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Trump Set To Brief Reporters On Coronavirus; Interview With Mayor Muriel Bowser (D), District of Columbia; Interview With Mayor Bill de Blasio (D), New York City; White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 9, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00]

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And, of course, this is going to be his first public appearance since that news broke that several lawmakers who attended that political conference, the same one the president also spoke at, are now self-quarantining because someone there has tested positive for coronavirus, and they are said to have interacted with that person.

Of course, two of those lawmakers are people who have interacted extensively with the president in recent days, including just a few hours ago on Air Force One, as one of them flew home with him from Florida after he held that political fund-raiser earlier today.

So we're waiting to see what the president is not only going to say about that. But, also, Wolf, he has spent the day really downplaying this, accusing the media of exaggerating these claims in order to plunge the stock market, but also making comments like saying that this could be good for gas prices, as you have seen the latest developments play out.

So there are a lot of questions still about the administration's response to this, though we are expecting him to appear alongside those members of the Coronavirus Task Force. And there are still questions for them too, like whether or not they're prepared for this and if they have enough breathing machines for people, drug plans, if they're not able to get some that are made in China, things like that that are pressing questions for the president and members of his Coronavirus Task Force.

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: All right, let us know as soon as the president, of course, begins to walk in, together with other members of the Coronavirus Task Force.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is joining us, our chief medical correspondent, as well.

Sanjay, tell us what you think our viewers here in the United States and around the world right now need to hear from the president.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think it's a fine balance, Wolf, in terms of making sure not to cause panic, but being very honest about what is happening with regard to the coronavirus in the United States and around the world, because, you know, it's a global seat.

We're all connected. As they say, a virus, an infection anywhere is an infection everywhere.

But I think there's, like, very practical sort of things that people are sort of hearing all this news. They obviously saw what happened to the stock market today.

But they're -- most of the calls that I got from friends and family and stuff today was about their own personal safety. Many people are thinking about taking trips next week for spring break, for example, sometimes multigenerational trips with grandparents and all the way to grandkids going to places like Disney World.

Should they be doing that is a question I often get, and trying to answer the best I can, but often saying, look, there's hopefully going to be more guidance coming from the government and from the health officials on this and the task force.

So I think there's very pragmatic questions like that, but then also I think the idea that there is certain preparations that need to be taking place now. We have a good idea of what has happened in China, what has happened in South Korea, what is happening in Italy right now, an entire country on lockdown.

I think a question that will probably inevitably arise is, are we going to see some of those same sorts of measures here? Is that possible? How is that going be handled? What's the trigger for something like that, and who will make that decisions?

So, I think it ranges, Wolf. In all the years I have been doing this, this is one of those stories that, I think, hits on just about every sector of our society. And I don't think anybody is immune to the story. Most people won't get sick. Medically, this won't be a significant issue for them, but it doesn't mean that they won't be affected nonetheless.

And I think those are some of the things he's got to address today.

BLITZER: Yes, certainly, he's got a lot going on right now.

Let me get Gloria Borger to weigh in on this as well.

Gloria, as we know, the president has tended over these past two or three weeks to play down what's going on...

GLORIA BORGER, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Sure.

BLITZER: -- to suggest, you know what, there's a lot worse things happening, don't get overly excited.

And I want to see today, personally, if he continues to do so.

BORGER: Right.

You know, the president of the United States has to walk a fine line, because he wants to reassure the American public that the government is doing everything it possibly can, and that that is a lot. And on the other hand, he has to tell people, you know what, you have to prepare for this, because it is going to affect your life.

And it is going to cause some dislocation, and this is how we are going to handle it. But he has to do that without panicking people, without scaring people.

And we did a poll today at CNN, and it showed that 48 percent of the American public disapprove of how the president is handling this, and 41 percent approve, although that hasn't affected their overall opinion of how he's handling the economy.

More than half believe he is doing a good job on the economy. So he wants to keep that number high for himself politically, and he wants to keep the public faith in himself. But as people get sick and there's not enough tests, and you see what's going on in Europe, you can imagine why people are completely concerned about this, Wolf.

BLITZER: And, John Harwood, one of the most dramatic developments today is the prime minister of Italy announcing that all -- the entire country, 60 million people in Italy are now on lockdown.

[18:05:03]

JOHN HARWOOD, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Extraordinary.

And what I'm going to be watching, Wolf, is whether the president can make the psychological turn toward recognizing the gravity of the situation that we're in.

He's consistently downplayed the prospect for community spread and more cases. On Friday, when I talked to him at the White House about whether he supported more fiscal stimulus to protect the economy from recession, he said, look at those job numbers today. The economy is in great shape. The country is in great shape.

This is a dangerous moment for the country both economically and in terms of public health. Does he embrace that and convince the American people that he is going to be aggressive and forward-leaning on mitigating the effects of this?

