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Trump: Will Invoke Defense Production Act; Trump: Coronavirus Testing Capacity Being Expanded; U.S.-Canadian Border Closed Amid Coronavirus Crisis; Task Force Concerned By Reports of More Young People Becoming Ill. Aired 12:30-1p ET
Aired March 18, 2020 - 12:30 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ROBERT WILKIE, SECRETARY OF VETERANS AFFAIRS: -- so as to expand our mission. Thank you.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much. Robert, thank you. Thank you all. That's very nice.
Any questions please?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, I have two questions if I may. Your Treasury secretary was on Capitol Hill talking about the potential for what could come, and he said that unemployment could skyrocket to 28 percent. Are we looking -- that could rival the rate of depression. Are we looking at potentially historic --
TRUMP: No. Well, I don't agree with that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: -- devastation?
TRUMP: Yes. No, I don't agree with that. That's an absolute total worst-case scenario. But no, we don't look at that at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you. And my second question --
TRUMP: We're nowhere near it.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: OK. Why do you keep calling this the Chinese virus? There are reports of dozens of incidents of bias against Chinese-Americans in this country. Your own aide, Secretary Azar, has said he does not use this term. He says ethnicity does not cause the virus. Why do you keep using this?
TRUMP: Because it comes from China.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of people say it's racist.
TRUMP: It's not racist at all. No, not at all. It comes from China. That's why. It comes from China. I want to be accurate.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You're not concerned about Chinese-Americans in this country? Aides behind you, are you comfortable with this term? TRUMP: No. I have great love for all of the people from our country, but as you know, China tried to say at one point, maybe they've stopped now, that it was caused by American soldiers. That can't happen. It's not going to happen, not as long as I am president. It comes from China.
John (?), go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two questions, if I could, Mr. President. First of all, in the defense procurement act you're invoking it today Senator Schumer said on the floor a short time ago that it urgently needs to be put into action to produce medical supplies, particularly ventilators. Do you have some targets that you would like to see immediately spooled up under the act?
TRUMP: We do have. We have tremendous numbers of ventilators, but there's never been an instance like this where no matter what you have, it's not enough. That would be the case. And we will be -- it's being signed. It's essentially drawn and we're going to sign it in just a little while.
If we need to use it, we'll be using it at full speed ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He says it's urgently needed to be used. Do you have some targets?
TRUMP: Well, we're going to know whether or not urgent, but we will -- yes, we do have targets. We have targets for certain pieces of equipment. We have targets for masks. You know, the masks, the numbers of masks are incredible. We've ordered millions of them. But we need millions more.
A thing like this has never been requested, and it's never -- we've never had even think in terms of these numbers, but we need millions of masks. And all of that will be ordered. We need respirators. We need -- ventilator is a big thing because it's a complex piece of equipment. So, we have a lot of ventilators but we're going to be ordering more.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And second question, what sizes will the checks be that will be sent out (INAUDIBLE)?
TRUMP: To be determined. We're working with the Senate right now. We're working with everybody on Capitol Hill. There's been tremendous -- there really has been -- I mean, with some exceptions obviously because it's always the way it is. But, there has been -- they've been getting along very well, Republicans and Democrats. It's a nice thing, very bipartisan so far.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (INAUDIBLE) more than thousand dollars?
TRUMP: Well, we're going to. I don't want to get into that right now, John. We are looking at different numbers. We're looking at timing that would be different, splitting the time, splitting the payments. We're looking at a lot of different things. It hasn't been determined yet, but it will shortly be determined. And people want to go big as opposed -- everybody seems to want to go big, and they want to get to the recovery. The big day is -- the big thing we can do is get rid of this horrible -- I call it the unseen enemy. You call it -- there's a thousand different terms for it, but it snuck up on us, and it did 128 countries. I think it's in something like that, very close to that. Think about that.
So it spreads very violently. It's a very contagious. Very, very contagious virus.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you consider America to be on a wartime footing in terms of fighting the virus?
TRUMP: I do. I actually do. I'm looking at it that way, because you know, if it got out of control -- the big thing we did was the very early stoppage of people coming in who could be very, very heavily infected. That was a very good move, and it was every early. Very, very early.
When most people, including professionals, they didn't want us to do it. That really saved a lot of lives. And yes, I look at it -- I view it as, in a sense, a wartime president. I mean, that's what we're fighting.
