President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence held a nearly 1-hour and 45-minute press conference beginning at about 5:48 pm yesterday. The President left after nearly 1 hour. They were joined by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, MD.
Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:
- The President said coronavirus has now impacted 184 countries.
- He said he spoke today with 10,000 faith leaders, and also with 3,000 mayors, county commissioners, and tribal leaders.
- The President spoke again about the level of supplies that have been provided and the efforts to eliminate bureaucratic barriers. He focused on the 500 million masks that will be produced in May and June, and resulting from a potential additional order.
- The President also spoke about the usage of azithromycin and zinc as a potential response.
- He said the Centers for Disease Control will release guidance later today regarding the return of workers who may have been exposed to coronavirus.
- The President compared US contributions to the World Health Organization (WHO) with a much lower amount from China on an annual basis. He said WHO needs to get its priorities right, and that every country needs to be treated fairly. He compared the US contribution of $452 million with the Chinese contribution of $42 million, and said other countries also give substantially less than the US.
- The President thanked various groups of American workers who serve people every day, including first responders, healthcare workers, food supply personnel, and cashiers and clerks.
- He said the number of new cases is stabilizing.
- He said he is asking Congress for an additional $250 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program this week. Phase 4 can be done later. Hopefully we will do an infrastructure bill.
- The President was asked about ABC News reporting that there were intelligence reports warning about the virus as early as November. He was asked when he had heard, and if he could have acted sooner. He replied that he acted when he learned of the issue by restricting travel.
- He was asked for his plan to reopen the country and what might be needed. He said he would like the country to open up, and suggested it can be done in phases. He would like to do it broadly, and sooner rather than later. He will rely on the health experts.
- The President was asked if he was briefed about the Navarro report that predicted problems related to coronavirus. The President said he does not recall being briefed, and has now seen the report.
- The President was asked about the head of the WHO warning against the politicization of the virus, and that such action could be risking more body bags. The President again criticized the WHO action, claiming if they had given a correct analysis more could have been done. He repeated his claims of WHO being China centric, and WHO wanting the borders open. He said that the WHO leader has politicized the situation.
- He was asked about his desire to have people go back to work, and what if people do not listen to him. The President said people want to go back to work. The Administration has done a good job of holding down the numbers but he cannot tell a date by which it will all be over. At some time, social distancing will go away.
- The President was asked about his criticism of mail-in voting, which is used in Utah, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, and Colorado. He was asked for evidence to back up his claims of voting fraud. He said there is a lot of evidence, and it will be provided. He said California settled with Judicial Watch regarding 1 million people that should not have voted. He said that every state the reporter mentioned was won by Democrats. Thousands of votes are gathered and then dumped. We should have voter ID, and should be sure that votes that are sent in are legitimate.
- He was asked how systematically the task force is tracking hydroxychloroquine. He said he believes it is systematic. He hopes it works and believes there have been very good results so far. They are looking to provide data in many different ways.
- He was asked given that IHME has now adjusted the number of potential deaths down to 61,000 when will the country open up. He said it is still a big number. He had an aspirational date of Easter and was criticized for it. He does not like giving dates. The models suggest Easer may be a good date for the curve to change.
Summary of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s remarks and questions:
- Secretary Pompeo said that since January 29 the State Department has repatriated more than 50,000 citizens from more than 90 countries using 490 flights. It is without parallel in our lifetimes. He told several personal stories regarding Americans who were thankful for the assistance they received.
- He was asked how he might know when these efforts are done. The Secretary said that the State Department is still working on behalf of several thousand people. We will be done when people can travel on their own again.
- He was asked how this situation impacts diplomatic efforts overseas. He said that other than the Wuhan incident, embassies are safe. He believes they have a good handle on the situation.
- He was asked if China withheld information an if there might be retaliation. He replied that this is not the time for that discussion. Every country needs to be transparent, and had the obligation to send information accurately, timely, and completely.
