Return to Transcripts main page


Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) Discusses Coronavirus, Emergency Stimulus Package, Lack of Medical Equipment; Trump & Coronavirus Task Force Hold News Conference. Aired 11:30a-12p ET

Aired March 19, 2020 - 11:30   ET



SEN. MAGGIE HASSAN (D-NH): There's a safe way for ramping up production so we get the personal protective gear out, we get the nasal swabs for testing out. There's a big shortage of those right now. And we get respirators built so we can have more available as this pandemic peaks in the United States.

KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Senator, who is in charge of that effort, I think, is a real question right now.

HASSAN: Right.

BOLDUAN: Normally -- do you think there should be a singular point person on ramping up to get the PPEs, the protective gear, out?

HASSAN: Right.

BOLDUAN: And who is that person? Just saying, we've got stockpiles. Isn't getting it to the hands of a doctor in New Hampshire, a doctor in North Carolina or a doctor in Indiana?

HASSAN: This is what's critical here. Making big pronouncements is one thing. Operationalizing the system and getting materials and equipment to the front lines is another. So there should be --


BOLDUAN: You're a former governor.


BOLDUAN: So you have really important perspective on that, because this lands a lot on the governor's shoulders.

HASSEN: Right. This is about being in constant contact with your frontline people and bringing that news back up and finding out what isn't working.

But there should be a manufacturing expert, a public health expert in a room. Every state has something called a manufacturing extension

partnership. They know what their manufacturing capacity is in every state. We should be reaching out to those folks, getting them to the table.

We should be in constant contact with every single manufacturer. A list of what we need to produce to build a ventilator, then we should get to it. Same with nasal swabs.

We mobilized during World War II and we can do that here. But we need the president to take the lead. And then we need experts from manufacturing and public health to come together, along with our labor organizations, so that when workers come to work to surge production, they are safe as well.

That's what we can do and what we should be doing. And it's very concerning to me that there's been this kind of lag, a pronouncement that the act has been invoked but then no follow-up action.

BOLDUAN: Senator, I'm going to jump in right here.

President Trump heading into the briefing room right now. Let's listen.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I think this is going to be a very important conference. And I'll get to that toward the middle, but I have a few things to report.

And I want to thank you all for being here. And I have to say, I think with social distancing, that the media's been much nicer. I don't know what it is. All these empty -- these in-between chairs. We probably shouldn't have anybody sitting behind you, either, you know. You should probably go back.

But I love it. It's so much nicer. But I shouldn't say that because you'll get me now. Thank you all for being here. And we continue our relentless effort to defeat the Chinese virus.

Before I begin, I want to start by announcing that today we are bringing home another American citizen. It's a big thing, very big.

Amer Fakhoury is on his way back to the United States after being imprisoned in Lebanon since September of 2019. He's battling late- stage cancer. Mr. Fakhoury will now be able to receive the much-needed care and treatment in the United States. We've been working very hard to get him freed, and he's finally able to have his entire family at his side.

So I'm very grateful to the Lebanese government. They worked with us. And we are very proud of his family. They stood by him so strongly, and they are thrilled.

The United States has no higher priority than the safety and well- being of our citizens. We've gotten a -- a tremendous number of hostages out, as you know. I think we're 42-0. And Robert O'Brien, as you know, was our chief negotiator for a large part of it; in fact, did so well that now we have him in a -- a different position. So I want to thank and congratulate Robert and his team.

And I want to let everyone know that recovering Americans held captive and imprisoned abroad continues to be a top priority for my administration.

We have one young gentleman, Austin Tice, and we're working very hard with Syria to get him out. We hope the Syrian government will do that. We are counting on them to do that.

We've written a letter just recently. But he's been there for a long time and was captured long ago. Austin Tice -- his mother is probably watching, and she's a great lady, and we're doing the best we can. So Syria, please work with us, and we would appreciate your letting him out.

If you think about what we've done, we've gotten rid of the ISIS caliphate in Syria. We've done a lot for Syria. We have to see if they're going to do this. So it would be very much appreciated if they would let Austin Tice out immediately.

As you know, my administration is working every day to protect American people and the American economy from the virus.


