President Donald Trump and the Vice President held a 1-hour press conference beginning at 5:48 this evening. They were joined by Acting Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary William N. Bryan, and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx.
Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:
- The President said that in 23 states new cases have declined, and 46 states report a drop in cases showing coronavirus symptoms.
- We are looking for a safe and phased reopening of our economy, but not letting up. We will watch it closely.
- There is a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report showing that the virus does better in cold and dry conditions, and declines in hot and humid conditions.
- We are close to a vaccine but testing needs to be done and will take some time.
- At this time 3,000 patients have enrolled in the expanded access program regarding convalescent plasma. It will be used to manufacture concentrated antibody treatments that do not have to be matched with blood types. It could be used as a preventive measure. Clinical trials are scheduled to begin in weeks.
- We are also working to create a database of scholarly articles that can be searched by Artificial Intelligence to help identify pertinent information.
- The President was asked if there is a need to extend the social distancing guidelines to the summer. He said we may or may not. People are behaving responsibly, and the guidelines will be extended until we can feel safe.
- He was asked what do the 23 states with declining cases mean about reopening. The President said we have gotten good at monitoring and containment and will continue to follow. There had been some discussion before that heat and light may reduce the virus and it is interesting to hear what Acting Under Secretary Bryan is reporting.
- The President was asked about what economists say about the economy and reopening with 26 million people now having filed for unemployment. The President said the economists have no idea. The economy will pick up as states reopen.
- He was asked about an interview Dr. Fauci had with Time magazine in which Dr. Fauci said much more testing capacity is needed, and if we have a national strategy beyond what states are doing for it. The President said yes, and that within 2 weeks we will see different forms of testing. Based on statistics we are doing phenomenally. If Dr. Fauci said that about testing, he does not agree. We have many laboratories around the country. We will come up with things as time goes by. He said he received 4 calls today and 3 calls yesterday from other countries asking for ventilators.
- The bill just approved by Congress does not include aid for states and localities. Senate Majority Leader McConnell says he disagrees with additional aid and that states should declare bankruptcy. The President said he is looking at the Senator’s statements. Some states have had problems long before the virus, and he is open to ideas about how to help states. Those states that have problems happen to have Democrat governors.
- The President was told that Oxford University claims that it could have a vaccine by September, and was asked if production could be scaled up quickly. The President said that Johnson & Johnson and a number of other companies are working on a vaccine and are already preparing to scale up quickly. Tremendous progress is being made.
- The President was asked if he was surprised that Georgia Governor Kemp defied him and the guidelines. The President said the Governor did not defy him. He said he told the Governor to do what he thought was best.
Summary of Vice President Pence’s remarks and questions:
- The Vice President said reported data continues to show improvement. The New York metro area, Detroit and New Orleans all appear to be past their peaks. We are seeing improvements across the country. The President’s guidelines are working.
- The Task Force believes that if we continue the mitigation efforts in states implementing phased reopenings, we could be in a much better place early this summer.
- There was a call today led by HUD Secretary Ben Carson and senior HUD officials following on the President’s comments yesterday for the repurposing of the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to focus on the impact of the virus on minority communities. He expects a report tomorrow.
- There now have been 4.93 million tests. States are engaging commercial laboratories at a higher level. More than 100,000 tests were done yesterday, the most in a single day. He spoke about testing efforts including expansions in Ohio, Minnesota, and Iowa, as well as about the use of the National Guard in some states.
- The bill (now approved by both the House and Senate) includes $75 billion as requested by the President to assist hospitals. They are now encouraging hospitals to consider restarting elective surgeries.
- The Task Force received a report that 16 states have formulated reopening plans, 13 of which did so since the President issued the Reopening of America guidelines last week. He provided the details of some of the individual plans with phased reopenings, including on a county-by-county basis.
- The Vice President responded to a question to the President regarding what the government will to do be better prepared in the fall if there is a summer ebb with the virus. He said that the Task Force is discussing this issue. If the states put the guidelines for reopening into practice in combination with the DHS findings we could be given a respite. They are talking about what to do in summer. They are not letting up on the development of therapeutics and are continuing to scale testing. There will be a broad range of testing with different means by next fall. Should the virus reemerge we will be prepared to identify, contact trace, and isolate it.
Summary of Acting Department of Homeland Security Under Secretary William N. Bryan’s remarks and questions:
- Acting Under Secretary Bryan described work being done at the National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center in Frederick, Md. This facility works closely with CDC, FDA, HHS, and the Department of Defense.
- Their work has demonstrated the powerful effect solar light has on killing the virus. Temperature and humidity are also detriments to the virus. He used a chart demonstrating different combinations and the impact of each on the half-life of the virus.
- He showed another slide identifying “Best Practices for Every American”, which included heat and humidity, moving activities outside, and using commercially available disinfectants such as bleach.
- Given that he described the findings as “emerging results”, he was asked if there is much more work to do. He said they are continuing to work to get more information.
- He was asked if he is saying that it will be better for people to go outside as the we move to summer weather. He said that it would be irresponsible to say summer alone will kill the virus. But he expects we will have the opportunity to get ahead.
- He was asked how much more research needs to be done to provide conclusive results. He said they got the virus in February, and that science is a process. They are now starting to get results and could not say when a conclusive result will be known.
- He was asked if they are comparing these results with those of other countries and private industry. He said they work with partners in other countries. He also mentioned the master question list that is being used to gather information.
Summary of White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx’s questions:
- Birx was asked how governors opening up their states may be factoring the DHS findings into their decisions. She said that this is left to the governors.
- When the President suggested that he would like to have Acting Under Secretary Bryan look into the possibility of heat and light being applied to control the virus, Dr. Birx said that she has not seen anything related to these potential claims.
- Birx was asked about the rate of decline with the virus. She said that if you look at week versus week, allowing for lower reporting of cases on weekends, we see a decline in the number of reported cases. There have been outbreaks in specific places, such as prisons, nursing homes, and plants which add several hundreds of cases at a time. They find early warning signals from these outbreaks because they want to know what the whole country is doing and how it impacts the rate on the country.