BLITZER: I'm going to speak to the mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio, in just a few moments.

But the Mayor of Washington, D.C., is with us, Muriel Bowser.

Mayor, thank you so much for joining us.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D), DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA: Thank you, Wolf. My pleasure.

BLITZER: I know you, like the mayor in New York, you both have your hands full with this crisis right now.

BOWSER: Yes. BLITZER: Tell us what's going on in the District of Columbia.

BOWSER: Well, we alerted our community to two positive tests for coronavirus in the District.

And this morning, I actually shared our Department of Health's recommendation that people who attended a prominent church in Georgetown in our city self quarantine, because a person self- identified as having the coronavirus in that church, the minister there.

And so it's very important for us that people heed those recommendations, so that we can contain the spread of this virus as best possible. But what we're looking for in the president is to follow the science. Listen to the medical professionals.

We know that Dr. Fauci has been very forthright and direct in his concerns, especially for vulnerable communities, people who are elderly or people who have an underlying condition, to really take heed to the recommendations coming from their health professionals.

BLITZER: I know you're studying closely whether to shut down some schools, whether there should be big events. The opening Washington Nationals baseball game is coming up. The Washington Wizards play here.

There are concerts. I know you're looking at all of that.

I want to bring in the Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio. He's also looking at all of these developments right now in New York City.

You got a lot going on, Mayor. Thanks so much for joining us.

What do you want to hear, first of all, from the president, who is about to walk into the Briefing Room at the White House?

MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D), NEW YORK CITY: Wolf, first of all, I just have to say, I'm out in Union Square Park. I think you know it well.

There's hundreds of New Yorkers around me going about their lives. That's some good news. People are really not being daunted by this crisis, which is good. We're giving out information to them.

But what I want to hear from the president and his whole team is really clear information about getting us the testing we need. We need automated testing, Wolf. We need FDA approval for it right away.

We also need more supplies. We have been asking for more surgical masks. We're not getting any information on that. We need more hand sanitizer, lots of place in the country too, all these basic supplies. That should right now be federally, if you will, rationed.

I think it makes sense for the government to step in and make sure the supplies get to the parts of the country that need it most.

But we have 20 positive cases in New York City. Clearly, this is a place that needs the support. We're not hearing from the federal government, Wolf, any clear sense of direction when we're going to get that testing approved, when we are going to get those supplies.

BLITZER: Stand by for a moment, because Mayor Bowser -- she is mayor of the nation's capital -- is with us.

I know you want to hear specific things. Are the tests, testing available right now in Washington, D.C., at the level that you think is required, whether at George Washington University Hospital, Washington Hospital Center, any of the major hospitals here in D.C.?

BOWSER: Well, our public health lab is doing the testing, so people are contacting their health care professionals, who are asking them to call ahead to get instructions from their health care professionals, and those referrals will be made to our public health lab.

I would agree with Mayor de Blasio that we need the federal government to step it up, especially with the -- how we procure supplies that support the testing that our public health labs are doing. We will need to have that support from them. And we need it right now.

BLITZER: Is it too early, Mayor de Blasio, to start thinking of some of the drastic steps that have been taken in other countries? And I mentioned earlier, in Italy, all 60 million people are now on lockdown.

In Japan, for the month of March, all of the kids that go to elementary school, middle school, high school, they have been told to stay home. No school for them. Is it too early in New York City to start thinking along those lines?

DE BLASIO: Yes, Wolf, it is. And I'll tell you why.

[18:10:01]

We do not want to close down our schools. We don't want to close down our cities. We do not want to have people lose their livelihoods and not have work.

I think the goal here -- and I can certainly say we have been on the case here for -- since the end of January, as have many other American cities, preparing, unlike Italy, unlike Korea, unlike China, that the situation exploded upon them.

We have had a chance to prepare. I think we should try to stick to normal as much as possible, get people to follow those commonsense guidelines on how to handle the situation.

Most simple things, like, if you're sick don't go to work, don't send your kid to school, use hand sanitizer, do the elbow bump, instead of the handshake, these are real simple things.

But, Wolf, we are planning for all sorts of contingencies. We're planning for what would happen if the federal government didn't get us supplies. We're planning for what if our work force wasn't available in the numbers we're used to. But we shouldn't jump the gun. If we can keep our schools open, if we can keep our businesses open, that's what we should be trying to do. And we're not getting a lot of guidance from the federal government, but I can tell you that mayors all over the country, we want to see people keep their livelihoods and keep their normalcy. As much as we can protect that, we want to do it.

BLITZER: It's very interesting, Mayor Bowser. You have a special responsibility, as the mayor of the nation's capital. You have the executive branch of the government, the legislative branch of the government...

BOWSER: I do.

BLITZER: ... the judicial branch of the U.S. government.

You have to deal with that enormous challenge right now and make sure these individuals don't come down with coronavirus.