I mean, it's a very tough situation here. You have to do things. You have to close parts of an economy that six weeks ago were the best they've ever been. We had the best economy we've ever had. And then one day you have to close it down in order to defeat this enemy.
And -- but we're doing it and we're doing it well. And I'll tell you, the American people have been incredible. For the most part, they've been really incredible.
Yes, please? Kaitlan?
KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: I have one for you and one for Secretary Wilkie as well, but I'll start with you.
You just said there are a tremendous number of ventilators that we have but weeks, hospitals have been warning of a critical shortage that they say we are not prepared for. So why did it take so long to invoke the Defense Production Act?
TRUMP: Well, you know, hospitals are supposed to have ventilators, too. And when we have thousands of ventilators, it sounds like a lot, but this is a very unforeseen thing. Nobody ever thought of these numbers. Nobody ever saw numbers like this, even with regard to testing. Normally, we wouldn't be doing testing, and they decided to do it. Very, very hard to ramp up.
Now, we're getting highly sophisticated tests, and it's going very well. But nobody has ever heard of testing in the kind of quantities that you're talking about. COLLINS: But we knew for weeks we needed more ventilators, so why did it take so long?
TRUMP: Well, we knew. It depends. It depends on how it goes. Worst case, absolutely. Best case, not at all.
So, we're going to have to see where it goes, but we are ordering thousands and thousands of ventilators. And they're complex, you know. These are complex machines and -- but we're ordering them.
Does anybody have -- Mike, maybe you do, how many do we have?
COLLINS: Yes, you said you'd get back to us with the number.
TRUMP: Yes, please. Do you know the number?
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We have a specific number of ventilators in the stockpile. It's in excess of 10,000. And you just heard the announcement from the Department of Defense. They'll be adding several more thousand to that.
But, the president even this morning and yesterday afternoon, speaking with the largest companies in the supply chain in this country. We're hearing a tremendous spirit among industry leaders who are ready to step in and add to that volume. The stockpiles don't count all of the ventilators that exist today in the marketplace and in healthcare facilities around the country. But the president's given us a directive to make sure that our stockpile -- but just as importantly, we're working with industry leaders, and that we're securing the increase in ventilators, the increase in masks, gloves, eye protective care, garments that are all necessary to lean forward. And we're confident we'll be able to push that with the incredible cooperation of the supply chain that exists in America today.
COLLINS: But we don't have any exact number of production. How many ventilators do we have?
TRUMP: We can give you that exact number. We'll give it to you. But we're ordering a lot more.
Yes, go ahead, in the back.
COLLINS: One question for the VA secretary. I have one question for the VA secretary.
TRUMP: Yes, one second. One second, Kaitlan. We'll do it in a second.
COLLINS: OK. It's important.
TRUMP: You'll be able to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two questions, Mr. President. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first on the Canadian border. What was the tipping point? Friday we talked about it, then Monday you said no, you were not considering closing the border --
TRUMP: I said not yet. I spoke with the prime minister, Trudeau. Very -- a good relationship, obviously, between us and our two countries, and no tipping point. It's just that we want to isolate from the standpoint we don't want people coming into contact, because that's the way we're going to win this war. That is so important. And we both thought it was -- now, it's not affecting trade. It's non-essential.
It's nonessential crossings. It won't affect trade at all. And it was just something we thought would be good for both countries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Second question, Mr. President, how could you be sure that trade --
TRUMP: Go ahead, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- throughout the virus. How can you be sure that trade and everything that's being shipped from one side --
TRUMP: Well, they're doing it in a very careful manner. You can only be vigilant and very professional, but we're not -- it's not pretending at this moment to trade between the two countries.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are hearing that the trillion economic stimulus package could look something like $50 billion airlines, $150 billion among guarantees for critical sectors of the economy, a $250 billion payment on April 6th directly to individuals, another $250 billion payment on may 18th, again, directly to individuals, and as well, $300 billion for small business loan guarantees. Is that in a general sense what you're looking at?
TRUMP: It could be. It could be. And we're also playing with a lot of numbers, a lot of very big numbers and a lot of small numbers, frankly. We want to take care. We have to help everybody.
