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Awaiting White House Coronavirus Briefing; Trump Visits CDC as Confirmed U.S. Coronavirus Cases to Rise; White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; Pence: 21 On Cruise Ship Test Positive For Coronavirus. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 6, 2020 - 17:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[17:00:15]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN Breaking News.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: I'm Wolf Blitzer in "THE SITUATION ROOM."

We are following breaking news. Vice President Pence and the Coronavirus Task Force, they are scheduled to give a briefing over at the White House any minute now. You are looking at the live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room. Pictures -- meanwhile, the president, he has been visiting the offices of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.

We already know that the number of cases continues to climb with 265 known infections here in the United States and the number of people killed by the virus in this country now standing at 14.

As we await the start of the coronavirus briefing over at the White House. So let's go to our chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta. He's in the briefing room for us.

Jim, the virus is clearly spreading. The White House though continues to downplay the outbreak.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. Vice President Mike Pence will be out here shortly to give another briefing on the coronavirus response. As you just mentioned a few moments ago, the president was visiting the CDC. Talking to reporters there about what is happening at that facility.

In the meantime though, White House officials have been coming under scrutiny for some of the assessment statement offering about the administration's coronavirus response and the state of that outbreak. Those officials have been saying that the coronavirus has been contained when the data shows that it is not the case.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): With President Trump urging Americans to remain calm and avoid panicking over the coronavirus.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to be calm. It will go away.

ACOSTA: Top White House officials are misleading the public about the true nature of the outbreak insisting that public health emergency has been contained when in fact the data shows the virus is spreading causing more illnesses and more deaths. The officials offering those rosy assessments, White House counselor, Kellyanne Conway -

KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO PRESIDENT TRUMP: What I am pleased to report is that the 14 deaths so far that are completely tragic and very sad in this country. It shows that this has been contained because the president took action and a lot of you criticized him for doing that.

ACOSTA: And Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow are not infectious disease experts.

LARRY KUDLOW, WHITE HOUSE ECONOMIC ADVISER: We don't actually know what the magnitude of the virus is going to be, although, frankly so far, it looks relatively contained.

ACOSTA: One big problem, administration officials have yet to understand the full scope of the outbreak as testing kits for the virus are still being distributed.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: I just want to make it clear that in terms of tests, we have provided all the tests to the state of Washington and the State of California that they have asked for. The production and shipping the tests that we have talked all week is completely on schedule.

ACOSTA: A top expert on the Coronavirus Task Force pointed to Ms. Debs at the Centers for Disease Control.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: It is unfortunate that it got off to a slow start. There were some missteps with regard to the CDC's tests. They had a problem. They fixed the problem.

ACOSTA: Despite the rocky response, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the U.S. is outperforming the rest of the world in its response.

MIKE POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE: I am confident that we will handle it better than any nation in the world.

ACOSTA: Democrats aren't buying that.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): The CDC says basically, anyone who thinks they need a test should go to their doctor and ask for a test. The vice president says we don't have enough testing capacity to address all the tests that we need to take.

ACOSTA: There was even confusion over whether the president would visit the CDC. At first, the president said his visit was scrapped due to concerns somebody at the CDC could have the coronavirus. TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) They thought that there was a problem at CDC with somebody that had the virus. It turned out negative. So we are seeing if we can do it.

ACOSTA: And then White House cleared Mr. Trump to go. The president is trying to find a silver lining in the outbreak noting that more Americans may avoid traveling overseas and choose to spend their money in the U.S.

TRUMP: I have to say, people are now staying in the United States spending their money in the U.S. and I like that.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (on camera): Now as for these rosy assessments from top White House officials at the coronavirus outbreak has been contained. One metric to keep an eye on in the coming days, Wolf, as these testing kits are distributed throughout the country, experts and people inside the administration, even officials inside the administration are expecting these numbers of coronavirus cases to rise as people actually get to their medical providers and undergo those tests.

And so, these assessments that this virus has been contained may not look so good next week as that data starts to come into officials inside the administration, Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, we will get back to you. Once again, we are standing by to hear from the vice president and his task force, Dr. Anthony Fauci, among others are getting ready to walk into the briefing room and make statements and then answer reporters' questions.

[17:05:06]

In the meantime, as we await that briefing, let's get the latest now on that cruise ship being held off of the coast of San Francisco while the passengers are being tested for coronavirus.