BOWSER: Well, we -- and we have the responsibility for 700,000 Washingtonians.

And the truth is that everybody could be affected in the exact same ways. So it is very important that people take the advice of medical professionals, if they have had an exposure, to call ahead, to self- quarantine themselves in the case of the exposure, and to make sure that they're not spreading germs.

The commonsense advice that we're hearing helps. And it helps with the coronavirus. It helps for influenza and any number of things. So we're very focused on that.

But I agree with Mayor de Blasio that we are approaching any changes to our regular operations, government services, schools, our special events, following the science, and making sure that any decisions we make will actually keep people safer.

BLITZER: Well, let's hope that happens, Washington, D.C. and New York City, for that matter, two of my favorite cities.

BOWSER: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Mayor Bowser, thanks very much for joining us.

BOWSER: Thank you.

BLITZER: I know this is an incredibly busy time for you.

Thanks for coming in.

BOWSER: Thank you. Thank you.

BLITZER: Same to you, Mayor de Blasio. I know you have a lot going on in New York City. We always appreciate having you join us here in THE SITUATION ROOM as well.

Good luck to both of you.

DE BLASIO: Thank you, Wolf.

BLITZER: Good luck to all the folks that you represent as well.

Just ahead, once again, we're standing by to hear directly from President Trump at the coronavirus briefing in the White House Briefing Room. You're looking at live pictures.

The president, we're told, will make a statement. Will he answer questions from the news media about his contact with lawmakers who are now in self-quarantine? A very dramatic development today.

We're also learning more about Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, his exposure, before his ride with the president earlier today from Florida to Joint Base Andrews outside of Washington, D.C., aboard that plane, Air Force One.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:17:43]

BLITZER: Once again, we're standing by to hear directly from President Trump. He's expected to join the White House Coronavirus Task Force, the briefing.

It's about to get under way over in the White House Briefing Room. The vice president, we're told, will be there, other members of the Coronavirus Task Force as well.

Let's bring in our White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins.

Kaitlan, it's been delayed now for over an hour, and originally was just supposed to be the vice president and the Coronavirus Task Force, but now the president will show up as well.

COLLINS: Yes.

And, clearly, he wants to address reporters, Wolf. He hasn't spoken to them all day, ever since this morning, when he went to that political fund-raiser in Florida, when he landed at the White House.

And now we're waiting to hear from him. And, Wolf, it will be interesting to see what he has to say, given how much has changed over the last 24 hours.

The president for the last several days has been downplaying this, continuing to insist that the media is exaggerating reports about the coronavirus. And, of course, he's even been resistant to suggestions that he change his schedule or make adjustments to it.

And on Saturday night, when a reporter asked him if he was concerned about coronavirus coming toward Washington, he said, no, he was not concerned at all.

But, Wolf, now it has, given the fact that two lawmakers the president has interacted with in recent days are now self-quarantining because they interacted with another individual who has tested positive for coronavirus.

One of those is Doug Collins of Georgia, who you can see from this photo shook the president's hand when he landed in Atlanta on Friday, and then toured the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at their headquarters alongside the president, so spending a good amount of time with him.

And then, of course, the president traveled down to his Mar-a-Lago club at Palm Beach, where he was joined by Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida, who was with the president on Saturday and then, of course, flew back with the president on Air Force One today, only to learn that he too interacted with that individual who is now testing positive for coronavirus.

So that's two lawmakers who are now self-quarantining that have been in the physical presence of the president in the last three days. And we have not heard from the White House whether or not they have any kind of level of concern about that, what the doctor at the White House is going to say, or those other health officials that are on the Coronavirus Task Force with the vice president.

But that's what we're waiting to hear. And the president is expected to come out here essentially any minute now.

BLITZER: We will be -- of course, have live coverage of that. We will stand by to hear from the president as we await that.

[18:20:00]

I want to get an update right now on the coronavirus-infected cruise ship that just docked out in California, in Oakland, California.

CNN's Nick Watt is on the scene for us.

So, what's happening there right now, Nick? We know 3,500 people are aboard that cruise ship.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's right.

Well, Wolf, at often around lunchtime local time here, the Grand Princess was finally allowed to dock after being kept out at sea for five days.

It was brought into a vacant wharf, which is cordoned off. No one is going in and out of that zone without permission. They are obviously trying to contain what was on that ship.

Now, 46 people were tested while that ship was out at sea. We know that 21 of them were positive. So, right now, we're told that people with acute medical issues are being taken off first, and some children.

Then, next up will be the 962 California residents who were aboard that ship. Buses are waiting, we're told, to take them, some of them, to Travis Air Force Base, about a 90-minute drive away, where they will serve the rest of their 14-day quarantine.