It was nobody's fault. This happened -- I mean, some people could say it was somebody's fault, actually, but it was nobody's fault. And certainly, none of these companies that all of a sudden had no passengers on planes and had no passengers on cruise ships, and all of the things that have happened. But I will say that they can't be blamed for this. And we want to keep those companies vibrant because it's -- there's going to be a comeback very, very quickly, as soon as this is solved, and it will be solved.
We will win, and there will be a comeback and it will take place very quickly.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- the $250 billion, there's give or take 330 million Americans or so. If you could just do the math on that, that's about $750 a person. A family of four, that would be about $3,000 on average, again, rough math, which, is that where this is headed -- TRUMP: Well, no. I don't want to say that because it's a moving --
these are all -- every number that you mentioned, yes, we've talked about those numbers. We're also moving those numbers in both directions. So we'll let you know. It will be -- it's moving along fast.
Again, there's a great bipartisan effort going on that I haven't really seen before to this extent.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- on the self-swab that you mentioned at the beginning of this, has the FDA approved that test?
TRUMP: No, they're looking at it. It's down the line and they're looking at it very seriously. And I think it would be a great thing, because the others, to use a nice word, it is very inconvenient. It's very tough.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A question for you, sir. You tweeted this morning about your approval rating amongst Republicans. You have said that you give yourself a 10 in terms of handling this crisis. How do you reassure Americans at home who don't trust you to handle a crisis of this magnitude?
TRUMP: Well, I think we're doing a really good job. We started off with a termination of the border, the people coming in from China where this all started. That meant I took it very seriously. And when I use the word calm, calm doesn't mean that I'm not taking it seriously. Calm means -- and we should be calm. We should be extremely calm.
But, yes, 95 percent within the Republican Party and over 50 percent -- and I also have -- we have very great approval numbers. I mean, people like the job that we're doing. And when you compare this to other epidemics or if you want to use a different term, you can, but within this country and you look at what's happened over the years, this is being handled very, very professionally. We have the greatest professionals in the world. We're doing a good job. Nobody's ever been swamped like this.
And nothing's been so contagious. The level of contagion is been incredible, actually. Nobody's seen anything quite like this.
Yes, Peter, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I can ask about the test, sir, for a second, if federal officials have shipped millions of tests as you and your colleagues have said, why is the federal government says of only 59,000 tests been processed to this point? We just heard from the Atlanta public health director saying that they have fewer than 50 test kits for more than 900,000 citizens. Where are the tests? TRUMP: I'll let Mike answer that. Deborah?
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WH CORONAVIRUS TASK FORCE RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So, that's a very critical question, and thank you for asking it. So, the test kits that we put out last week through the approval -- the rapid movement of that meeting that President Trump called less than two weeks ago, that has resulted in bringing our private sector to the table. Because the tests in the platform that was out there could only run between four and twelve tests per platform per day. We've now moved into platforms that can run basically tens of thousands of tests per day.
So, the reason I'm grateful for your question, because it allows me to point out that, of course, then there was backlog. There were individuals who had been tested who hadn't had their specimen run because of the slow throughput. It's now in a high-speed platform. So we will see the number of people diagnosed dramatically increase over the next four to five days.
I know some of you will use that to raise an alarm that we are worse than Italy because of our slope of our curve. To every American out there, it will be five to six days' worth of tests being run in 24 to 48 hours. So our curves will not be stable until sometime next week.
The reason I talked about Thermo Fisher yesterday is because their platform is in 2,000 laboratories. They're the ones that are putting out the million tests this week that will solve the issue that Atlanta and others have brought up. I wanted to be clear, we prioritize the areas. We do county-by-county analyses. Based on those analyses on what counties had more than 50 cases, we prioritize the test kits, we put out the 400,000. And that's why we're seeing a seven percent-plus positivity rate.
We'll be able to expand that platform and re-prioritize based on the accessibility of the other kits.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, perhaps I could follow up. How are non-symptomatic professional athletes getting tests while others are waiting in line and can't get them? Do the well-connected go to the front of the line?
TRUMP: Well, you'd have to ask them that question. I mean, they --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Should that happen?
TRUMP: No, I wouldn't say so, but perhaps that's been the story of life. That does happen on occasion. And I've noticed where some people have been tested fairly quickly.
Look, we inherited --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Could you encourage them to further test others?