CNN's Lucy Kafanov is in San Francisco for us.

Lucy, about 3,500 passengers stuck on that ship. We are expecting at least some test results soon. Is that right?

LUCY KAFANOV, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is right, Wolf. They have collected samples from 45 people on board that ship. We are expecting results sometime today but it was just not clear when, possibly later this evening.

This has been a nail biter for everyone on board. They have been confined to their rooms. They are not allowed to leave. Worst of all, Wolf, passengers tell me they have no idea whether they will be forced to undergo a quarantine if those test results come back positive.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

KAFANOV (voice-over): Tonight, a race to trace coronavirus infections. More than 3,500 passengers and crew stranded onboard the Grand Princess Cruise Ship ordered to stay in their rooms awaiting test results from 45 people who showed symptoms of infection.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It is something of a holding pattern. The ship remains safe and secure.

KAFANOV: This, after a California man who sailed in the Grand Princess last month died from coronavirus, the State's first fatality. Two other people from that previous voyage, a Canadian couple in their 60's now infected. Passengers currently onboard are terrified.

TERESA DUNCAN JOHNSON, PASSENGER ON THE GRAND PRINCESS: And we are afraid that all of us have been exposed to it. (INAUDIBLE) how you can avoid it.

KAFANOV: That is a scary process (ph).

JOHNSON: It is.

KAFANOV: The number of states reporting confirmed cases expanding to every region of the country. But even as the death toll rises, experts say the risk of infection for most people is still low.

FAUCI: The risk of getting infected as taking the nation as a whole is low, but that could change as we're seeing in Seattle who you have some community spread.

KAFANOV: Up the coast in Washington, ground zero for the U.S. outbreak, elbow bumps replacing handshakes. Seattle now a ghost town. The city's iconic public market, virtually empty. In nearby Kirkland, at least seven deaths at the life center nursing home including Pat Herrick's mother.

PAT HERRICK, MOTHER DIED AT LIFE CARE CENTER OF KIRKLAND: My mom loved to give roses to each one of the mothers in this place including the staff members every Mother's Day. She loved to make sure -- make sure that they got Christmas gifts, too.

KAFANOV: She is demanding testing to see if her mother was infected.

HERRICK: As far as we knew she was not sick. So, I was surprised.

KAFANOV: In New York State, at least 33 people testing positive, thousands have self-quarantined.

CUOMO: This is like flu on steroids. At least 44 people who traveled back from a CDC health advisory level 2 or 3 country under mandatory quarantine.

KAFANOV: Back in Washington State, a message from grieving families to the White House.

KEVIN CONNOLLY, FATHER-IN-LAW LIVES AT LIFE CARE CENTER: It is too late for a lot of families here. And to Mike Pence, you know, there is a learning opportunity here, right? There's going to be more outbreaks like this in this country. And if it continues to happen like this, there's going to be, you know, countless casualties.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

KAFANOV (on camera): A lot of emotion there. And, Wolf, I just got a text from one of the passengers onboard the Grand Princess Cruise Ship. She says that they have been provided activity kits for each cabin. They have asked passengers to supply the names of their medications if they need refills, which is a sign that potentially, they may have to stay onboard that ship a lot longer than they planned. Wolf?

BLITZER: It is really sad for those 3,500 people who are stuck on that ship. Lucy Kafanov, of -- in San Francisco for us. Thanks very much.

Let's bring in our experts and our analysts to discuss.

Sanjay, let's talk a little bit about what is going on right now. Two top doctors were told they are advising people over 60 right now to make some major, major changes right now in their daily routines among other things, to avoid plane travel, movie theaters, crowded malls, religious services, even family events. Would you sign off on that kind of advice?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, you know, it does sound like a lot. I looked at the CDC's specific guidance on their page and you know it's - it's a bit more basic than that you know stay home as much as possible. So I think as a general rule, saying look, you know there's clearly a virus that circulating. By the way, it is not too different than the type of guidance they give during flu season anyways for which the elderly people are also at higher risk.

So again, on the page, it is not quite so specific in terms of avoiding airline travel, and movies and all that. But it does say stay home as much as possible.