- The Secretary was then asked about China giving funds to the WHO and what the US should do about it. He said the US is reevaluating its support for the WHO, and this is true for support for every international organization. The WHO has not accomplished what it intended to deliver. When he was later asked about changing the leadership of the WHO he said it is not the time to do that kind of change.
- He was asked for an update on the number of cases in Iran and what assistance the US might provide. He said that the US had offered humanitarian assistance, and Iran declined. There are no sanctions on providing medical assistance.
- He was asked about allowing medical assistance to other countries. He said the US is providing what those countries might need to do surveillance, assisting them in how to conduct tests themselves, and how to reduce the peak of incidence.
Summary of the Vice President’s remarks and questions:
- The Vice President spoke about 1.9 million tests having been conducted, with 400,000 positive results and 14,000 deaths. The numbers today reflect the number of people that contracted the virus before the mitigation strategy was in place.
- There is concern for Philadelphia, and he encouraged the practice of social distancing.
- He spoke about separate conference calls with Republican and Democratic members of the House of Representatives. They spoke about the provision of more than $98 billion in forgivable loans.
- He said Treasury will tonight provide new Frequently Asked Questions that will indicate that lenders can use their own closing documents.
- He said he spoke with the President of Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit regarding clinical trials for hydroxychloroquine and a placebo. The hospital would like to extend the test, and he put the hospital in contact with FDA Commissioner Hahn.
- He said the first delivery of newly manufactured ventilators from GE arrived today.
- He also said the White House Coronavirus Task Force has requested data from CDC regarding the virus consequences faced by African Americans. He will speak tomorrow with the Surgeon General and leaders in the African American Community.
- The Vice President was asked who will be getting the additional 500 million masks that are being produced. He said they will first be deployed to states and hospital systems.
Summary of the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx’s remarks and questions:
- When the President was asked about the projections of 100,00 to 240,000 deaths being revised downward, Dr. Birx replied that they are looking at models, as well as what is happening in Italy and Spain. We are doing much better than other countries, and trying to understand what is happening. She spoke about the IHME model showing a decrease from 90,000 down to 61,000 based on what Americans have been doing. Americans have been amazing at adapting to behavioral changes.
- Dr. Birx said to honor those who have fallen, healthcare workers, and the elderly there is a need to continue to do our work. There is still a high number of cases in the New York metro area. They are reviewing New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston. Denver has fallen, but still has a 15% positive rate. They are looking by metro, county, and rural regions to be sure that nothing is being missed.
- Dr. Birx was asked why ventilators went to Colorado when other states had greater needs. She said that it is not just a matter of the absolute number of cases but also hospital capacity. Denver fit into this model.
- She was asked about claims that some people counted as dying from coronavirus actually died from other causes. The coronavirus death numbers were being “padded”. Dr. Birx said that comorbidities have been known since the beginning. But the underlying condition did not cause the death. The pathophysiology is not known.
Summary of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s questions:
- Dr. Fauci said we know that mitigation is having a positive effect but do not see it until weeks later. Everyone is susceptible. It is what happens after one gets infected that is important.
- He has a recognition of health disparities in the African American community. This disparity puts them at risk. He urged members of the community protect themselves if they are younger, and those elderly around them. We will not resolve the underlying disparity now, but know mitigation does work.
- In response to a question about 10 drugs in clinical trials and work on hydroxychloroquine, Dr. Fauci said to go to clinicaltrials.gov to see all of the work that is underway. Any physician can, in consultation with the patient, can make a decision for off-label usage.
- He was asked why CDC had not been prepared to gather data regarding impacts on African Americans. He said that he disparity did not start with coronavirus. This community has much greater risk with its underlying conditions.
- With respect to the claim of “fake coronavirus death claims”, Dr. Fauci said having been through this with other issues, including HIV/AIDS, there are always conspiracy theories that are just a distraction.
Summary of Administrator for the Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, MD’s remarks and questions:
- Dr. Redfield repeated the new guidance for essential health care workers that has been provided and reviewed those protocols.