This process, though, Wolf, could take a couple of days. It is actually going to shut down at nightfall, because they say that there's a catwalk that coming off the ship that might be dangerous after dark. So could be a couple of days before everyone is off this ship.

Then the 1,000 or so crew will set sail back out to sea, and they will serve their 14-day quarantine somewhere out in the ocean. We don't quite know yet where -- Wolf.

BLITZER: And I assume there will be more testing as well.

All right, Nick Watt, stand by. We will get back to you.

WATTS: Yes.

BLITZER: We're standing by to hear from the president and the White House Coronavirus Task Force.

That briefing should begin any moment now. We will have live coverage when we come back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[18:26:29]

BLITZER: Momentarily, the president of the United States, the vice president, members of the Coronavirus Task Force, they will come into the White House Briefing Room.

You're looking at live pictures. The president, we're told, will make a statement. We will see if he sticks around and answers reporters' questions as well. Except for his tweets, we haven't heard directly from the president today.

Want to bring back our experts to discuss.

And, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, this is a serious moment right now, because the American public is looking for facts. They're looking for details. They want to know what's going on. And they're clearly hoping to learn something from this briefing.

GUPTA: Yes, I think there's no question.

I mean, this is -- there's a lot of developments with what's happening with coronavirus in this country and around the world. And some of what's happened -- is happening around the world is stuff that we need to be looking at, because it could be some indication of what's likely or possible to happen here in this country.

So I think it's -- as we talked about earlier, I think it's a balance, I think. Certainly need honesty, transparency about what's happening here, and also allaying some of the fears at the same time and panic, of which there is a significant amount. So it is a -- sometimes a tough balance to strike. And it can be from the very -- the very pragmatic within someone's life, should people go on spring break next week, at individual level, to the medical sort of preparedness. Are we prepared for the possible increase in the number of patients that are going to need medical care?

There have been projections on how many patients are likely to need medical care, need to be hospitalized, need to be in an intensive care unit, need to be on a breathing machine. And it's not clear that we have the resources in this country to be able to take care of all those patients.

The hospital system is not necessarily built with a lot of redundancy in this country. There's all sorts of different ways to try and make it work. But that planning needs to take place.

And that's something that certainly I would like to hear from the president.

BLITZER: Yes, I'd like to hear it too.

Dr. Amy Compton-Phillips is with us as well.

Your hospital network, Dr. Compton-Phillips, has been right at the center of the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. What do you think all of us, especially those of you in Washington state, need to hear from the president and the Coronavirus Task Force right now?

DR. AMY COMPTON-PHILLIPS, EXECUTIVE VICE PRESIDENT, PROVIDENCE ST. JOSEPH HEALTH: I think honesty and transparency really help quell the panic that we have been hearing about, so that we can understand whether or not we really, truly will be able to do the kind of testing we have to do to understand how this is spreading in the community, so that we can isolate and start quieting down the epidemic, and to know whether or not we will need additional capacity in the hospital system.

But until we can actually broadly test and start to truly mitigate the spread of this germ, it's going to be hard for us to adequately address the exploding epidemic at the moment.

BLITZER: How are you guys doing out in Washington state in your hospital network right now?

COMPTON-PHILLIPS: We're doing well. We do have about 30 people in- house with known coronavirus. We have about 120 people that are waiting testing results back that potentially are positive.

So we're seeing significant increases in volume of people who are affected. We are having increased capacity to be able to test.

And, in doing that, we're also able to do more creative things, like setting up live testing, doing kind of virtual evaluations, being able to care for people at home with video visits and with remote monitoring.

[18:30:10]

So we're able to do things that are outside the context of an acute care hospital and we're going to have to be really creative like that across the country as we start seeing increased demand for medical services.

BLITZER: John Harwood, we're about to hear from the president of -- you cover the White House for us. Do you think he really appreciates how delicate this moment is?

HARWOOD: I don't know if he appreciates it or if he's just reluctant to accept that reality. Look at what the president said on Friday when he was at the CDC. He was talking about keeping the ship offshore because I want to keep the numbers down. That sends a message to the entire government about what his priorities and values are in this situation.

And I think to the doctor's point a moment ago about candor and being very straight with the public about exactly what we're facing, the more candor you get, the more people can appreciate that the U.S. government is in a properly aggressive way of dealing with this both medically as well as economically. You've got Republicans on the Hill with markets crashing, real threat of recession in the United States, saying, we're waiting before doing anything until we hear from the president. We'll have a chance to hear from him.

BLITZER: You know the president is very sensitive to the Dow dropping another 2,000 points today over the last two or three weeks. It's dropped more than 5,500 points. And the president, he clearly appreciates the enormity of that.

BORGER: It is and he can't -- he always likes to complain about the Fed. This isn't about the Fed. This is about we live in a global marketplace and what's happening now with the coronavirus is also happening around the world. And I think what he needs to tell the American people is, you will have the tests. You will be able to know whether you have the coronavirus or not and then you'll be able to figure out what to do.