Keep in mind, Wolf, I just want to be clear. This is a virus -- the coronavirus I am talking about now that in some ways and many ways is similarly transmitted as the flu through respiratory droplets so if someone coughs or sneezes these respiratory droplets are in the air for a bit of time but then they - and someone can breathe those droplets in or touches surface.

[17:10:06]

But unlike the measles, Wolf, which we talked about during that measles outbreak, those particles can be airborne and be suspended in the air for hours. And certainly, you know, something like that's a much bigger risk for being out in public. People can - you know, if I had the measles and I infected this room, someone came in at this room hours later, they could still get infected. That's not - this coronavirus is not spread that way.

So you know it is basic precautions. I think what that really is. We are talking about people who are 60 years and older. Is it that as a more vulnerable population. And you know there's a lot of things about this coronavirus we still don't know. There's a lot of information we're still gathering. But one thing that seems to hold true is that there - we've been able to identify the more vulnerable populations, the elderly and people who have you know preexisting illness. In particular, coronary disease, heart disease, diabetes, lung disease and hypertension.

So, I that's what the message is there, Wolf.

BLITZER: It's an important message indeed.

Dr. Jennifer Nuzzo is joining us as well. You're an infectious disease epidemiologist at John Hopkins University.

Jennifer, it's not just people over 60 who are more in danger by the coronavirus. It's people under 60 who have some underlying health conditions that could make them more vulnerable as well. That's billions of people.

JENNIFER NUZZO, INFECTIOUS DISEASE EPIDEMIOLOGIST: Yes. I mean so it's anybody with underlying health conditions, under the age of 60, over the age of 60. And then particular age - that were particularly worried about is over the age of 80 as well.

You know in terms of these recommendations, yes, these are kind of the things that we would say in order to - if you are interested in reducing your potential exposure to the virus that maybe you'll think about, not going to as many crowded places where you're going to encounter large numbers of people because with every encounter there is, that possibility.

That said, this is really hard to think about for the long term, and that is how we're going to have to think about this. This virus isn't going to go away in a couple of weeks. It's going to be with us for a long time. And asking people to change their lives for a really long time is difficult particularly when some of these places they may go might be their source of support and strength, et cetera.

BLITZER: It could be a year, maybe even longer before there is a vaccine, right?

NUZZO: Yes. And we don't know when -- for how long the virus is going to circulate. It may decrease a bit in the warmer months. It's certainly the hope there's not any clear evidence that that's going to happen. If it did, it could very well come back.

So, I think the bottomline message is we have to expect that any of these measures would have to be maintained for the long haul in order to continue to be effective.

BLITZER: All right. Everybody stand by for a moment. We're waiting for the Vice President Mike Pence and his Task Force to emerge to go there.

You're looking at live pictures from the White House briefing room. They're going to have a briefing, make some statements. Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH will be there as well. We will have live coverage of that coming up, much more right after this.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:17:24]

BLITZER: All right, take a look at these live pictures coming in from the White House briefing room. We expect within a few moments the Vice President Mike Pence and top aides involved in his Coronavirus Task Force to emerge to make some statements and then answer reporters' questions.

We expect Dr. Anthony Fauci of NIH to be there. Also, Ambassador Deborah Birx, she is now the coronavirus response coordinator. Probably, Seema Verma, the administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Maybe Steven Hahn, the commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration. We will have live coverage of that coming up.

You know, Gloria, this is a huge, huge problem right now. Based on international estimates right now, globally, there have been confirmed 100,083 confirmed cases of coronavirus. 3,403 confirmed deaths in 88 countries around the world. This is a huge problem and it's expanding worldwide, yet we hear conflicting messages coming from the president and his political aides. Some suggest that it's been contained. What do you make of these conflicting messages we're getting?

GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think they have had a problem from the very start about how to describe this. Because you know you have to walk a fine line which is you don't want to panic the American public. On the other hand, you have to tell the American public the truth. And when it is comes to issues like this which are very complicated, and you have to explain to people not only what they should do but how the virus behaves, it becomes very difficult, which is why the president of the United States in these situations is generally not the best spokesman. The best people to listen to are the health care professionals and that is why Mike Pence now leading up this team with people like Tony Fauci on this team.

Those are the people that the American public needs to hear from, because the messaging coming out of the White House even regarding whether the president was going to go to visit the CDC today is completely confusing. You know, at first the White House said they didn't want interfere with the business of the CDC. And then the president actually let the truth spill out when he said well they thought that there was maybe somebody who had tested positive but then it turned out they tested negative so I am going to go.