TRUMP: Excuse me. We inherited a very obsolete system. This is a system that was out-of-date, obsolete, or it was a system that was never meant to take care of the kind of quantity, the number of people that we're talking about, millions and millions of people. If you go back in years past, like even recently with the flu, nobody had tests before. They didn't test the entire nation to see whether or not they had flu. They got the flu, they got better. Hopefully, they got better, that was it.
Now, all of a sudden, they do this very complex testing. What we've done is we've broken it down. We've broken up the system. But it was obsolete, and/or you could say it was also a system that just wasn't meant to handle the kind of volume that you're talking about. We've rebuilt it into a system that for the future will be a very good system, if you want to go this route.
But this was never done before, and I would imagine it will be done in the future, but we've built it into a very good system by using private companies, the great private companies. And I have to say, Roche has been doing a very good job. They are doing a lot of work, a very good job. But this was an obsolete system, this was not a system that was meant to do anything like this or even near this.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, a couple things. A major train coalition is calling on you to suspend tariffs with other countries as part of the response to the coronavirus.
TRUMP: Who heads that group? Those countries do, probably. Go check.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No, it's an American free trade --
TRUMP: Yes, I know. I'm sure, a free trade. Look, China's paying us billions and billions of dollars in tariffs, and there's no reason to do that. They haven't even spoken to me about that. China hasn't asked me to do that, but we're getting billions of dollars a year from tariffs from China, and I can't imagine Americans asking for that. But it could be that China will ask for a suspension or something. We'll see what happens.
China is having a very rough time. They have their worst year in 76 years, as I understand it. They're having a very, very tough time. And then on top of it, this happened with the virus. But no, we're taking in billions of dollars a year in tariffs, and this was caused by something totally unrelated to tariffs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And on asylum seekers and people who cross the southern border illegally, are you planning to invoke 42 U.S.C. 265 which would allow you to prohibit entry of certain people --
TRUMP: The answer is yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When will that happen?
TRUMP: Very soon. Probably today. Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President -- UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have a question for Dr. Birx. On the border,
are there plans to fully shut the Mexican border? And what do you define as essential travel when it comes to the U.S.-Canadian border?
TRUMP: Well, I think essentially is medical. We have military working together. We have industry working together. And again, it's not affecting trade. So, things like that.
But just leisurely, let's go to a restaurant that have dinner which a lot of people do, they come both ways. They go in both directions, that kind of thing. We have ended on a temporary basis.
Yes, please? Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --
TRUMP: Not close it. No, we're not going to close it, but we are invoking a certain provision that will allow us great latitude as to what we do.
Please? Yes, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The Wall Street Journal --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: To clarify something because just a week ago, you all were standing here telling us that unless you have sustained contact with somebody who was symptomatic for COVID-19, you really didn't need to worry. You told the president, the vice president, that if they shook hands with somebody that had this, if they took a photograph with somebody who had this, you didn't really need to worry. And yet, several days later, we're in a situation where people are being told, don't leave your houses. There are curfews saying you cannot walk alone at night after a certain time.
Can you walk us through what seems like a very dramatic swing, a very dramatic disconnect from what we were hearing before to what we're hearing now?
BIRX: So, two things. We look at data all the time. And I know you're looking at the China and South Korea data. And when you look at China and South Korea data and you look at what China and South Korea did, you can see that their curves are not only blunted outside of Wuhan, so the Chinese areas outside of Wuhan blunted curve, and South Korea blunted curve.
If you look at their curve today, they're already on the far-end of their epidemic curve. Of course, none of those countries are fully back to work, and so that's what we worry about, too.
Secondly, there was a series of scientific articles published, and I know you've seen them, too, about surface contamination. I think none of us really understood the level of surface piece. So, we're still working out, how much is it by human-human transmission and how much is it by surface.
And this is why those fundamental guidelines were put out that says, don't exposure self to surfaces outside the home. Basically, what those guidelines are, is don't expose yourself to excess number of persons who could be asymptomatic and infected and then the person-to- person contact. And don't exposure self to surfaces that could have had the virus on it for which on hard surfaces -- I know we had the cardboard issue about shipping -- hard surfaces, not shown in fabric as much or in cardboard but hard surface transmission.