I think the uncertainty is really what's confusing Americans and what's making them feel insecure about the coronavirus. If they know, as Mayor Bowser was just saying, that they can call up their local provider and that they can walk into a clinic and get a test and here's --

BLITZER: Looks like the members of the coronavirus task force are walking out first, as they should. We see representatives there from the Department of Health and Human Services. We see Dr. Anthony Fauci just walking in, Secretary Azar is walking in and I see Secretary Mnuchin, the treasury secretary as well, and the head of the CDC. I assume the president will be walking out momentarily as well. They're just getting ready for the president and the vice president to walk out. We're watching this, John Harwood, very closely.

This is an impressive group of experts right there who don't always necessarily follow what the president wants to hear. HARWOOD: That's right. And it was interesting. Gloria was citing poll numbers earlier that showed the president was at a net disapproval in terms of how Americans viewed his handling. There was a slight positive assessment of the government overall handling. So there is some residual confidence in the American public and institutions, like the CDC, like NIH. Tony Fauci, for example, has been an esteemed expert for a very long time.

The question is, is the president in concert with them fully and sending messages that permeate down through his administration, the White House and all the agencies.

BLITZER: It is an impressive group right there. We see the surgeon general of the United States, Dr. Jerome Adams standing there in the uniform.

Sanjay, as we look at these experts, you know many of them cursedly (ph), do you have confidence in these people.

GUPTA: Yes, I think so. I mean, you know, Dr. Fauci has obviously been very front and center and more recently and --

BLITZER: All right. Sanjay, hold. Here comes the president of the United States. He is going to walk up to the lectern. Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. We just attended a very important task force meeting on the virus that everybody is talking about all over the world, no matter where you go. That's what's on people's minds. And we are going to take care of and have been been taking care of the American public and the American economy.

We are going to be asking tomorrow -- we're seeing the Senate. We're going to be meeting with House Republicans, Mitch McConnell, everybody, and discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief substantial relief, very substantial relief, that's a big number. We're also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help so that they can be in a position where they're not going to ever miss a paycheck, be it working with companies and small companies, large companies, a lot of companies, so that they don't get penalized for something that's not their fault.

[18:35:12]

It's not their fault, it's not our country's fault. This was something that we were thrown into and we're going to handle it and we have been handling it very well. The big decision was early when we shut down our borders. We're the first ones ever to do that. We've never done that in our country before. We would have a situation that would be a lot more dire.

Also, we're going to be seeing small business administration and creating loans for small businesses. We're also working with the industries, including the airline industry, the cruise ship industry, which obviously will be hit. We're working with them very, very strongly. We want them to travel. We want people to travel to certain locations and not to other locations at this moment. Hopefully that will straighten out sooner rather than later, but we're working with the industries and in particular those two industries.

We're also talking to the hotel industry and some places actually will do well and some places probably won't do well at all but we're working also with the hotel industry. But the main thing is that we're taking care of the American public and we will be taking care of the American public.

And I really appreciate the professionals behind me and the professionals actually behind them in a different room. We have a tremendous team and it's headed up by our great Vice President, Mike Pence, and I want to thank Mike because he's been working 24 hours a day just about. He has been working very, very hard, very diligently and very professionally and I want to thank him. I want to thank the team. And I'll have Mike say a few words. Thank you very much. Thank you.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President. We just completed the day's meeting of the White House coronavirus task force. We had the opportunity to brief the president today on a broad range of issues. And once again, because of the unprecedented action

that President Trump took in January, suspending all travel from China, establishing travel advisories for portions of South Korea and Italy, establishing screening of all direct flights, all passengers from all airports, Italy and South Korea, we have bought a considerable amount of time, according to all the health experts, to deal with the coronavirus here in the United States.

As I stand before you today, the risk of contracting the coronavirus to the American public remains low and the risk of serious disease among the American public also remains low. That being said, the president did deploy not just a whole of government approach, but also a whole of America approach and last week at the president's direction we met with leaders in industries from nursing homes to airlines, pharmaceutical companies, commercial labs and it's had great, great impact.

Pharmaceutical companies are already working literally around the clock on the development of therapeutics that will be medicines that can bring relief to people that contract the coronavirus. And I know how pleased the president was to learn that the commercial labs in this country led by companies like LabCorp and Quest have already brought a test forward and are taking that to market effective today.

This week, at the president's direction, we'll be meeting with hospital CEOs, health insurance CEOs and all building on top of what the president will be announcing tomorrow with regard to economic relief for working Americans.

We also met today in a conference call with 47 of America's governors. We were able to brief them on the latest, the progress that we've made. We were able to confirm with them that testing is now available in all state labs in every state in the country. Over a million tests have been distributed before the end of this week. Another 4 million tests will be distributed. But as I said before, with the deployment of the commercial labs, we literally are going to see a dramatic increase in the available -- availability of testing and that's all a direct result of the president's leadership.