So you had two different stories coming out of the White House and then in the end, the president decided to go. The public needs reassurance in the sense that they want to know that the people who are talking to them have credibility when it comes to explaining what they can do and how they can do it. Not that they are worried about the stock market tanking, not that they are worried about their political future, but actually that they are worried about the interests of the American public and their families.

[17:20:14]

BLITZER: That's a very important point.

Sanjay, the Vice President Mike Pence at least when he does not know the answer to a specific scientific or medical question, he defers to Dr. Fauci or some of the other experts who are there with him which is encouraging.

GUPTA: Yes, no doubt. I mean, we have certainly seen that. I have spent a little bit of time at the White House this week with the vice president and with Ambassador Birx and I think you are absolutely right. I mean, you do have some of the most experienced people sort of in public health. Obviously everyone talks about Dr. Fauci, but there are many folks that are part of that team that are advising the president and advising the vice president.

And I noticed a distinct shift sort of in that as well, Wolf, in terms of allowing the scientists and the public health experts to take these questions and I think to provide the context, because I think oftentimes the answers are provided in sort of binary terms, yes or no, you know, black or white. And you know there's a nuance to these things and that nuance is important. In some ways the nuance is everything when it comes to some of these public health issues to really be able to explain it. And you know, clearly, there are some very talented people that are part of the administration that can do that.

BLITZER: Yes, that is very important indeed.

You know, Dr. Nuzzo, the University of Washington, Washington State, and Seattle University, they are now shutting down classes after a staffer came down with coronavirus. We are talking about 46,000 students right now who won't have classes. What do you think about that?

NUZZO: I think this is something that we're going to continue to see probably across the country as cases are discovered. It is not clear what the public health benefits of this are going to be, because we just don't have a lot of data to know to what extent when these things should be done, at what, and might possibly be invoked when it's too late. Nonetheless, there's going to be tremendous political pressures to close schools. And so I hope that as these decisions are made, they also evaluate what the - you know potential repercussions of those decisions are.

BLITZER: Millions of kids are not going to school in Japan right now. They have shut down elementary school, middle school, high school throughout the whole country for the whole month of March. Let's hope something like that doesn't happen here.

Everybody standby, we're awaiting this briefing over at the White House. We will get the very latest live coverage coming up. We will be right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:27:35]

BLITZER: All right. We are waiting for the White House briefing to begin. The vice president is expected momentarily to show up with this Coronavirus Task Force. We will have live coverage of that.

Meanwhile the president is down at Atlanta at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dr. Robert Redfield is speaking right now. He is the director. Let's listen in.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: ...like certain parts of California, like certain parts of Seattle. That's where we need to put our focus.

It would not be in service to our ability for our American response if all of a sudden 20 million Americans that have no evidence of any risk, and we've looked in those areas, really don't need that.

That's why we are accelerating, as the President said, our surveillance. I mean, we're going out and really testing people that have flu-like symptoms, and going to expand that, from the sites we started to the whole nation. So we're going to have eyes on this and see, "Whoops, this virus has now snuck up into northern Maine. Whoops, we see it down in Kansas."

And that information will then be used by doctors to know if someone comes in with an upper respiratory to -- "Ohp, I better think about maybe testing for the coronavirus."

So we really want to have the American people to have confidence -- it's not just in the CDC; it's in the public health community of this nation. It's strong. They're doing their job. I tell people, every time we see a new confirmed case, they should think of that as a success, not a failure, because they know their public health community is out doing their job.

TRUMP: So the difference is that they're doing -- they're being proactive. We are being proactive. We're going out and looking for spots. Nobody else is doing that -- not by leaving samples or anything else. We're going out and proactively looking to see where there's a problem. We don't have to do that, but we're doing it to see if we can find areas which are trouble spots.

I even -- don't even know if I agree with that. You'll find out those areas just by sitting back and waiting. But they're trying to find out before -- before you would normally find out by waiting. And, you know, I think that's great. But that's what they're doing.

They're the only -- we're the only country, in that sense, that's proactive. We're totally proactive and we're totally equipped to handle it.

QUESTION: Is the strategy shifting from containment to risk mitigation?

