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4/7/20 OFW Law Daily COVID-19 News Conference Summary

President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence held a nearly 1-hour and 45-minute press conference beginning at about 5:45 this evening. The President left after nearly 1 hour.  They were joined by Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Seema Verma, and White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President said again that he expects a tough next week or so, and then counts will hopefully go in the other direction.
  2. He said British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is in stable condition in the ICU.
  3. He is thankful to the American people for following the guidelines for slowing the spread.
  4. We will be prepared for the next round. Hopefully it will not happen again.
  5. He said that there were another 5 planes arriving as a result of the Air Bridge project, with another 27 flights scheduled.
  6. The Corps of Engineers has 15,000 hospital beds planned around the United States.
  7. He reminded governors and emergency managers to share real time data.
  8. Companies are working on cures and vaccines that will protect us. They have great potential.
  9. The President said he will protect people if their governor fails.
  10. The President said there are 8,765 ventilators in stock. He expects another 2,200 will arrive April 13, with additional amounts of 5,500 on May 14; 12,000 on May 18; 12,000 on June 1; and 60,000 on June 29.  A total of 110,000 ventilators are coming.
  11. He said we will work out sending 200 ventilators to the United Kingdom in response to their request.
  12. As of yesterday 1.87 million tests have been conducted. CVS will be using the Abbott rapid tests in Georgia and Rhode Island.
  13. The President said 1,200 Abbott machines have been shipped nationwide, and 50,000 testing cartridges are being produced each day.
  14. The President said that on Thursday he will speak with leaders of mental health organizations.
  15. He is spreading economic relief. He spoke with several bank leaders and thanked multiple executives.  SBA has put out $70 billion in guaranteed loans.
  16. He will ask Congress for an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection program.
  17. The World Health Organization (WHO) receives vast amounts of money from the US. They disagreed with the President’s travel ban, and seem to be China-centric.  The administration will look into it.  WHO called it wrong, and could have called it months earlier.  They should have known, and probably did know.
  18. He urged people to use #Americaworkstogether to tell their stories.
  19. We are looking towards far fewer deaths than originally thought, but it is too early to talk about it.
  20. The President was asked if a total of $600 billion for small businesses will be enough. He said we will see, and the program is really popular.  It keeps companies together.
  21. He was asked about the potential economic task force that will work on reopening the economy. The President said we are getting close to that point, and New York Governor Cuomo also thinks so.  We want to prepare.
  22. He was asked what else the federal government can do. He said the government is doing a lot.  He mentioned his support for infrastructure efforts, identifying a strong US dollar.  Investors want to come into the dollar while other currencies are going down more than 20%.
  23. The President was asked if he saw Mr. Navarro’s January memo regarding concerns about the impact of the virus. He said he had not seen it then, and had not asked for it.  He said that he started closing things down around the same time as the memo, the same time as the WHO was not in favor of these closings.
  24. The President was asked about his downplaying the seriousness of the situation at the same time the Navarro memo was being circulated. He said he is a cheerleader for the country, and had closed down travel from China, Europe, and the United Kingdom. He said he would not go out and scream what could happen.
  25. He was asked if he just learned about the memo today. He said he read about it today, and repeated the actions he had taken that he said were in line with the memo.
  26. He was asked if he had read the memo would he have done things differently. He again said he did what was being suggested, having acted on his own with the same instincts.  He will see the memo after this briefing.
  27. The President was asked if it is right to defund the WHO during a pandemic. He replied that he did not say that he will do it now, but will look at it.
  28. The President was asked if he planned to require the CDC or other agencies to collect data on the nature of people who were effected. He said he wants to find cures, therapeutics, and vaccines.  But he does want to know why is it so much more of a problem in the African American community.  He expects to have statistics in less than a week. 
  29. The President was asked about claims that some banks are approving Paycheck Protection loans only to existing customers. The President said he asked the bank executives about it, and they are working on it.  He said they will provide loans, and also said loans are available from community banks as well.
  30. He was asked what advice he would give to foreign leaders who are still skeptical about coronavirus. The President said there are not too many of them.  Sweden is suffering very badly. Almost every country has done it the way we have.
  31. The President was asked if the Supreme Court was right in not delaying primary voting in Wisconsin. He said of course the Supreme Court was right.  He claimed that the Democrats wanted to move the election 15 minutes after the President endorsed Justice Daniel Kelly for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. They also wanted an additional week for mail ballots. He claimed there is cheating on mail ballots, they are corrupt, and the result of forgeries.  He said he supports Voter ID, and also said early voting practices are bad.  He was later asked how does holding an election line up with the social distancing guidelines.  The President said to ask the governor – it is his problem.
  32. The President was again asked about the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine. He talked about Karen Whitsett, a Democratic State Representative in Michigan, who appeared on television to talk about her use of the drug.  He said that she said her husband went out to get it for her, she takes it, and four hours later feels much better.  She had thought she was going to die.
  33. He was asked about his decision to remove Glenn Fine from the Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, becoming another Inspector General that the President has removed. The President said there are lots of IGs left over from the Obama Administration.  He does not know Mr. Fine, and perhaps he is left over from President Clinton.  The President has submitted 7 good nominees for Inspectors General.
  34. When the President was asked about states having inaccurate death counts due to a lack of testing, he replied that the death counts are accurate.
  35. He was asked as we move to a Phase 4 bill if there are still obstacles to a payroll tax cut. He said he would love to see it, and the Democrats are stopping it.  He said it would be a great thing for the country.  It would get money into the hands of people and small businesses over a period of time.

