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4/22/20 OFW Law Daily COVID-19 News Conference Summary

President Donald Trump and the Vice President held a 1-hour and 40-minute press conference beginning at 5:47 this evening. They were joined by Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, MD, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Surgeon General of the United States Vice Admiral Jerome Adams MD.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President said the number of new positive cases continues to decline. The hot spots are stabilizing.  Boston is in decline, Chicago is flatter, and Detroit is past its peak.
  2. Redfield was totally misquoted in the Washington Post about the fall season being worse. He was talking about Coronavirus and the flu happening at the same time. 
  3. The President said we will not again go through what we faced this year. The President was then asked how he could make this claim.  He said some have said that the virus may not come back at all.  We will be watching for it.
  4. He was asked if Coronavirus will not come back, why direct money for ventilators. He said it is to be prepared.  He spoke with world leaders today who asked how all of the ventilator production has been done, and some asked for ventilators.  He went on to say that we have done more testing than any other nation – and all other nations added together.
  5. He has encouraged governors to follow a phased approach to reopening. Governors will do what they believe is best.  But he wants to guard against the virus having a rebound.
  6. He said he told Georgia Governor Kemp that he disagreed with his decision to reopen. But the Governor must do what he thinks is right.  The President, though, thinks it is too soon to reopen spas, barber shops, beauty parlors, and tattoo shops.  In response to a later question the President said he told Governor Kemp that he disagrees with his decision.
  7. The Air Force’s Thunderbirds and the Navy’s Blue Angels will be doing performances over major cities, paying tribute to healthcare workers. This will be “Operation America Strong”.
  8. He said there will be a show on the National Mall on July 4.
  9. The Senate yesterday replenished the Paycheck Protection Program with an additional $310 billion. He urges the House to pass the bill without delay.
  10. Yesterday he had called for Harvard to return the money provided from the CARES Act. Harvard today announced that it will not accept the money, as did Stanford. 
  11. The legislation reserves $30 billion for small businesses, noting support expected to be provided for those operated by African Americans and Hispanics.
  12. He said we continue to expand access to telehealth to increase services in underserved communities.
  13. There is an additional $25 billion for testing and funds for community health centers in the Senate-passed bill.
  14. He is working with governors to be sure they have testing operations in place to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
  15. He is committed to restoring Black and Hispanic communities to full economic health. He said the Opportunity and Revitalization Council headed by HUD Secretary Ben Carson will work on this effort.  The President will ask South Carolina Senator Tim Scott to work with the Council.  He has also asked the Council to identify what additional funding will be needed.  The Administration has to support minority and depressed communities.
  16. The President said he just signed an Executive Order temporarily suspending immigration to the United States. He can amend or extend this order at the appropriate time.
  17. He said we will reopen national parks and public lands, continuing to take reasonable precautions.
  18. He said $7 billion has provided for the development of treatment, diagnostics, and therapies. FDA and NIH are establishing multiple clinical trials, including on convalescent plasma.  He encouraged people who have recovered from Coronavirus to consider contacting local centers about donating blood.
  19. The President was asked about claims by Rick Bright, the director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, that he was “pushed out” of his job because of his stated opposition to claims about hydroxychloroquine. The President said he never heard of him and does not know him.
  20. He was asked if his claims for a 4th of July event are safe given continuing concerns about Coronavirus. The President said the celebration will probably be 25% of what we had last year.  People will most likely be standing 6 feet apart.
  21. The President was asked about governors still asking for testing reagents. The President said again we have done more testing than any other country, and we will be coming out with more methods for testing.  The issue is a media trap that cannot be satisfied.  Not everyone believes in so much testing.  He will give everyone what they want, but testing has to be done locally.
  22. He was asked if he is concerned about the closure of meat processing facilities. He said he is, and said South Dakota Governor Noem has the situation under control.  He said in response to a further question that the food supply is totally secure.
  23. He was asked about Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filing a law suit against China for its actions related to Coronavirus, and if he supported this action. The President said he would need to look into it.