REDFIELD: So, right now, it's -- you shouldn't think of it as one or the other. All right? And I'm going to say, we need to stay committed to containment. And I still believe containment and control is the goal.

[17:30:00]

But that's going to be complemented strategically by what we call mitigation or non-pharmaceutical interventions, like asking, you know, churches not to have big gatherings. So in the state of Washington, in the last couple of days, they announced their initial mitigation strategy. We've been working on mitigation for the whole nation just in the planning way. But we've also been have our people buried into the Washington health department, the California Health Department to have them start to develop.

And again, Washington started operationalize theirs this week. I suspect that California will later. We're going to continue to work on these and it's going to be a community -- by community, community, community strategy, that not all going to be the same. But it's going to be driven by the amount of community transmission that can't be linked to a contact, that can't be linked to a trip. When you see significant or we call on link transmission, then you start to have to evaluate the values and it's not one versus the other. But this nation should not give up on containment.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

BLITZER: All right. So there the President wrapping up a little opportunity to answer reporters' questions with the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Robert Redfield. You're looking at live pictures now over at the White House briefing room, the Vice President Mike Pence and his Corona Task Force. They are about to come in there and give us an update on what they have learned about the coronavirus here in the United States over the past few days. We'll have live coverage of that coming up.

Dr. Gupta, Sanjay Gupta is still with us. You know, there was a disturbing development out of LAX, the Los Angeles International Airport earlier today, Sanjay, two medical screeners of LAX now have coronavirus. And it's raising questions about safety at airports. What can you tell us?

GUPTA: Well, I think that the basic message that, you know, you have heard from Dr. Fauci about this -- the risk of getting infected for the general population is still low. I mean, screeners who are people who are coming in contact with people who may be at risk are going to probably have elevated likelihood of developing or contracting this virus or being exposed to it. I don't -- I wonder how they're doing. I hope they're doing well. Most people who do get tested for this, who get contract the virus, 80 percent of them are not going to develop much in the way of symptoms.

There were a few things. You know, I just want to point out, Wolf, about the -- what we were just hearing from President Trump and Dr. Redfield that the CDC -- President Trump was saying, you know, the United States has been very proactive in terms of screening for this -- I mean, in terms of testing, or as he called it, sampling for this virus. I use various words there. You know, that's the concern is that we really have not been the idea of being proactive and doing surveillance within a community means that you would have been -- we would have been testing for some time.

The screening at airports is very important, although probably pretty low yield in terms of actually finding people. Doing the tests and actually doing surveillance is actually how you'd find this. He described what was happening in South Korea as being sampling not testing. I'm not sure exactly what he means by that. He's saying we're being more proactive in the United States than other countries. I'm not sure what he means by that.

So there are some basic things here again, I guess, maybe to our earlier discussion, which I just want to make sure we address and correct since, you know, viewers just heard that and there was some things in there that I think may have left a little bit of the wrong impression.

BLITZER: Yes, that's an important point indeed. All right, we're going to sneak in a very quick break right now. Once again, we're waiting for the Vice President and his Coronavirus Task Force that come into the White House briefing room. Live coverage coming up.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:35:23]

BLITZER: All right. Live pictures from the White House briefing room, pretty crowded room of journalists waiting for the Vice President Mike Pence and his Coronavirus Task Force to walk in. They'll be making some statements about the coronavirus here in the United States right now, then answering reporters' questions. We'll have live coverage of that coming up.

In the meantime, I want to bring in Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, who's just emerged from his own briefing over at NIH, the National Institutes of Health. Senator Cardin, thanks so much for joining us. I know you were there with some of your colleagues from the U.S. Senate. Did you emerge more or less concerned about what's going on?

SEN. BEN CARDIN (D-MD): Well, Wolf, we have very talented people at NIH that are developing the vaccines and the therapeutic drugs hopefully that will be helpful here. Because of the investment that we made at the National Institutes of Health, we are able to do record time in developing a vaccine for the coronavirus. We will start phase one trials as early as next week. But it's still going to take over a year before we can have a vaccine ready, but that's record time. So they're doing great work in order to protect us.

But for right now, we have to be smart, we have to do things to prevent the spread of the virus. And we have to make sure that we have the kids out there so people can be tested who are of concern as to whether they had the coronavirus or not.

BLITZER: We now know that three cases of coronavirus have been confirmed in your home state of Maryland. What are you doing about that?

