President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence held a 1-hour press conference beginning at about 6:25 this evening. The President left after 30 minutes. They were joined by White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.
Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:
- The President said he met with the Secretaries of Treasury and Labor today regarding assistance to the airline industry. He expects a proposal will be put out over the weekend to help employees and save the airline business.
- He spoke with Russian President Putin and Saudi King Solomon about conflicts in the oil industry. He said they are getting close to a deal.
- He is encouraged that British Prime Minister Johnson has been released from the Intensive Care Unit.
- The Javits Center in New York City has been converted to a 3,000 bed hospital. There are 21 temporary care facilities being built around the country with 17,000 beds.
- We are at the top of the hill of cases and starting to go down in areas.
- He spoke with mental health professionals today about mental health concerns related to coronavirus.
- He is seeing encouraging signs for therapeutics. Pfizer has a method to stop the virus from replicating, and a clinical trial will be starting very soon. There are 19 therapies being tested and another 26 in planning for clinical trials. Remdesivir produced by Gilead Sciences is getting good results. The President spoke again by hydroxychloroquine and related combinations.
- The Department of Labor is working with workers and employers to protect them. The Federal Reserve is providing $2.3 trillion to support businesses, state, and local governments. $600 billion in loans is being provided to mid-size businesses with up to 10,000 employees. $500 billion is available for states and counties with over 2 million residents, and cities with populations over 1 million.
- They are working with Congress to replenish funds for the Paycheck Protection Program. Bipartisan approval is needed.
- The Department of Education will be providing $6 billion in emergency grant funds to help college students impacted by the cancellation of classes and suspension of housing.
- The President was asked how the country can be opened without an adequate national testing system. The President said we have a great testing system. Some areas are having positive cases go down. We are giving out more tests. Do we need to have a national testing system? No. Would it be nice to have? Yes.
- He was asked what he might say to the 16 million Americans who have lost their jobs and fear the economy will not be back. He replied that he thinks we will do well. We have a lower level of deaths being predicted. We have a tremendous stimulus plan. He thinks we will have a big bounce.
- The President disagreed with a question suggesting banks are having difficulty with the Paycheck Protection Program. He is hearing good things.
- He was asked if he is frustrated with the exports of Personal Protective Equipment. He said he is not, we are in good shape, and will soon be in a position to provide more assistance to other countries.
- Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has said that 750,000 tests per week will be needed to reopen the country. The President replied that he doesn’t think that many tests are needed, but will try to hit that number.
- He was asked if hospitals need more money as Democrats have claimed. He agreed, but said it should be provided in the next phase.
Summary of the Vice President’s remarks and questions:
- The Vice President spoke about 2 million tests having been done, with more than 100,000 more each day. 450,000 tests have been positive, and more than 16,000 people have lost their lives. We understand that these are not numbers. They are lives.
- The overall numbers are improving as we are nearing the peak. We continue to watch the Chicago and Boston metro areas. Evidence suggests that the President’s guidelines are working.
- There were separate conference calls with Senate Republicans and Democrats, discussing the Paycheck Protection Program. $125 billion has been approved thus far.
- There will be a new Frequently Asked Questions issued tonight about how seasonal businesses can participate in the Paycheck Protection Program.
- He said the President has approved 54 disaster declarations, and 29,000 National Guard troops have been activated fully funded by the federal government.
- At this time 4,100 active duty military medical personnel have been deployed in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Some personnel have been deployed to relieve medical workers in hospitals since these personnel are not fully needed above the Comfort at this point.
- The Veterans Administration is making facilities available in New York City, Detroit, East Orange NJ, and Shreveport LA for the treatment of COVID patients.
- FEMA and the US Public Health Service are providing states with the option to transfer from federal testing sites to state managed sites. It is an option, and the federal government will continue to partner with states to the extent they want.
- The Vice President was asked about the testing capacity needed to reopen the country. He said the American people have seen tremendous progress since the President brought in commercial labs, and spoke about the Abbott tests. Reopening will be through a combination of facts – the end of the virus in major communities, therapeutics, and CDC guidance. Testing is only a piece. They want the ability to do both diagnostic and surveillance testing.
- The Vice President was asked about Supreme Court action on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), and if the President will protect the 30,000 who are frontline healthcare workers who could be adversely impacted by the ruling. He said the President has been very clear on his desire to reach a solution on this issue with Congress.
Summary of the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx’s remarks and questions:
- Dr. Birx said 118,000 -120,000 tests are being performed each day. Additionally, 75% of state testing data has come in due to the new requirements in the CARES Act.
- She provided some demographic data regarding positive testing results: 11% of the 200,000 tested up to age 25; 17% of the 500,000 between the ages of 24-45; 21% of the 500,000 tested between the ages of 45 and 65; 22% of the 200,000 tested between the ages of 65-85; and 24% of the 30,000 over age 85. She said 56% of those tested were female with a positive rate of 16%; 44% of those tested were male with a positive rate of 23%.
- She reported on a call with 17 states focusing on rural areas and tribal/indigenous populations. They are seeing some issues of comorbidity, the elderly, and nursing homes. They are doing contact tracing. There is clearly a need to do testing at nursing homes.
- Looking at the new areas of Washington DC/Baltimore and the Philadelphia metro area, they are showing that early mitigation has an impact. There was a great report from Louisiana regarding people coming off ventilators.
- The original outbreaks were very large. The new ones are much lower than New York and New Jersey.
- With respect to reopening, Dr. Birx said in the discussion with the 17 states they talked about their ability to find new cases and do contact tracing. They are looking at blunting the curve. There are certainly cases that we do not see, so that is why antibody testing will be important.
- Dr. Birx was asked about the high reproduction rate for the virus infecting more people, and how that effects the models. It could be at a level of 6 times where as other viruses are only about 1 to 1.3. She again referenced asymptomatic issues, and the only way to do that is with antibody tests where there was a significant incident of the virus. This reproduction rate concern is still theoretical.
Summary of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s questions:
- Dr. Fauci said that it is a bad week with a record number of deaths, but with adherence to the guidelines we are seeing a decrease in the need for hospitalization. What we are doing is working, so we need to continue to do it.
- Dr. Fauci was asked about claims that the Centers for Disease Control is seeing evidence of a reactivation in people who have been cleared. He said he has not seen this, and there is a need to be careful. He does not think that people are getting sick again. When someone claims “reactivation”, what does that mean? He needs to see data.
- He was asked what the medical criteria will be for reopening the country. He said it was less medical than public health data. It is not a one-size-fits-all situation. It depends on individual areas. He said not to expect benchmarks consistent from one area to another.
Summary of Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia’s remarks:
- Secretary Scalia said he is mindful of what American workers are facing. He said Americans can be encouraged by how swiftly and comprehensively the President and Congress responded, referencing different provisions in the Families First and CARES Acts.
- Benefits are available to employees and the self-employed. A number of states are now making the additional $600 per week unemployment payments and more will follow. The Department of Labor will support states in their efforts.
- Benefits can catch up when state systems are able to handle them.
- OSHA guidance is being provided. They will work with employers and employees to keep workers safe. OSHA will respond with enforcement if needed.
- With respect to the Payroll Protection Program, he acknowledged that we are seeing unemployment numbers like never before, but not because of underlying problems with the economy. The President wants to lay the groundwork for a blue collar comeback.