Yesterday, I signed into law a critical support for American workers, families and small businesses. It's a big thing. We're providing sick leave and family medical leave to those affected by the virus, and more help is on the way as we speak.

Our entire team, headed by Secretary Mnuchin, is on the Hill. We're working with Democrats and Republicans, and there's a lot of good will going on. This was something that happened that was -- some people would say an act of God.

I don't view it as an act of God; I would view it as -- as something that just surprised the whole world, and if people would have known about it, it could have stopped -- been stopped in place. It could have been stopped right where it came from, China, if we would have known about it, if they would have known about it.

But now, the whole world, almost, is inflicted with this horrible -- with this horrible virus, and it's too bad. It's too bad, because we never had an economy as good as the economy we had just a few weeks ago. But we'll be back, and I actually think we'll be back stronger than ever before because we learned a lot during this period of time.

I've also just invoked the Defense Production Act to help facilitate distribution of essential supplies, if necessary. We're working with Congress to provide major additional relief to the workers, small businesses and the hardest-hit industries. We want to make sure that everybody is able to continue on so that

when we recover, all of these companies and these great businesses, both very, very small and very, very large, are not going to be broken up, and you'd have to put them back together. That would take a long time.

Because we really believe in -- I believe in the V-curve. I believe it's going to go -- when this is -- when this is defeated, this hidden scourge is defeated, I think we're going to go up very rapidly, our economy, and get back to where it was, and beyond.

Today, I want to share with you exciting progress that the FDA's making with the private sector, as we slash red tape like nobody has ever done it before. Somebody was on yesterday, on one of the networks, and said that there's never been a president even close that's been able to do what I've done in slashing all of the red tape and everything to get very important things to the market -- medical.

So we slashed red tape to develop vaccines and therapies as fast as it can possibly be done, long before anybody else was even thinking about doing this. And as you know, earlier this week we began the first clinical trial of a vaccine candidate for the virus, and that was launched in record time. It was just a few weeks, and that would have taken years to do not so long ago.

As we race to develop a vaccine, we're also pursuing antiviral therapies, and that's what, really, we're going to be talking to you about today. That's the purpose of being up here today, and to me, that's even more important.

The vaccine, by its nature, you have to have long tests because you have to make sure what goes into somebody's body is not going to do destruction, do bad things, so you need long tests.

And they're doing great with the vaccines, but it's still a long process. But the therapies are something we can move on much faster, potentially, and the treatments that will be able to reduce the severity or duration of the symptoms and make people better. Essentially, we're looking at things to make people better, or at the very earlier stages, they wouldn't even know they had it, and that's where I believe it's going to work even the best.

The FDA commissioner, Stephen Hahn, who's with us, he's fantastic, and he's been working 24 hours a day. He's been -- he's worked, like probably as hard or harder than anybody in this -- in the group, other than maybe Mike Pence or me. And what the FDA is doing is incredible.

They've done things in times that were not even thinkable. And I've directed the FDA to eliminate outdated rules and bureaucracy so this work can proceed rapidly, quickly, and I mean fast.

And we have to remove every barrier. There were a lot of barriers that were unnecessary, and they've done that to get the rapid deployment of safe, effective treatments and we think we have some good answers. We'll find out very, very soon.


Clinical trials are already under way for many new therapies, and we're working on scaling these to allow many more Americans to access different drugs that have shown really good promise, we've had some -- really good promise.

We will do so in a way that lets us continue to collect good data, to know which medicines are safe and which medicines are working the best. We have a couple that we're -- we're in really good shape on. And that's for immediate delivery, immediate, like as fast as we can get it.

The FDA has also approved compassionate use for a significant number of patients. You know what that means. We're also reviewing drugs that are approved abroad or drugs approved here for other uses. And you know, one of the things that I'm most proud of that I got was right to try. That's where somebody who's ill, somebody who's very sick, terminally ill, usually.

In past administrations -- we signed this a year and a half ago. You wouldn't be able to even think about getting any of the drugs that may be showing great promise. Now -- and they've been trying for many decades to get this approved, and it sounds (ph) simple, but it's not because there's liability involved and lots of other things. And I was able to get it approved, working with Congress, right to try.