Today, in a few moments, we will outline community guidance that Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci will be publishing.

[18:40:01]

The president's direction, we're going to providing guidance about how to keep your home safe, how to keep your business safe, how to keep safe and healthy at your school, and we'll be publishing that information and speaking about that.

A brief word about the Grand Princess. The Grand Princess has docked this afternoon in Oakland, California, at a commercial dock. 25 children, we were happy to learn through the screening over the last two days, 25 children on the ship are all healthy. Of the people that have contracted the coronavirus, 21 in all, they're being dealt with in proper isolation, working with health authorities in California.

We hope before the end of today to begin to disembark California residents to Travis Air Force Base and Miramar. We've made arrangements with Canada and the U.K. to take their passengers back. They will be transported directly to the tarmac, charter flights home. And tomorrow, the remaining passengers will be transported again through very, very carefully controlled environments, buses, out to the tarmac and flown to military bases in Georgia and Texas.

All the passengers will be tested, isolated as appropriate, quarantined as appropriate. And I want to express appreciation to the governor of California and his administration, the governor of Georgia, the governor of Texas, for their strong cooperation with us in resolving the issues around the Grand Princess. It has been a partnership which the president directed us from the very beginning and the process that Bob Cadillac (ph) will detail in any questions in a few moments continues to work and move forward.

The remaining people on the ship, the crew itself, will push off from the dock and they will be quarantined and observed and treated ship board. But the president made the priority to get the Americans ashore and we're in the process of doing that as well as returning foreign nationals.

Let me just say one other point as the president has spoken today with the congressional leadership. One of the things that I informed the president that I had been hearing from governors is the concern about hourly wage earners in this country feeling that they had to go to work even if they were ill. And the president has tasked this economic team and is working already with leaders in the Congress to make sure that anyone is not -- feels that they are at risk of losing their job or losing a paycheck because they may contract the coronavirus.

When we tell people if you're sick, stay home, and the president has tasked the team with developing economic policies that will make it very, very clear that we're going to stand by those hard working Americans, stand by those businesses, large and small, and make it possible for us, as the president said from the very beginning, put the health of America first.

We'll be available to take any questions on any of these topics, but, Mr. President, I didn't know if you wanted to speak.

TRUMP: Well, I think what we will be doing is having a news conference tomorrow to talk about various things that we're doing economically. They'll be very major, including obviously the payroll tax cut. And so we'll be meeting again tomorrow afternoon. We'll be coming back from the Senate. We have a lot of very important meetings set up. And we'll have a press conference sometime after that and we'll explain what we're doing on an economic standpoint and from an economic standpoint but they will be very dramatic.

And we have a great economy. We have a very strong economy but this came -- this blindsided the world. And I think we've handled it very, very well. I think they've done a great job. The people behind me have done a great job.

So I will be here tomorrow afternoon to let you know about some of the economic steps we're taking which, will be major. Thank you very much.

REPORTER: Mr. President, have you been tested?

PENCE: Thank you, Mr. President.

REPORTER: Has he been tested. Have you been tested?

PENCE: I have not been tested for the coronavirus.

REPORTER: Has the president? Has the president been tested?

REPORTER: He's been in contact with people who were in proximity to somebody who had the virus.

PENCE: Let me be sure to get you an answer.

[18:45:00]

I honestly don't know the answer to the question, but we'll refer that question and we will get you an answer from the White House physician very quickly.

Let me -- let me ask Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx to come to the podium. You all and the American public will have at their fingertips, very quickly, guidance and this is for every American.

We're working with communities like the Seattle area or like portions of California, New York, and Florida that have what we call community spread, a concentration of coronavirus cases, but we directed our team to come up with helpful recommendations for every American, every American family, every American business and school, and if Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci step forward, they can outline that for you.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Great, thank you. Good evening.

We've been -- it was good getting out last week meeting with communities. We know that the real solutions to this is every American has a role in stopping the spread of the virus and so we wanted to really put out guidance for every American and every community that was practical and common sense but detailed in a way that everyone would know precisely what to do.

The guidance will be around how to keep workplaces safe, how to keep schools safe, how to keep the homes safe, and how to keep commercial businesses safe where people would eat or be present.

The importance about this is we believe that communities are at the center of this. I came from a field where it was the communities that really solved our issues around HIV prevention, and so we're very much speaking to the communities and the American people about what can be done. All of this information came from a paper that Dr. Fauci provided from the Australians, first author (ph) Dalton.

So, you can actually look up the scientific evidence that informed each of these guidelines, but we will be providing that this evening in great detail so that every mother, father, child, son, daughter, caregiver will know precisely what to do and what to ask for.