CARDIN: Well, these three cases are all because of travel. We know that they were all on a cruise ship, so we know exactly why they contracted the disease. We're in the process now in Maryland of tracking every person they've been in contact with, since they were in our community. That process is going forward now.

[17:40:11]

So we're taking the right precautions. I want to first acknowledge the work of our local officials, our state and local officials in isolating these three individuals. They're being isolated at home the way they should be. And we are going to obviously track that very closely.

BLITZER: What are their conditions, these three individuals? I know two of them are elderly.

CARDIN: Well, that information, I do not have. There's privacy issues as to their specific conditions. But we do know that it was because of travel that they contacted it. We also know that fortunately, they did not have a lot of contact with other people. But all that is being traced right now.

Their own conditions I'm not aware of as to how serious it is. We do know, Wolf, that for a lot of people who contract the disease, it's manageable by self-treatment before about 20 percent. They do require medical intervention. And these are respiratory issues.

BLITZER: We may have to interrupt this interview in a second, in a moment there because of the start of the Vice President. We're told he's getting ready to walk into the briefing room. But, Senator, do you have confidence in the Trump administration right now and how they're handling all this?

CARDIN: Well, we were not as prepared as we should have. The Trump budgets had not been adequate and dealing with preparation, we know that. I do believe that moving forward, the experts are in control right now. They're doing what is necessary in getting advice. We passed a major supplemental appropriations bill $8.3 billion. That money is now getting out to Maryland and the rest of the states.

I talked to Governor Hogan today. I am confident that we are all working together to keep our community safe. We're doing everything we can to make sure public understands the circumstances.

BLITZER: We see Dr. Fauci walking in. We see Ambassador Birx there. Here's the Vice President of the United States.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Good afternoon. We just completed today's lengthy meeting at the White House coronavirus Task Force. And at the President's direction have continued to implement his whole of government approach, to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear to confront the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.

Let me begin as always by saying that according to all the experts gathered here and on our task force, the rest of the American public of contracting the coronavirus remains low. But with that being said, we're continuing to lean into this effort in full partnership with state and local health authorities around the country to ensure that we do everything to prevent the spread of the disease to mitigate its expansion and to provide necessary treatment to Americans that have been impacted.

But first, let me turn my attention before we speak about some of our broader efforts and hear from some members of the task force to an issue that I know is on the hearts and minds of people across the country. The Grand Princess cruise ship has been moored off the coast of California since Wednesday night. I want to commend the efforts of our coast guard that heroically flew coronavirus tests to the ship and we received those results. Working in close consultation with Governor Gavin Newsom and the state of California, we have developed a process for addressing our findings and resolving the circumstances facing Americans and people from around the world and the crew on the Grand Princess.

First the results. Among those tested, 46 persons were swabbed, 21 of those on the ship tested positive for the coronavirus. Twenty-four tested negative. One test was inconclusive. Again, let me say, 21 individuals on the Grand Princess tested positive. Among those were 19 crew members and two passengers.

And it's important to note --

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Sorry, among the positives?

PENCE: Yes, among those positive for coronavirus were 19 crew members and two passengers. It's important to note that the Grand Princess actually was on its second tour and we know of coronavirus infections from the first tour as well with very, very difficult results.

[17:45:19]

In the wake of these findings today, we've been working through the day with Governor Newsom and his administration through their unified command efforts in California, CDC and HHS. And we have developed a plan which will be implemented this weekend to bring the ship into a non-commercial port. All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus. Those that need to be quarantined will be quarantine, those that require additional medical attention will receive it.

Let me assure the American public as we did so, with Americans returning from China and those returning from the other cruise ship, we are taking all measures necessary to see to the health of the Americans and those involved on the Grand Princess, and just as importantly, to protect the health of the American public and prevent the spread of the disease through communities in this country. It is -- we are instituting the strongest testing protocols to ensure that not only those on board received the treatment that they need, but that the American people can be confident that there will be no erosion in our preventative measures in efforts to keep the coronavirus from spreading throughout our country.

I want to express our gratitude to Governor Newsom and the state of California for their full partnership, not just in dealing with the Grand Princess but throughout the advent of the coronavirus. California has been a strong partner. And as I just told the Governor a few moments ago, we will continue to work very closely with his administration and we will continue to put the health and safety of America first.