This is beyond right to try. What we're talking about today is beyond right to try. Right to try has been, by the way, a tremendous success. People are living now that had no chance of living, where we take treatments that would -- things that would have to go through years of a process.

And if somebody was terminally ill, and I would say, why wouldn't they be able to try this? They'd go to Asia, they'd go to Europe, they'd go all over the world and try and find something. Of course, some people, if they had no money, would go home to die, they'd go home to die. They had no hope. Right to try has been an incredible success.

But this is beyond right to try. If treatments known to be safe in Europe, Japan, or other nations are effective against a virus, we'll use that information to protect the health and safety of American people. Nothing will stand in our way as we pursue any avenue to find what best works against this horrible virus.

Now, a drug called chloroquine -- and some people would add to it "hydroxy," hydroxychloroquine, so chloroquine or hydroxychloroquine. Now this is a common malaria drug.

It's also a drug used for strong arthritis. Somebody has pretty serious arthritis, also uses this in a somewhat different form. But it is known as a malaria drug, and it's been around for a long time and it's very powerful.

But the nice part is, it's been around for a long time. So we know that if it -- if things don't go as planned, it's not going to kill anybody. When you go with a brand-new drug, you don't know that that's going to happen. You have to see and you have to go long tests, but this has been used in different forms -- very powerful drug -- in different forms, and it's shown very encouraging, very, very encouraging early results.

And we're going to be able to make that drug available almost immediately, and that's where the FDA's been so great. They -- they've gone through the approval process, it's been approved and they did it.

They took it down from many, many months to immediate. So we're going to be able to make that drug available by prescription or states. I spoke with Governor Cuomo about it at great length last night, and he wants to be right on -- he wants to be first on line.

And so I think that's a tremendous -- there's tremendous promise based on the results and other tests, there's tremendous promise. And normally the FDA would take a long time to approve something like that, and it's -- it was approved very, very quickly and it's now approved by prescription.

Individual states will handle it. They can handle it, and doctors will handle it. And I think it's going to be -- I think it's going to be great.


Then we're quickly studying this drug, and while we're continuing to study it, but the studying is going to be also done in -- as it's given out to large groups of people, perhaps in New York and other places, we'll study it there.

There are promising therapies produced by Gilead, and that's Remdesivir -- Remdesivir, and that's a drug used for other purposes, that's been out and has had very good results for other purposes, but it seems to have a very good result having to do with this virus. And that drug also has been approved, or very close to approved in that case, by the FDA.

And I can't tell you how much we appreciate what the FDA, these people are incredible patriots and the job that Steven Hahn is doing, Dr. Hahn, is one of the most respected doctors in the country, by the way, where took him, I said, you sure you want to this?

You know, we didn't know this was going to be in the playlist, what happened here, but he really has stepped up to the plate. Wherever you are. Where is he? You really have. I'd shake his hand, but I'm not supposed to do that. I'd get in a lot of trouble if I did that. But, he's been fantastic. And I thank you Doctor. He's going to speak right after I'm finished.

So, Regeneron, again, and -- is a some -- is a company that's done fantastically well as I understand with Ebola and some other things, great company. And they're looking at some very promising events also. So, you have Remdesivir and you have chloroquine and hydro -- hydroxychloroquine.

So, those are two that are out now, essentially approved for prescribed use. And I think it's going to be very exciting. I think it could be a game changer, and maybe not, and maybe not. But, I think it could be, based on what I see, it could be a game changer. Very powerful -- they're very powerful.

So, I want every American to know that we're doing everything we can and these actions are important next steps. I mean, for the FDA to act the way they acted with this kind of speed is an incredible thing.

Normally, they'd say, well, we can have it by next year or we can have it by -- in two years from now, you understand, this is they way -- normally it's like years and years and years. They had it immediately, based on the fact that it's been used for other things, totally unrelated things.

We believe these therapeutics and others, under evaluation right now, will be able to provide relief to many Americans. We really hope that's going to be. This could be a tremendous breakthrough, tremendous breakthrough.

And we will work toward a much needed vaccine in the future, as I said, and what we're doing with the FDA is so exciting in so many other fields. So many things are happening. It's a very exciting time for -- for medicine. And we appreciate that the American public has pulled together. They are really staying home.

