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3/25/20 OFW Law Daily COVID-19 News Conference Summary

President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence held a 75-minute press conference beginning at 5:54 this evening. The President left the conference at approximately one hour.  They were joined by Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President urged Americans to continue to follow the Coronavirus guidance. Social distancing is very important.
  2. Disaster declarations have now been issued for New York, California, Washington Florida, Iowa, Louisiana, and Texas
  3. The President said he is spending a lot of time regarding New York. He said he has spoken frequently with Governor Cuomo, who he claimed said the President is using the Defense Production Act appropriately. 
  4. He said there is tremendous support from companies, referencing General Motors, Ford, and 3M. They are building products and giving them away as fast as they can.
  5. He reviewed the provision of medical facilities at the Javits Center and elsewhere in New York.
  6. There is a large amount of testing throughout the country, going up exponentially.
  7. The President said he spoke with Japanese Prime Minster Abe and told him that the Prime Minister made a wise choice about delaying the Olympics until 2021, and that the President said he will be there.
  8. He spoke about various provisions of the emergency relief bill, with paid sick leave at no cost to employers. It is a $2.2 trillion bill, with his believing that it is bigger than anything else that has ever been passed.  He also referenced provisions dealing with small business loans, direct payments to families, the purchasing of critical national supplies, funding for the development of vaccines, support for the hardest hit industries with no stock buybacks allowed, and limits on executive compensation.
  9. The President also reviewed the volume of medical products being provided to states.
  10. The President was asked if the bill will help the economy adjust. He said he is hopeful, trying to keep companies strong.
  11. The President was asked for clarification on his statement from yesterday about not being dependent on other countries. He replied that we will make changes to improve the supply of products from domestic sources.
  12. He was asked if he will have an Executive Order to ban the export of medical equipment. The President said he does not believe one is needed.  Countries, like the European Union, have standards that keep our equipment out of their countries.  He went on to say that some of the countries that took the biggest advantage of the United States are our allies, repeating some of his previous claims with respect to NATO.
  13. The President was asked if the closing of the country is linked to the election. The President said he thinks there are people who do not want the country to open or do well because it hurts him at the polls.  He claimed this is fake news.
  14. The President was asked what to expect when the 15-day period ends. He said he will speak with his advisors and not doing anything rash.  The country needs to get back to work, and it could be in sections.  By Easter is a recommendation.

Summary of the Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin’s remarks and questions:

Secretary Mnuchin thanked Senators McConnell and Schumer for their efforts, along with other Senators who worked to develop the legislative package. It is an unprecedented response for the Senate.

  1. The Secretary focused on small business retention loans equal to 50% of payroll. Eight weeks of salary and overhead costs will be provided if workers are kept employed.  The loans will be forgiven if the workers are retained.  He expects a simple system will be developed so that approval should be “same day” by next week. 
  2. He spoke about the economic program with tax incentives and enhanced insurance for others, and direct payments to people.
  3. The package will provide $500 billion to work with the Federal Reserve to support loan packages of up to $4 trillion.
  4. $100 billion in assistance will be provided to hospitals, and an additional $150 billion to states.
  5. When the President was asked about 4 Republican Senators who have claimed that the extra $600 in unemployment payments will encourage people to leave their jobs, Secretary Mnuchin said that they wanted to develop an enhanced unemployment system, and this was the only way to ensure that states can get this money out quickly. He does not believe that it will result in a problem.  He expects the bill to pass tonight and go to the House.
  6. The Secretary was asked how quickly he expects the payments to be made to families. He said that it should be within three weeks for those families with direct deposit information.  They are working with banks to get business loans out the same day as approval.

Summary of the Vice President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The Vice President said we are 10 days into the 15-day period. He urged all Americans to listen to their state and local authorities for guidance.
  2. He and the President had a conference call with manufacturers that he described as encouraging.
  3. FEMA reports that hundreds of companies have stepped forward to help, and they are venting 70 companies for repurposing of manufacturing.
  4. There was a productive call with Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, and he offered thanks to teachers for all that they are doing.
  5. He expects Secretary DeVos and Secretary of Agriculture Perdue to be at Friday’s briefing. Secretary Perdue is expected to talk about the school lunch program.
  6. FEMA Teams are providing technical assistance to New York and California.
  7. 432,000 tests have been completed and he reminds local hospitals and laboratories that they are supposed to report to the CDC the results of tests they are conducting.
  8. FEMA is working on supply chain issues.
  9. CDC Guidance is expected tomorrow regarding the use of National Parks.
  10. With respect to ventilators and the report that there are 16,000 available in the federal system, the Vice President said that this has been a singular focus and progress is being made. There are more than 150,000 ventilators in the broad health care system throughout the country.  There are tens of thousands that can be converted.  The Task Force is working with General Motors and others to speed up production.
  11. The Vice President was asked about the competition between states and FEMA for materials. The Vice President said he has spoken with various governors and put the regional FEMA representatives on the particular cases.  FEMA is searching the nation and the world for supplies. 
  12. Health care workers are reporting shortages. The Vice President was asked when this situation might be resolved.  He said FEMA has identified significant resources that can be used.

Summary of the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx’s remarks and questions:

  1. Birx said she is watching testing results. Current systems follow flu reporting to see if there is an increase in flu-like illnesses,
  2. Four counties are the majority of current and new cases: New York City, Suffolk, Westchester, and Nassau, with 56% of all cases.
  3. It is important to look at the number of new cases per day. This number has been relatively constant per day for the last 3 days.
  4. There continues to be the need for social distancing. We should not let up for an instant.
  5. With respect to ventilators, Dr. Birx said the American Association of Anesthesiologists is developing questions and answers that will help. It is not just ventilators but people that must be considered.  Changing elective surgery frees up people to deal with the virus.  There is a need to outline what we are doing.
  6. With respect to shortages Dr. Birx said FDA has issued new guidance for self-testing in drive-thrus that frees up Personal Protective Equipment that can be used by hospitals and clinics. She said there is a need to move to new technology.

Summary of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s remarks and questions:

 Fauci spoke about the weekly call with the World Health Organization. One thing he said was learned is that we will face what China has seen when relaxing constraints – the resurgence of cases.

  1. We can learn from multiple countries that have gone through outbreaks where we might be – as the number of cases reported flattens out and starts to go down.
  2. Is the virus seasonal. Fauci said it might be.  We are seeing in the southern hemisphere that more cases appear as they go into their winter season.   It is inevitable that we need to be prepared for the next cycle, developing vaccines and a menu of other drugs.
  3. When Dr. Fauci was asked about people making masks he said there is a significant inflow of masks and he does not see this individual production as a necessity.


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