PENCE: Dr. Fauci?

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY & INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Yes.

Just to reiterate with what Dr. Birx said, it was just -- it's simple as that. We have been speaking about the kinds of things that would keep our citizens safe in a variety of environments. We've been speaking about on telephone calls. We've been speaking about conferences. The CDC has been talking about this for a long time, as has Dr. Birx and I.

So, we thought we would put it together in a neat form way that would be available to the general public.

What Dr. Birx mentioned is that just the other day, I got one of many, many emails where some of my colleagues that I know from Australia actually decided they were going to write a paper on it and make a number of boxes which was exactly saying what we had been talking about.

So, we came up with the idea, it would be very good for clarity. So why don't we put it together, edit it a little and put it in a way that people can look, what about the home, what about the school, what about the workplace?

These are really simple low-tech things. There's nothing in there that's complicated. But it's just stated in a way that's clear, that people can understand.

PENCE: I might ask the surgeon general anything about the guidance you want to reflect on. VICE ADM. JEROME ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Well, one thing I want

folks to know, is that we have been looking at the data from around the world, and we now know more than we ever have about who is at risk. Who is at risk -- and I hope you will help us communicate this to the American people -- are people over the age of 60. They're much more likely to develop complications from the coronavirus and to be hospitalized from the coronavirus. The average age of death is age 80.

Now, what we also want communities to know is that if you are a child or young adult, you are much more -- you're more likely to die from the flu if you get it than you are to die from coronavirus.

So, there's something about being young that is protective. We want people to be reassured by that. We want people to know that we are really focusing in on those groups that are at highest risk for complications and helping them understand how to be safe, and this new advice that's going to be coming out tomorrow is designed to keep our communities safe, to help keep the most vulnerable safe.

And it's important to understand that even though young people aren't at risk for dying from coronavirus, they can potentially spread that to older people in the communities and people with chronic diseases. So, it's important we all take precaution -- washing our hands, covering our cough, keeping our distance from people who are sick and taking the steps that will be coming out in this new guidance to help make sure we're doing everything we know possible to keep our most vulnerable protected.

PENCE: Well done. Thank you.

And I'm going to -- I think the surgeon general raises a very important point.

[18:50:00]

You know, my mother is 88 years young. My stepfather is about the same age.

This is just a really good time, what Dr. Fauci tells us, what the experts tell us is to look after -- look after family members, loved ones who are senior citizens and particularly those particularly those who have serious underlying health conditions. All the data Dr. Birx confirms to us they're the most vulnerable to serious consequences if they contract the coronavirus.

But the guidance that we would -- we would ask members of the media and public looking on you can go to coronavirus.gov for this information to be posted tonight. And hopefully, it will be useful, helpful common sense for families, for schools, for businesses and for commercial establishments that welcome the public in just to -- just to create the kind of practices that we believe will mitigate the spread of the coronavirus across the country as a whole.

But with regard to seniors, I might just ask Seema Verma to step up and speak about last week at the president's direction, we raised the standards for every nursing home in America with regard to infectious disease and we're deploying all 8,000 of our inspectors in every state as we told the governors today to focus exclusively on infectious disease compliance in our nursing homes.

Our hearts break for the families at the Kirkland nursing home in Seattle, the loss of life has been grievous. But we are sending the message out, working with our governors to make sure our nursing homes and long-term care facilities have the additional layer of protection against the spread of the coronavirus.

Maybe you'll give some more (ph).

SEEMA VERMA, ADMINISTRATOR, CENTERS FOR MEDICARE AND MEDICAID SERVICES: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

As he said, that's exactly where our focus is around infection control, and we're working with the entire health care industry. Today, we issued more guidance to nursing homes about really upping their screening of people that are coming in to the nursing home and making sure that, you know, they're gloved and they have masks so that we can protect people that are in the nursing homes.

The other thing that we're doing is because we know that many of our senior citizens are vulnerable, we want to make sure they know that the Medicare program is behind them and we're here to support them. We're letting our patients know that they can get a coronavirus test and that there's no cost sharing associated with that for our seniors on the Medicare program.

And we're also letting them know that because of the president's leadership over a year and a half ago, he took action to actually extend more telehealth benefits to our nation's seniors. And this is a very historic change that we made under the president's leadership.

And so, if they're sick and they're ill, they can call their doctor, they can Skype with their doctor and Medicare with reimburse for those services. And we've also, in our conversations with governors today, we talked about having telehealth services also available in the Medicaid program.

PENCE: Great.

Let me invite Bob Kadlec who is deputy secretary of HHS to come forward as well to fill us in on the latest on the progress on the Grand Princess --

DR. ROBERT KADLEC, HHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR PREPARENESS AND RESPONSE: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

PENCE: -- that is dock side now and going through the very careful process of having Americans and foreign nationals come off and everyone will be tested.