And I think there's tremendous spirit in this country right now. It's a spirit like a lot of people have not seen -- the people have not seen anything like it for a long time. And that means Democrat, Republican, they're pulling together. I hope everything's going good on the Hill. Maybe I shouldn't say this until I check out what's going on, because you never know.

But -- but I think there's a great spirit where the Democrats, the Republicans and everybody else are getting together and they're trying to get things done. But most importantly the American public has been incredible.

We took the best economy we've ever had and we said, stop, you can't work. You have to stay home. You know, there's never been a case like this. Normally you pay a lot of money to get things going.

Here's a case where we're paying a lot of money to stop things, because we don't want people to be together, so that this virus doesn't continue onward. So, there's never been anything like this in history.

There's never been -- nobody's ever seen anything like this. But, we're doing the right thing. We have to get rid of it, been our war. Is not -- it's not a financial war -- it's a war -- it's a medical war. We have win this war, it's very important.

With that, I'd like to just introduce Dr. Steven Hahn, and he -- again, I'd like to send back with Steven, our thanks to all of the people working in the FDA who are fantastic, talented people.

[11:50:02] We appreciate it very much, everything you've done, especially the speed that you got these two elements, these two very important drugs past. Thank you very much.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, FDA COMMISSIONER: Thank you, Mr. President. I want to thank you for your leadership during this coronavirus outbreak. And thank you for the kind words about the FDA staff.

We have 10,000 scientists, doctors, and others. And more than that, working around the clock to aid the American people in this fight against the coronavirus. And those words are very much appreciated, sir.

TRUMP: Thank you.

HAHN: So before the president nominated me and I was confirmed as commissioner of food and drugs, I was a cancer doctor. And I've sat across from countless number of patients and had to talk to them about their diagnosis and their treatment. And one thing that was really important is to provide hope. I have great hope for how we are going to come out of the situation.

What's also important is not to provide false hope, but to provide hope. And as a doctor, that's the way I come to this. I'm speaking now to the American people as commissioner of food and drugs, but that part of me has not left.

Just look at the way the American people have responded to our calls for mitigation for social distancing. The American people have great resiliency, and I am so incredibly proud of how the American people have responded.

As the president mentioned, he asked us to be aggressive, to break down barriers to innovation, and accelerate the development of life- saving treatments. And we are doing that at the FDA. The FDA is committed to continuing to provide regulatory flexibility and guidance.

But let me make one thing clear -- the FDA's responsibility to the American people is to ensure that products are safe and effective. And that we are continuing to do that. Our folks and their tremendous professionals are working day and night to do this. You just can't even imagine how much they are working to provide this support for the American people, and I thank them.

Since early January, long before the first domestic case, FDA began working in collaboration with CDC. I also want to note that we stood up an incident command group and have been focused on the coronavirus since the very beginning of this public health emergency.

This is in addition an all of government approach and all America approach and I will describe what I mean by that in terms of a development of therapeutics. An important part of that work is expanding the potential therapeutic options associated with coronavirus. And we have learned from our colleagues across the globe about this. But I want to focus on one thing. I was a cancer researcher before all this, and one thing I know about this great country of ours is that we have unbelievable innovators. We have people who, every day, it's their job to develop treatments for all sorts of diseases. We are incredibly blessed as a country to have this.

And as is true in any units, these great American innovators, academia, private sector, they have engaged us about the best possible treatment options. We are looking at everything that is coming across our desks as possible treatment options for coronavirus. And we are extremely encouraged by the interest and the promise that we've seen from these great American innovators.

Now again, we need to look at it. We need the data, we need the information to make the absolute best decisions for the American people. But I want to assure you, we have over 17,000 people at FDA who are doing this every day.

We need to make sure that these -- this sea of new treatments will get the right drug to the right patient at the right dosage, at the right time. As an example, we may have the right drug, but it may not be in the appropriate dosage form right now.

And that may do more harm than good. Those are the things that that's our job to look at and that's why it's really important we have these dedicated professionals looking at these aspects of therapeutic development.

At the same time, we are also working through different mechanisms to actually get drugs into the hands of providers and patients. The president mentioned this, but one of the mechanisms is called compassionate use.