With that, let me turn my attention to the issue of testing, which has been much in the news of late. And the President spoke about it just a few moments ago at the CDC. It's very important to note that because of President Trump's decisive leadership, that the risk to the American public of contract into coronavirus does remain low. But nevertheless, in Washington State where I visited yesterday with members of our team, and in California, we have seen, as Dr. Fauci often describes, the community transmission still less than 200 cases across the country. And the good news is most Americans who have contracted this disease are being treated and recovering, and on the road to recovery.

Sadly, we all know of the loss of life, and we grieve that along with their families. But the American people deserve to know that we are ready. And that because of the President's leadership, and because of extraordinary efforts by CDC and Health and Human Services and our partners in state labs around the country, we have the testing necessary to be able to provide tests to all the states that have requested it. As I said yesterday, we've been able to provide tests to all the state jurisdictions and labs that have requested it. And I'm pleased to report that all state labs have the test.

And now because of the change that President Trump implemented at the FDA a week ago, now state labs can actually conduct coronavirus tests themselves. Beyond that, between March 2nd and 5th, we distributed more than 900,000 tests across the country, including 200,000 that could allow 75 individual patients, 75,000 individual patients to be tested. As the Secretary of HHS just described, by tomorrow another 200,000 tests will be shipped. And by the weekend, another million tests will be shipped around the country with the expectation that at the end of next week, 4 million tests will be shipped.

We've been able to respond to the request of states that have been impacted by the coronavirus. But as I said yesterday, to meet future demand, this week, the President brought together the leading commercial labs in America and ask them to, in effect, partner with the United States in developing tests for the American people. And I'm proud to say that just in the last 24 hours, lab corp quest two of America's leading commercial laboratories have announced that test will be available by Monday of this week.

[17:50:02]

The reason that's important, the reason that meets future demand is because the enormous capacity of these commercial laboratories and others in the country are precisely how we will make coronavirus tests available for your local doctor, available to your pharmacy and broadly available to the American public.

Tomorrow, Dr. Steve Hahn of the FDA will come to this room and brief in specific our efforts with regard to testing to assure the American public that every effort is being made to provide testing resources, not just for state laboratories, not just for universities, not just for hospitals in affected areas, but with the announcement of these major commercial labs. We trust in a matter of weeks. The coronavirus test will be broadly available to the public and available to any American that is symptomatic and has a condition about the possibility of having contracted the corona virus.

We've made great progress, but there is much work to be done. Over the course of this weekend, I'll be traveling to Florida to meet with cruise line executives. We'll be discussing with them in particular what additional measures our cruise lines could take to ensure the health and safety of the American public. And I look forward to those conversations tomorrow.

I want to introduce Dr. Fauci for a comment and then I'll also introduce the Admiral and Bob Kadlec about our plans with regard to the cruise ship. But let me make a -- maybe make one last comment if I may before we hear from other members of the task force.

I've said it twice, let me say it again. The general risk to the American public remains low. But if you are an individual with a serious underlying health condition and/or elderly, it's important to take precautions and use common sense, particularly as it relates to travel. We want to recognize from the experience now of two cruise ships, a cruise ships represent a unique challenge for health officials. And so we would ask elderly Americans to use common sense and caution in planning any cruise ship vacation in the future. But they can be assured we're going to be working closely with some great American companies in the cruise line industry to enhance and strengthen the screening procedures that take place as passengers board and as they disembark.

With that, let me yield for a few moments to Dr. Fauci. And then we'll hear from other members of the task force about the Grand Princess, as well as testing. Dr. Fauci.

FAUCI: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I just want to take the opportunity very briefly. Last time I was here at the podium, we were talking about what the Vice President said about the risk of getting infected and how we need to distinguish that from if you are infected, like the unfortunate situation that we've seen in Seattle, and what we're seeing on cruise ships. Is that in that group of people who get infected, the ones who are clearly the most vulnerable to getting the complications of serious disease, and even death of people with underlying conditions, particularly among the elderly, with underlying conditions, and those are heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease, diabetes, et cetera.

