seriously ill from the virus, have never made up a significant chunk of hospitalized individuals.

McAuliffe also said during the roundtable Virginia had "8,000 cases on Monday," another exaggerated statistic. On Monday, Oct. 4, Virginia saw 1,220 "confirmed" cases and 864 "probable" cases, according to the Virginia Department of Health.

The state has never seen 8,000 confirmed cases in a day. According to the department, Virginia's 7-day moving case average peaked at 5,904 on Jan. 8, 2021—a number thousands short of McAuliffe's case assessment.

McAuliffe's campaign did not respond to a request for comment on his claims.

This is not the first time McAuliffe has falsely claimed there were 8,000 COVID-19 cases. Both during and after a September debate against Republican opponent Glenn Youngkin, McAuliffe said the state "had 8,000 cases yesterday." On Sept. 27—the day before the debate—the department reported 1,799 "confirmed" cases and 1,117 "probable" cases. The day after, the department reported 1,723 "confirmed" cases and 988 "probable" cases.

McAuliffe used the inflated statistics during the roundtable to advocate for extreme COVID-19 mitigation efforts such as mask requirements and vaccine mandates.

McAuliffe also falsely called his Republican opponent, Glenn Youngkin, an "anti-vaxxer." While Youngkin opposes state-imposed mask requirements and vaccine mandates, he has received the vaccine and aired ads urging all Virginians to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Thirteen, or 0.09 percent, of Virginia's 13,075 deaths attributed to COVID-19 were of individuals younger than 19 years old.