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President Trump Holds Press Conference With Coronavirus Task Force To Answer Questions About Measure To Combat Coronavirus Spread; President Trump Makes Controversial Tweet On Potential Coronavirus Treatment; President Trump Criticizes China For Not Providing Information On Coronavirus Spread To U.S. Earlier; Javits Convention Center In New York To Be Converted Into Temporary Emergency Field Hospital; Health Care Workers State Equipment Running Low Due To Coronavirus. Aired 2-3p ET
Aired March 21, 2020 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you expect your family company to seek government assistance if it's eligible?
TRUMP: I don't know. I just don't know what the government assistance would be for what I have. I have hotels. Everybody knew I had hotels when I got elected. They knew I was a successful person when I got elected, so it's one of those things. I guess I get paid $450,000 a year. I give it up. I put it back into the nation. I usually -- I have to, by the way -- you have to designate where you want it, so I oftentimes give it to opioid research and things.
But as far as the hotels and everything, I have to do what everyone else is doing. I would probably decide to close things up. I think it's a good thing. You don't want people getting together, and hotels and clubs and everything you get together. We want to beat this deal. So I have many of them, hotels, clubs, things like that where people get together. I would think it would be good practice to close them up.
Go ahead, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. President, as you know, we've talked a lot about masks, we've also talked about how not everyone needs to take a test. What about a temperature test? As we know we all came into this room and got tested before we entered.
TRUMP: Well, I do it. I do it. I have to have temperature tests. I didn't ask everybody here, but I wouldn't be surprised if they had temperature tests. Otherwise I'd run off the stage.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Should they be on a master distribution basis too?
TRUMP: I think they are pretty much. The easiest thing is the temperature. I think they are. I don't know. Are you learning a lot from the temperature tests, Tony? Could you maybe discuss that for a second?
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTES OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Yes. They have a place. They're not infallible. There are so many ways to get around that. Right now every time, certainly here, every time I go into a different room I get my temperature taken. But we see that on the outside that people are doing --
TRUMP: I took his temperature.
FAUCI: Very low. There is a role for it under certain circumstances. What I don't see the massive distribution of thermometers that are actually going to have a major impact on what I showed what we need to do.
TRUMP: And I've seen things when Tony mentions thermometers, they aim something at your forehead. They stay this far away. Boom, and they tell you what your temperature is. I said, I've never seen that before. I've learned a lot. I've learned a lot. It's incredible.
Go ahead, the back corner.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This morning "The Washington Post" ran a story suggesting that you delayed taking action on the virus in January and February. Dr. Fauci has indicated that your action in the Chinese travel ban helped America immensely. What do you say to "The Washington Post"?
TRUMP: Well, I love whoever you're with, because I think that is such a nice question. I think "The Washington Post" covers us very inaccurately, covers me very inaccurately. I saw this story. I think it's a disgrace. But it's "The Washington Post," and I guess we have to live with it. It is a very inaccurate -- quiet, quiet.
It's a very inaccurate story. From many people I get a lot of credit for having closed our country very early to a very heavily infected country -- China. Unfortunately, China. I wish China would have told us more about what was going on in China long prior to us reading about it, even though the news isn't exactly disseminated.
As you know, China kicked "The Washington Post" out of China and they kicked "The New York Times" out of China, and I guess "The Wall Street Journal." That's OK. That's what they do, and I think it's a terrible thing they did.
But I also think it's terrible when people write inaccurately about you, and they write inaccurately about me every single day, every single hour. And by the way, your group, really, I really think, and I just say fair, not good or bad. I think you write very fairly and do very fair reports about the great job that all of us are doing, that this group behind me is doing.
It is so insulting when they write phony stories that they know are fake news because they're not insulting me. They're insulting everybody, these incredible people that have worked so hard so long, that are thinking about nothing other than this invisible enemy. They have done such an incredible job. And they will continue, and we're going to win, and there will be a lot of celebration when we win.
And we're going to win with as few lives lost as possible. That's the game -- win with as few lives lost as possible. It's a tough enemy, it's a tough killer, far bigger, far more vicious than ever before. But I appreciate you saying it, because the fact that we closed so early to China -- and most people, hey, look, I was called xenophobic by sleepy Joe Biden.
I was called a racist by Democrats, a racist. I was a racist because I decided that I didn't want to have people that could hurt our country come in. And I was pretty much in a very small group of people. I will tell you it was a tiny little group. Most people even that worked in the White House disagreed with me very strongly.
Saving of those many weeks was a tremendous thing. And when they keep talking about acting early, that was the ultimate act. That was the biggest act, because we didn't -- and then I also closed Europe early, very early. And I took a lot of heat for that, too. But that was a good thing. Now they're doing similar things that we're doing. So I didn't act late.