Summary of the Vice President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The Vice President said that despite the losses in New York City he wants to assure the American people that there is reason for hope. They are seeing stabilization in many areas, and it is evidence that Americans are putting into practice social distancing and the President’s guidelines.
  2. He has heard about the enthusiasm for the Paycheck Protection program. By this morning $60 billion in forgivable loans has gone out.
  3. The Vice President made a strong point in thanking and complimenting people working in the food supply chain: farmers, ranchers, processors, distributors, and grocers. Five weeks ago the President got a commitment from leaders of major grocery stores that no store would close, and they have not.  He said that some plants have reduced capacity and some have temporarily closed because of too few workers.  He said these workers are vital.
  4. He reviewed the number of military personnel and volume of supplies provided throughout the country, and said no stone is being left unturned looking for Personal Protective Equipment.
  5. The Vice President was asked how the Administration envisions reopening the economy. Would it be White House guidance, or work by governors and mayors?  He said it depends on what the data shows.  He said that new CDC guidance regarding how people who have been in proximity to those who have been exposed to the virus can return to work will be issued tomorrow.

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

  1. When the President was asked about the higher mortality rate among African Americans, Dr. Fauci said it is a particularly difficult problem for that community. Many have preexisting conditions that lead to complications with the coronavirus.  These conditions are prevalent in the African American community.  It is sad but nothing can be done about it right now.
  2. Fauci added there are long-time health disparities in the African-American community. The community suffers disproportionately from hypertension, diabetes, and obesity that contribute to the coronavirus fatality issue.  He later said that when a person suffers from the underlying condition we will see a disproportionate number of coronavirus deaths.
  3. In response to a question about expectations for summer camps and the next school year, Dr. Fauci said it is unpredictable. How we respond and what kind of a rebound we see or do not see will have more of an impact on summer.  His optimistic side says matters will be better by fall.  We will be in a better position to isolate, identify, and contact trace and have antibody tests.  All will go into the decision.

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

  1. Birx said there needs to be improved messaging from health advocates and the Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) to the African American community. She does not want to give the impression that they are more susceptible to the virus, but data suggests they are more susceptible to other diseases and the connected outcomes.  She also called on Tribal Leaders to protect the elders of their communities.
  2. She wanted to talk about the attack rates or cases per population. Right now the rates are 7 per 1,000 in New York State (with nearly twice that in New York City), 4 per 1,000 in New Jersey, 3 per 1,000 in Louisiana, 2 per 1,000 in Massachusetts, 2 per 1,000 in Connecticut, 1.5 per 1,000 in Michigan, 1.5 per 1,000 in Washington, DC and Baltimore, and 1 per 1,000 in Pennsylvania.  There is concern about the rate in Philadelphia.  The west coast numbers are substantially lower with less than 1 per 1,000 in Washington, and less than .5 per 1,000 in California.  Oregon is even lower.
  3. Data analysis allows good decisions to be made about needs. We may be seeing broader areas with flattening curves, including Detroit and Chicago.
  4. We could double the number of tests done in a single day if the Abbott M2000 machine is used.
  5. She cautioned that there are a series of antibody tests used in the United Kingdom and elsewhere that have not been validated. She urged people see these tests on the internet not to buy them until they are approved.  They can give a false sense of reassurance.
  6. Birx was asked why are states sending ventilators when there are some in the national stockpile. She said that the federal government did not ask for them. Instead states have amazing health commissioners who wanted to make them available to other states as their own needs became lower.
  7. She was asked how close we might be to a 24-hour turn-around on testing, and the self-swab tests. She said we really need the Abbott M2000 machines on line.  The self-swab tests work very well.   We now have to create a mosaic to know where every machine is in order to have the right laboratory tests for the right communities.  They are talking with states about testing protocols.  Drive-thru tests are where the backlog is occurring.
  8. Birx was asked about the risk of the number of deaths being misinterpreted. She said we have had a liberal approach to reporting the cause of deaths.  Some other countries report it is a heart or kidney issue rather than the virus.  Now if someone dies with COVID-19 and these other conditions the death it is counted as the virus.
  9. She was asked about coroners saying this is not the case. She replied that it may happen in rural areas that do not have the same level of testing.

Summary of Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Seema Verma’s remarks and questions:

  1. When the President was asked if he planned to require the CDC or other agencies to collect data on the nature of people who were effected, she replied that they will look at Medicaid data to stratify people and look at their underlying health issues.
  2. Administrator Verma said healthcare provides have experienced increased expenses across the nation as a consequence of the actions they have taken in response to the virus. Some moving to telehealth have been reducing revenues.  HHS is using accelerated payments based on historic levels of Medicare payments to provide assistance.  Thus far there have been 25,000 requests.  They have processed 70% and provided $34 billion, essentially in loans. 
  3. With the implementation of the CARES Act providing $100 billion in assistance for hospitals, they will be putting out another $30 billion in grants. The grants are based on Medicare revenue, and are done in an easy and simplified way with direct deposit on registration.  They are not done on a first come-first served basis. 
  4. Pediatricians, Children’s’ Hospitals, nursing homes and Ob-Gyns that get revenues from Medicaid will be prioritized in a second traunch.


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