These are issues that we haven't had to deal with before with the level of respiratory infections, and that's why we have this concern, and that's why the president put out the guidelines. And so, it's to cover both of those pieces. That's all-new science, all-new models. I think many of you have the Imperial study available and looked at the impact of those. That's the first time those have been modeled as a comprehensive approach to mitigating an epidemic.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Dr. Birx, yesterday --
TRUMP: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the administration is looking at an executive order that would expand the use of investigational drugs against virus, but that FDA scientists are warning that this could put patients at risk.
TRUMP: I haven't seen the article.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No?
TRUMP: No, I haven't seen the article. We will -- we are making a lot of progress therapeutically. I will say that. And -- but I have not seen that article, no.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --
TRUMP: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, we've shut down non-essential travel to Canada. Are you considering shutting down all travel to brunt the spread of the virus? And we've heard from industries like the airlines who are seeking relief. What other industries -- or what -- how exactly is your administration going to determine which industries and businesses get covered?
TRUMP: Well, there are certain industries that people know. I mean, the airlines would be number one, if you look at what's going on. They go from having the best year they've ever had to having no passengers because of what we've had to do. In order to win this war. It's a war.
And -- so, you know, basically, you know, what many of the industries are. What we want to do is we want to make sure they all stay together so that after the war is won, we can immediately go right back up to where we were and even beyond. I think we're going to go beyond where we were. And a lot of people are saying that by the way. We're poised to do that, but we have to win the war first.
Yes, please? Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, thank you. A follow-up on the Treasury proposed $150 billion today for those industries but their proposal doesn't detail which industries would get that money and how much. So, aside from the airlines which you just mentioned, what about the cruise industry, the hotels? How much of that money do you see them getting?
TRUMP: We're talking about all of it. Haven't detailed it yet. We have detailed it to senators and to members of the House. We have been talking about it, and we're coming up with numbers.
Haven't gotten there yet. But certainly, hotel industry, the cruise ship industry, the airlines, those are all prime candidates, absolutely.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On the border, sir, when you say --
TRUMP: Which border?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The northern border. When you say temporary which is what you said in your tweet, does that mean 30 days?
TRUMP: I would say 30 days. And hopefully at the end of 30 days, we'll be in great shape.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --
TRUMP: Jeff (?), please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, I was struck by what Dr. Birx said about millennials and others perhaps not taking some of these warnings as seriously as you would like. Some of those people also seem to be your supporters and conservatives who may be quoting some of what you said at the beginning of this comparing it to the flu. What is your message to them to really follow what you've been saying so far? And are you concerned that they're still listening maybe to some of your earlier comments rather than your more recent ones?
TRUMP: Well, I think my earlier comments are to be calm. I mean, I do want people to be calm because we're going to win this, and we're going to win it. It's just a question of time, and I wanted to go quickly.
So, based on the fact that I wanted to go quickly, I hope they just listened to what we've been saying over the last period of time. We don't want them gathering, and I see they do gather including on beaches and including in restaurants, young people. They don't realize, they're feeling invincible.
I don't know if you felt invincible when you were very young, but they were feeling totally invincible, or are feeling that way, but they don't realize that they can be carrying lots of bad things home to a grandmother and grandfather and even their parents. So, we want them to heed the advice. We heed the advice and I think it's getting through. I do believe it's getting through, Jeff.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If they're watching -- what do you say to them if they're watching? Sorry.
TRUMP: They're what?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think there are a lot of them watching. A lot of these people at home, the young people --
TRUMP: Well, I think I just said it. Heed the advice. Heed the advice. I just said it.
Yes. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --
TRUMP: Thank you, Peter.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, how long --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, how long do you think (INAUDIBLE)?
TRUMP: We'll get you next, OK. Say it?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. In talking about China, you've been very clear about who you think is to blame or where the origin to blame for this virus is --
TRUMP: Not think. No, no. I don't think. I know where it came from.
I don't know if you'd say China is to blame. Certainly we didn't get an early run on it. It would have been helpful if we knew about it earlier, but it comes from China. And it's not a question about that. Nobody is questioning that.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So, Senator Cotton is saying that they should be punished in so many words for inflicting this on the American people. Do you feel that way about it?
TRUMP: Well, I have a lot of respect for Tom Cotton, and I know exactly what he's been saying. And there were those people that say that. So, we'll see what happens. Thank you.