Let me tell you about this, if there is an experimental drug that's potentially available, a doctor could ask for that drug to be used in a patient. We have criteria for that and very speedy approval for that. The important thing about compassionate use -- and that's with the president meant, this is beyond right to try -- is that we get to collect information about that.

Because one of the things that we promised the American people is we will collect the data and then make the absolute right decisions based upon those data about the safety and efficacy of the treatments. We are working expeditiously and we are working to make sure these products are as safe and effective as they possibly can be.

Let me tell you about a few things we are currently working on. And this is a plan that was developed with many of the people at this table, our infectious disease experts on the task force.

In the short term, we're looking at drugs that are already approved for other indications.


So they're already approved, as the president said, for other diseases. As an example, many Americans have read studies and heard media reports about this drug chloroquine, which is an anti-malarial drug. It's already approved, as the president said, for the treatment of malaria as well as an arthritis condition.

That's a drug that the president has directed us to take a closer look at as to whether an expanded use approach to that could be done to actually see if that benefits patients. And again, we want to do that in the setting of a clinical trial, a large, pragmatic clinical trial to actually gather that information and answer the question that needs to be answered -- asked and answered.

Let me give you another example. There's a cross-agency effort about something called convalescent plasma. This is a pretty exciting area. And again, this is something that we have given assistance to other countries with as this crisis has developed. So FDA's been working for some time on this.

If you've been exposed to coronavirus and you're better -- you don't have the virus in your blood -- we could collect the blood. Now, this is a possible treatment, this is not a proven treatment, just want to emphasize that.

Collect the blood, concentrate that and have the ability, once it's pathogen free -- that is, virus-free -- be able to give that to other patients and the immunoglobulins, the immune response could potentially provide a benefit to patients.

It's another thing that we're looking at. Over the next couple weeks, we'll have more information that -- we're really pushing hard to try to accelerate that. That's in the sort of more medium, short term.

And that will be a bridge to other therapies that will take us three to six months to develop. And this is a continuous process, there is no beginning and end to each of this. This is -- you know, we're pushing this through.

The other great thing about the great innovators of America, some of them tell us it's taken us years -- years -- to develop therapies. They're looking at pushing that to the months period of time, and we're trying to provide them the regulatory flexibility but at the same time the scientific oversight to make sure that gets done in the best way possible for the American people.

The president mentioned that there is a vaccine trial currently being performed. It's a phase one trial, so it's the earliest study that gets done. We expect that to take 12 months to get to completion, to actually a time where we could approve a vaccine. But that's -- these are all things to bridge to the prevention part of this, with a vaccine.

It's exciting work and the president is right, this is record time for the development of a vaccine, and impressive public-private partnership.

The FDA's efforts to facilitate the development of these products are focused on ensuring timely access while also meeting the agency's world-respected gold standard, relying on strong data from clinical trials to determine if an experimental or an off-the-shelf drug that's used for something else can safely and effectively treat patients.

We want to assure the American people that FDA is all hands on deck, as the president mentioned, with (ph) these efforts, and continue to work with interested sponsors (ph) to help expedite the work. We remain steadfast in helping to foster the development of safe and effective therapies for COVID-19. Thank you.

TRUMP: Thanks, thank you very much.

Mike, talk about the masks?


The White House coronavirus task force met this morning, and on this very first day of spring. We continue to make steady progress toward President Trump's objective not only to marshal all the resources of the federal government, every state government, every local health official, but also to harness the power of the American private sector. And activities over the last day reflect all of those priorities.

Yesterday, the president spoke with America's top physicians and nurses and garnered helpful insights about how we can best serve those who are serving Americans that are dealing with the coronavirus.

We also had a productive call with over 5,000 state and local officials explaining the federal government's approach and our strong and seamless partnership with all 50 states and the territories.

Last night as you heard, the president signed the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which provides free coronavirus testing, paid sick leave, family leave for caregivers and food assistance for the needy among a broad range of benefits. And today, as the president indicated, we expect that the Senate will begin work on an economic relief package.

Later today, the president and I will meet again in a teleconference with the nation's governors. We will meet at the National Response Coordination Center at FEMA and outline President Trump's decision to have FEMA take the lead in our national coronavirus response. Our nation's response, through FEMA, will be locally executed, state- managed and federally supported.