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4/18/20 OFW Law Daily COVID-19 News Conference Summary

President Donald Trump held a 1-hour and 10-minute press conference beginning at about 5:09 this evening. He was joined by White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President said there are a number of positive signs that the virus is past its peak.
  2. He said the US has produced better health outcomes than any other country, with the possible exception of Germany. Mortality rates are lower in the US compared to any European country with the possible exception of Germany.  Spain has a mortality rate that is 4 times the US rate.
  3. Since the guidelines for reopening the country were released two days ago a number of governors have announced concrete steps for phased reopenings. Texas and Vermont will allow certain business to reopen on Monday while maintaining appropriate social distancing.  Several states have phased openings beginning May 1.
  4. We no longer hear about ventilators. Governors want testing, but aren’t using all of their capacity.
  5. The Paycheck Protection Program has approved $350 billion in loans with more needed. Democrats should get it done.  The program supports 30 million American jobs. Democrats want to add other things that are unacceptable. 
  6. Funding is being provided to support 13,000 community health center sites, which provide care to 28 million people living in underserved and rural areas.
  7. Over 4 million tests have been conducted, double the number conducted by any other country. Other nations are talking about our great testing capability.  We have been testing more people per capita than any other country.
  8. We are speaking frequently with governors to identify and unlock unused testing capacity. If there is a surge, we can have ventilators sent to that area in hours.
  9. There are 9 different platforms for testing, and 1 more may be added on Monday.
  10. The federal government has given states billions of dollars of supplies and medicine at no cost, but we will work it out with them.
  11. As we approach the downward side you will see great evidence that what we did was right.
  12. The stock market is saying we have done a good job.
  13. Our approach to testing is based on facts and hard evidence.
  14. With respect to the death rates by country showed by Dr. Birx, the President asked if anyone really believes the numbers being reported by China, with only .33 deaths per 10.,000.
  15. He said we are providing $6 billion per year for AIDS under the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) program. He repeated his complaints about WHO funding. 
  16. He said NIH has been “giving away $32 billion per year”, and they will be looking into it, saying there are savings to be made. Specifically, he is interested in the $3.7 billion that was given to the Wuhan lab in China approximately 6 years ago.
  17. He repeated his statement that China should have release the information earlier so that the virus could have been stopped at its source.
  18. The President was asked if China is cooperating in finding out what happened. He said that China says it is doing an investigation, so we will see what they reveal.  We are doing our own investigation.
  19. He was asked if there will be consequences if China was responsible for the release of the virus. He said if they were knowingly responsible, then yes.
  20. The President was asked if those protesting are actually objecting to his social distancing guidelines. He replied that some states have been too extreme in their actions, and people in those states have been treated rather roughly.  As a result, he understands where they are coming from.

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

  1. Birx said the number of deaths reported over the past few days has shifted because states have decided to add “probable” cause cases.
  2. She showed a series of slides showing the top metro areas, including New York City. If New York is taken out the axis is only 1/10 of the original number.  We are still tracking Chicago and Boston.  Detroit has done a great job.  She showed that the number of cases reported daily in New Orleans are declining.   Seattle had a much lower peak.  She also showed a graph representing the number of deaths per 10,000 populations, with the US below many countries.
  3. The US reacted to concerns about people with preexisting conditions based upon information provided by European colleagues, and thanked them for the information. She said there is no excuse for countries not providing such information when they have it.
  4. She said the number of hospitalizations is declining, with a continuing focus on just Chicago and Boston.
  5. Birx was asked what she thinks about people crowding beaches given the social distancing recommendations in the guidelines. She said that we should go county by county. In her opinion Florida has some of the best county health directors.  If they believe that this activity is acceptable she will not second-guess them.

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