Go ahead. It's your turn. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President --
TRUMP: Please. Go ahead. He's been waiting a long time. Please. You've had your hand up so nicely for a long time. It's your turn.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. We've seen the Chinese government kick out reporters from the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, the Washington Post, what is your message to the Chinese when it comes to transparency at a moment where you still have reporters asking you questions here at the White House?
TRUMP: Yes, I'm not happy to see it. I don't -- you know, I have my own disputes with all three of those media groups. I think you know that very well. But I don't like seeing that at all. I'm not happy about that at all.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You didn't correct the language, but I wonder if you agree with it. Do you believe that China is inflicting this upon our country?
TRUMP: No, I don't believe they're inflicting. I think they could have given us a lot earlier notice, absolutely.
Please? Go ahead, please. Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes. Mr. President, your credibility ratings are very low. There is a recent NPR poll --
TRUMP: Who are you asking of that question?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'm asking --
TRUMP: Because I see that they're very high. You know, if you look, I'm 95 percent of the Republican Party.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Quinnipiac, sir --
TRUMP: We just had a poll done by a very reputable group where I'm beating sleepy Joe Biden by a lot in Florida, in the state of Florida and in other states. You know, so, I don't really know who you're talking about.
All right, Jennifer (?), go ahead, please. Please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two questions, if you're willing, sir. Would you give us an update on your conversation with the airline executives?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Could you explain to them what's coming, what was their reaction?
TRUMP: I did, and they explained to me where they're coming from. I mean, they went from, as I said, full planes, packed, the best year they've ever had, by far, to, boom, one day empty because of what we have to do to get rid of -- to win this war. Or we would have a level of death like people haven't seen before. So, they've been fantastic.
I mean, they've been great. But you know, they went from being extremely happy to being people that are running companies, that are going to need some help, and we'll help them, Jennifer.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, on ventilators --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: On SBA loans, would you be willing to give us an update on how that's going? We've been getting some reports that counties have been having difficulty getting --
TRUMP: Well, it's going. I mean, there's a lot of influx to those loans. As you could imagine, a lot of people are looking at it. But we're going to be increasing funding a lot. They're very well-prepared to do what they have to do, and the SBA is doing a fantastic job. She is doing a really good job, the administrator.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President, a couple questions for Dr. Birx.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If I could? Dr. Birx, French researchers have had some luck with hydroxychloroquine in shortening the duration of the disease. Is that something that might be in the arsenal of therapeutics here in the United States?
BIRX: I think we are exploring every one of those issues. The president asked for a critical briefing on that today. He opened with that. It is more than that single drug. There are other drugs that individuals are looking at.
Just to go back to what we've talked about many times, there is things that look really good in cell culture against the virus, that may look good in small animals and then don't have an impact in humans. And so, those are the pieces that we're looking at very carefully. Of course, there's also antidotal reports and we're trying to figure out how many of antidotal reports equal real scientific breakthroughs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And the second question, are you confident of the seasonality of coronavirus?
BIRX: All we can do is look at the past to inform the future. We know what SARS looked like. We also know -- and I just want to put this out, I know you can get it online, look at the curve in China and look at the curve in South Korea. Those curves were accomplished in still the winter season.
And so, we're trying to understand what those relationships are. We're very interested in the curves in Italy because of their different approach, and we're following every single country's curves.
And so, all we can do is look at prior coronavirus and prior respiratory infection RNA viruses. These are RNA viruses. When you look at blue in the Northern Hemisphere, when you look at pair influenza and some of the other cold viruses, and if you look at SARS, that's the way the peak normally occurs. But that is a November to April. We all started later. And so, you're asking me to predict based on a later start, and that's what we're trying to really look at China and South Korea to really inform that.
TRUMP: All right, Kaitlan, go ahead.
COLLINS: A question for Secretary Wilkie if you don't mind. How many veterans of those that need to be tested have been tested?
WILKIE: Those that have needed to be tested, we believe we've caught most of them. Right now, we have 44 veterans who have tested positive. Sadly, one has passed in Portland. We are working with state labs and private companies to make sure that testing is available.
Because the president had us out aggressively early, we have been in a better place than most healthcare systems in the country. I cannot predict this, Dr. Birx said when the next surge will be, if it will be. But one of the things that we do at VA is that we prepare for national emergencies, be they national disasters or epidemics. We started preparing for this. We started stockpiling equipment.
Our equipment is stable, and I think that's in large part because of the instructions the president gave me.