President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence held a one-hour press conference beginning at about 5:48 yesterday evening. They were joined by White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:
- The President said the aggressive strategy we are following is working. He said New York is declining, Detroit is flat, and New Orleans and Houston are declining.
- Guidelines for reopening will be announced tomorrow afternoon.
- At this point 3.3 million tests have been conducted, with 48 types of tests authorized by FDA.
- Abbott today announced an antibody test to determine if some has contracted the virus. He claimed that 20 million of these tests could be available in weeks.
- There have been 44 Air Flights that have arrived with supplies, and another 56 scheduled.
- He reviewed the volume of supplies provided. Ventilators are being produced and will be shipped. Ventilators will be provided to other countries which need them.
- Therapies are being developed with 35 clinical trials underway. We will have reports in a week of two.
- Key positions at federal agencies need to be staffed. The Democrats are not giving approvals to these nominations. There are 129 nominations stalled in the Senate. Many of them are individuals who would deal with coronavirus. He specifically mentioned the Director of National Intelligence; an Assistant Secretary of the Treasury; the Under Secretary of Agriculture for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services; and the Director of Voice of America. He said what is coming out of Voice of America at this time is “disgusting”.
- He claimed he will exercise his constitutional authority to adjourn Congress.
- Money is needed for the Paycheck Protection Program. $250 billion has been requested and the Democrats are holding it up.
- The Centers for Disease Control has issued guidance on critical personnel. Secretary Perdue will speak about food supply workers.
- He will be speaking with governors tomorrow. He again said he wants to reopen states and that some can be reopened before May 1.
- The President said China has paid billions in tariffs, and that he has told Secretary Perdue to distribute these funds to farmers. The process will start soon.
- The President was asked about his claim to adjourn Congress. He repeated that the Congress has not confirmed nominees, and he will take action if he has to.
- He was asked about claims by states that more tests are needed in order to reopen. He said that we have the best tests, that he will work with states, and that states are getting additional equipment.
- He was asked why he had his name added to the economic assistance checks. He said he doesn’t know too much about it. He understands that it will not delay checks getting out.
- With respect to the situation in Rhode Island as an example, he was asked how he will control spikes between states when reopening. He said governors will be in control. Some are doing tests at state lines now.
- He was asked if he is easing border restrictions with Canada. The President said that Canada is doing well, and it is being discussed.
- The President was asked how will adjourning Congress lower the partisanship and get things done. He said there has been partisanship for a long time, predating him. He again mentioned the Payroll Protection Program going well without a hitch, and the Democrats will not approve it. He repeated his complaint of confirmations of nominations not being provided, saying maximum time is being taken to approve people who should be approved very quickly. He claimed that Secretary Perdue has been waiting 2 ½ years for the approval of the person they have been talking about (presumably the Under Secretary for Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services).
- Jobless claims will be announced tomorrow, and will probably be an additional 5 million. The President was asked how he balances getting those people back to work while there are still thousands dying due to the virus. The President said there needs to be a balance, but there is death as a result of keeping the country closed.
- He was asked why we have 20% of the deaths with only 4% of the world’s population. The President asked the reporter if she believed the numbers being reported by other countries. We are reporting everything. New York just recast 3,000 deaths as being due to coronavirus, not the underlying conditions. Countries have been in big trouble and are not reporting the facts.
- The President was asked about reports to Fox News that the US has high confidence that while the virus is natural, the virus emanated from lax security precautions in a laboratory in Wuhan. The President replied that we are doing a very thorough examination of these claims.
- When asked if he discussed these claims with President Xi, he said he does not want to discuss what he talked about with President Xi.
Summary of the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx’s remarks and questions:
- Birx pointed to the decline in the number of new cases reported over the last 5 days.
- The fatality rate in the US is low compared to other countries.
- She said there are 9 states with less than 1,000 cases and are reporting less than 30 new cases each day.
- There has been discussion with Rhode Island about the number of cases in Providence, noting that Rhode Island is caught between Boston and New York City with their cases.
- Asymptomatic people can spread the virus unknowingly. She urged people to continue to follow the President’s guidelines.
Summary of Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue’s remarks:
- Secretary Perdue echoed CDC’s guidance for the health and safety of employees: return to work of symptom free, and those workers feeling ill should go home immediately.
- He offered assurances that the American food supply is strong, resilient, and safe.
- CDC has issued guidance on how to deal with a situation if there is an issue at a facility.
- We will get through this with the cooperation of state and local health officials.
Summary of the Vice President’s remarks:
- The Vice President said 3,324,000 tests have been conducted. The results showed 619,000 positive; 45,000 Americans have recovered while 27,000 have died.
- At this time 24% of counties have no reported cases. Half of states have fewer than 2,500 cases per state.
- When guidelines will be unveiled tomorrow we recognize that some areas have had more problems, and they will be given more flexibility.
- FDA announced recently efforts to facilitate convalescent plasma. The Mayo Clinic is working with the Red Cross, and over 1,000 institutions have joined this program.
- There have been 258 medical personnel deployed off the Comfort to the Javits Center.