Summary of Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, MD’s remarks and questions: 

  1. Redfield said that when he said the fall/winter could be more difficult he did not say it would be “worse”.
  2. We continue to build healthcare capacity so that we can stay in a containment mode so we will not need the kind of mitigation actions we have had this spring.
  3. Actions are being supported by the American public’s practices and hygiene. He wants the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.
  4. A reporter read the Washington Post quote back to Dr. Redfield to verify if this was the actual quote. Redfield said that in context this season we had the flu ended so that all resources could be devoted to COVID-19.  This fall we could have both at the same time so it will be a more difficult situation to determine if it is the flu or COVID-19, but not that COVID-19 will be worse.  The Washington Post quote was accurate. However, the President complained that the headline “CDC director warns second wave of Coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating” was not what Dr. Redfield said.

Summary of Vice President Pence’s remarks and questions:

  1. The Vice President said that even though there have been 843,000 confirmed cases and 47,000 deaths, we continue to see encouraging signs of improvement. The President’s guidelines have been the key.  We continue to see declines in communities around the country.  We also see the positive rate going down along with the daily number of new cases.  It is a tribute to the American people who have taken the guidelines to heart.
  2. We all want to reopen America as fast and as safely as possible. We are on our way to doing that.
  3. He spoke about his visit to GE Healthcare in Madison, Wisconsin, where the union renegotiated its contract in one week, doubling the workforce that will be there to produce ventilators.
  4. There are now 31,000 National Guard personnel active around the country, with their activation continued through May 31.
  5. There are 5,500 military personnel activated, with 964 medical personnel at 17 hospitals across 7 states.
  6. The Veterans Administration is deploying teams to nursing homes.
  7. There are now nearly 11,000 ventilators in the national supply.
  8. Walmart will be producing 8.4 million gowns to be delivered by the end of June. New Balance is making 100,000 face shields per week.
  9. When the President was asked about increasing testing at nursing homes, the Vice President responded that it is an incredibly hard situation when Americans are putting off visits to elderly family members. The concern is that a healthy American could inadvertently convey the virus to an elderly relative.  So, yes, testing is important and will be done.

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

  1. Birx followed up on the concerns about Coronavirus in the fall, saying that when we first interacted with this virus we did not have information about it. Now we do.  We have the summer to prepare the testing algorithm if it potentially comes back.  We will find it earlier this time and can contain it.  We hope the flu will be down because people will be much more aware and take the vaccine.  CDC is putting in place today what we will need in the fall.
  2. Birx was asked about sharing the detailed state maps showing testing capability locations with local media. She said they have to check with companies before releasing the information because some of the details are proprietary.
  3. She was asked about California partially breaking with the CDC because they want to test people without symptoms, like those in nursing homes, and if she agreed with California’s action. She said that not only do they agree with it, this action was recommended in the guidelines.  They were the first to say testing asymptomatic people may be key.  It is fundamental for right now and going into the fall. 

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

  1. Fauci said we talked a couple weeks ago about looking at what they expected would be a very bad upcoming week. We started to turn things around and we see that the mitigation program has worked.  It has been a successful formula and we can think about reopening in line with the guidelines announced a few days ago.  There is the need to proceed in a careful and measured way.  There are checkpoints before going into Phase 1, and others in Phase 2 and Phase 3.  Areas of the country are different and they each need to proceed in a measured way.  If we do not do that, we could have a rebound of Coronavirus.
  2. He was asked what his expectations are for this fall. Fauci said that if the virus is left alone it will take off.  If we put containment in place, we can control it.  He is convinced we will have Coronavirus in the fall.  What happens with that will depend on how we contain it when it occurs.  He expects we will be better prepared to deal with Coronavirus.
  3. He then was asked what happens when governors like Georgia Governor Kemp do not follow the guidelines. Fauci said if he was advising Governor Kemp he would advise him not to take his reopening action.

Summary of Surgeon General of the United States Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, MD’s remarks:

  1. Adams said the Task Force has a commitment to protect vulnerable people. We hear that testing is absolutely a concern.  They are working with companies to accelerate testing, especially for communities in the most need of testing – Black, Hispanic, rural, indigenous.  They want to work to increase testing sites, with 2/3 in areas with moderate to high social vulnerability, and ¼ in communities with high social vulnerability.

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