So what I'd like to do today is sort of like publicly answer a question that I get asked all the time now. Is that if you are a person with an underlying condition, the conditions that I just mentioned, particularly if you're an elderly person with that, as the Vice President said, beyond even cruise ships to just use the common sense of trying to protect yourself because you're the most vulnerable. That is often referred to as social distancing. And what we mean by that, is if you're a person who is in that category, think twice even before you get on a plane for a long trip, or you want to travel or you want to go to a place that's crowded, where there may be people who are, in fact, have an infection of any sort. That doesn't necessarily have to be even corona virus. It could be influenza or anything like that.

So I want to publicly answer the question that I keep getting asked in a private situation. If you're in that category, or if you're the family of individuals in that category, take care to try and take care of the most vulnerable among them. And there are simple things that you can do, practical common sense about not putting yourself in a situation, whatever that might be, that might increase the risk given your situation. Thank you.

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PENCE: Thank you, Dr. Fauci. Well said.

With that, I'd like to introduce Vice Admiral Abel who, again, the Coast Guard that did heroic work, transporting tests to the Grand Princess and he's going to play a key role as we implement the process of resolving the impasse on the ship.

VICE ADMIRAL DANIEL ABEL, DEPUTY COMMANDANT FOR OPERATIONS, UNITED STATES COAST GUARD: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

PENCE: Admiral?

ABEL: First of all, we'd like to send our appreciation out to the members of the 129th, Rescue and Recovering Wing, California Air National Guard that played a key role last night in getting the test kits out to the ship, retrieving those test kits. It's great to have shipmates like that, that stand by our side when the nation needs it.

Coast Guard looks forward to operationalizing the best risk mitigation plan that's developed on medical science from the state, local and federal level. And we'll use our captain at the port authorities to directorship to execute that plan. Thank you.

PENCE: Thank you.

And Bob Kadlec is the Assistant Secretary who's been coordinating the preparedness and the response to the Grand Princess.

DR. ROBERT KADLEC, HHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PREPAREDNESS AND RESPONSE: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President, and good evening everyone. I just wanted to say, first of all, thanks to Governor Newsom and his staff at the state health office and emergency management in California. They've been in an extraordinary great partners, not only during this event as we're developing a concept of operations and planning to, if you will, disembark passengers from that ship safely and effectively, ensuring that their safety as well as the community that they will be coming into will be protected. But I just want to say that they've been great partners throughout this. They've been critical in our repatriation efforts from Wuhan, as well as from the Diamond Princess ship in Japan. And again, the details are becoming more apparent and we'll brief you as those become more firm. But I just want to say it's a whole government of effort. We're working with Department of Defense, with the Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security, our colleagues at CDC, as well as the state and local authorities in California to ensure that we can bring those people home safely, as well as -- and as quickly as possible. Thank you.

PENCE: Great. Dr. Birx, did you want to speak to our plan with regard to that?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. So this will be a comprehensive plan that like our other Diamond Princess was a comprehensive approach to ensure the health and welfare of all of our citizens. As Dr. Fauci discussed, we know many of the people on the cruise ship are in their 60s, 70s and 80s. And we want to make sure as we know that that's a more vulnerable group that we pay special attention to anybody who has any comorbidities or other things conditions.

And so we're working very hard with the people on the ship and the medical team there to make sure that their health and welfare is prioritized. Thank you.

PENCE: Good. And Dr. Stephen Hahn with the FDA for the latest on the availability of testing.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. Just as a reminder about this test, this is a swab test, not a point of care test. We discussed that yesterday, but that's the component of this test. It is a test that's been developed by the CDC based upon their first obtaining the genetic sequences of the virus.

That test is very high quality. We have high confidence in that test. That test is now available in all public health labs as described by the Vice President. In response to the demand that we're seeing for the test, we are increasing the supply of this test as described by the Vice President. And we believe that that will be available significantly across the country and I can provide more details tomorrow just for specific numbers, if you will.

As of yesterday, the CDC test was shipped out 900,000 tests. We have another 200,000, which we expect to be shipped out tomorrow and have gone through the quality assurance process. Another 1 million tests will be quality assess this weekend and we expect those to go out early next week. We expect further surge in test capacity beyond that by the end of next week. And again, I'm really happy to provide details.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How many have been tested so far? Can you say that?

HAHN: So I think that's a question that should probably be addressed to the CDC for the most accurate number. Thank you.

PENCE: Great. And state labs. Questions?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice President.

PENCE: Yes, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Where do you expect these people to be quarantine and of 19 crew members, two passengers, why so many crew were infected?