KADLEC: Thank you very much, sir.

And, yes, we began our medical operation to basically disembark on those passengers. On Saturday, we placed a medical crew on that boat to augment the physicians and nurses they were already on the ship. We basically ensured that the quarantine on the boat and isolation were being enforced and evaluate first the children and those who are ill, identifying anyone who is severely ill if possible. When the boat arrived on dock side today, additional medical personnel came on board, and we began an orderly disembarkation.

Our intent is to basically disembark about half of the passengers on the boat today and the other half tomorrow. And everyone will be medically screened before they get off. If there's any question about their physical or health, they'll be screened again more additionally and then they'll be transferred to one of the four quarantine sites in the United States, Travis Air Force, Miramar Naval Air Station, Lackland Air Force Base and Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia.

The foreign passengers will be transferred, the Canadians will be taken back to the Canada, and we're working with the United Kingdom to return their passengers back to the United Kingdom. But we're doing this all in cooperation with the great support of the state of California, the city of Oakland and with the support of the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Thank you.

PENCE: Great.

And on the subject of testing we had a very good discussion today as I mentioned with 47 governors, and outlined for them all of the different testing methods that are available.

[18:55:07]

We have tests now in every state lab in America, but we're rapidly expanding that. And let me ask the secretary of HHS to give us the latest on the availability of testing to the American public and to the states.

ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Great. Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

So we continue with our strategic plan at HHS across all the components represented by many of the leaders here which is to diagnose, to treat, to contain, to mitigate, to research and to communicate. It's what we do in a health care crisis situation.

One element of that is to test which, of course, the CDC developed in record time after getting the genetic sequence posted from China. That then was available at CDC, and from that point on, there was no individual that a public health official needed to get tested the CDC didn't have surplus capacity to test.

But we've been moving progressively to bring that test closer and closer and closer to the patient and to bed side and make it as easy as possible for us to use testing. Very much in line with our pure countries facing similar epidemiological circumstances. At this point, we, as many of who are here in Saturday for the briefing know, we have over one million tests that have shipped from CDC and to private contractors that are the CDC type of tests. Those are now out, and as the vice president mentioned, every state public health lab is validated in operating those tests.

In addition, hundreds of thousands of those tests are in hospitals, in private labs, in commercial labs.

We now have a total of 2.1 million tests that are available, either shipped or waiting to be shipped or waiting to be ordered.

We, by the end of this week, expect to be able to be producing up to 4 million tests per week in the United States. And that is on top of what the private commercial entities, the companies you know of like LabCorp or Quest, using their technology the tests they're getting out, which is an even better experience for the patient because those were -- they were able to actually collect samples directly in doctors' offices, have a very sophisticated collection system to their labs, again, making it a very -- much more seamless patient experience, they're now validated and getting up and running, and that you'll see even more of that.

So, as I said over the next week or so, you're just going to see a progressively better patient and physician and provider experience connected to diagnostic testing here in the United States. Thank you.

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: Questions in just a moment. We'll come back. We'll come back.

REPORTER: Thank you.

PENCE: With that, I want to invite the director of CDC to come forward just to give you an overview where we are in the country with regard to cases and then we'll take questions on any of the topics.

DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.

We do continue to see an increased number in cases, again, as we said we would as time passes. We're currently -- have over 500 cases now in the United States outside of the repatriation cases and the cases on the Diamond Princess. We now have cases in 35 states that have been reported in the District of Columbia.

I want to reiterate what the vice president said despite what I just said here is that at the present time, the risk to the American public does remain low. We do have several community outbreaks which we're focusing on in the Seattle area, in the Santa Clara, California area, in Westminster and New York and in Florida.

And these are areas we're investigating heavily to try to understand the transmission mechanisms there and begin to help these jurisdictions begin to operationalize a series of mitigation strategies to help -- again, to slow and contain the outbreak.

Thank you. PENCE: Let me say just before we go to questions, coronavirus.gov for the American public, for health care professionals, it is a comprehensive website. We're adding to every day.

And also Dr. Birx, we're working very diligently to establish a single website where we -- where people can go to track all of the cases and where they're emerging.

Questions? Please?

REPORTER: Can I ask you and Secretary Mnuchin if I could --

PENCE: Yes, please?

REPORTER: -- that the stock market a huge slide today, and people on Wall Street now talking about the possibility of a recession. Some people saying it's a better than 50-50 chance that that will happen. How worried are you that will happen?

STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Well, we just first say, today was an unprecedented move in the oil markets. So, you know, we saw a reaction over down 20 percent and that obviously had a major component on the stock market.

Let me make a couple of comments more broadly on the economy. First of all, we couldn't be more pleased that coming into the situation with the coronavirus, the U.S. has the most resilient economy in the world. You saw a very large economic jobs numbers last month.

[19:00:00]