I acted early. I acted far before anybody thought I should be. I took tremendous criticism from the various papers, from many of the papers. So I very much appreciate the question. It might have been more of a statement than a question, but whatever it might have been, I appreciate it very much.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So a number of states have done these different measures. We've seen California order one thing, New York similar. Do you want all of the states to do one uniform --
TRUMP: No. No, they can do what they want to do. If California can get a mask sooner than we can get it for them, through all of the things we're able to do, we're going to end up with a big over supply at some point. At some point this is going away, and we're going to end up with a big oversupply. And you know what, in this case, that's going to be OK.
But if California, if Gavin can go out and order gowns faster or masks, good masks faster, or other things faster, that's good. We do have a lot of -- the coordination with the ships that we're sending in, as you know, the medical ships that we're sending in, and even cruise liners -- we're going to be sending in probably cruise liners into some areas, in particular California and in particular New York. But if somebody can do something faster, if they can order that mask faster than us, I want them to be able to do it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So people can't leave their homes. Certain businesses --
TRUMP: We coordinate very much with them, yes. UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You don't want all of those to be the same --
TRUMP: It doesn't have to be at this moment, because we have places in the country where -- states where they have two people or three people, and those people are in quarantine. And you can't put on them what you're putting in New York where you do have a tremendous problem. We have large portions of the country, middle America, where they have a few people. So it may be a time, I hope that never happens where we have to take drastic action, but right now that's not in the same ballpark.
Go ahead, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We're at day six of your 15 days of recommendation. A lot of people are following them, some people are not. Do you think the American people are doing enough right now to slow --
TRUMP: I think they are. And some people are not, but I think they are. I think it's going to have a very profound effect. We'll know a little more on day 14 and 15. We'll see.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What is the plan once we get to --
TRUMP: We're going to see. We have to see what the result is. We want to flatten that out and see what the result is.
And I just want to say, I'm going to negotiate a very large transaction, and have been negotiating it for two days, so I'm going to take one or more questions and then I'm going to leave it to Vice President Pence. On the Hill, with the Hill, the various elements of the package. Steve, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A number of groups are calling for the postponement or cancellation of the Olympics. Have you given any --
TRUMP: No, I haven't. Look, we understand the difficulty of that. And he is a very good friend of mine. You take a look at Shinzo Abe, he is a great gentleman. He loves his country. We have an incredible relationship. We just finished a trade deal with them, a $40 billion trade deal with Japan. And Prime Minister Abe has a big decision to make.
They have built one of the most beautiful venues I've ever seen. They are all ready to go. It's not late, it's not over budget. It was just done flawlessly, and it is beautiful. And they're sitting back and saying, I told him, I said, that's your decision, and it is his decision. And I know he is going to make it soon. I don't know what it is going to be, and I didn't think I should be influencing it at all.
The job that Japan has done on that venue is incredible. So there are options, obviously, including delay and maybe delay for next year, but that is totally up to them. We'll see what they do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Since this story keeps popping up, when did you first learn that this was going to be a problem? TRUMP: Well, when I learned I started doing the closings, so probably
around that time. We didn't learn much. I think you're going to ask a little bit about China's responsibility. I do think that, again, I have great respect for China. I like China. I think the people of China are incredible.
I have a tremendous relationship with President Xi. I wish they could have told us earlier about what was going on inside. We didn't know about it until it started coming out publicly, but I wish they could have told us earlier about it, because we could have come up with a solution.
Tony Fauci and all of the people, the talent we have, would have loved to have had three or four months of additional time, if you knew that this was going to be happening. They didn't have that time. They read about it in newspapers like everyone else.
China was very secretive, OK, very, very secretive. And that is unfortunate. With that, I have great respect for that country. I have great respect for the leader of that country and like him. He is a friend of mine. But I wish they were able to -- I wish they would have told us earlier, Steve, that they were having a problem, because they were having a big problem and they knew it.
And I wish they could have given us advanced warning, because we could have had a lot things. As an example some of the things we're talking about where we order them as quickly as we can, if we had a two or three month difference in time, it would have been much better. Yes, please?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can I follow up on that, because, as you were saying, China was extremely secretive about this. Several of your advisers have been critical of China. Secretary Pompeo was talking about it yesterday and he had been saying so for quite some time. So why, then, on January 24th, did you tweet that China has been working very hard to contain the coronavirus, that the United States greatly appreciates their efforts and transparency? It will all work out well.
TRUMP: Because it's true. Because it's true. China has worked very hard. China has lost thousands and thousands of people.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said they weren't transparent, right?
TRUMP: They weren't transparent. They were transparent at that time. But when we saw what happened, they could have been transparent much earlier than they were.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: That was a month after --
TRUMP: China, just so you understand, China is not a beneficiary here. China has lost thousands and thousands of people. China has gone through hell over this. They've gone through hell. And I've had conversations with President Xi. I just wish they could have told us earlier. They knew they had a problem earlier. I wish they could have said --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you for the numbers on the testing, by the way.
TRUMP: Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Can you share any other hard numbers on the number of available tests, on the number of ventilators in the federal stockpile?
TRUMP: I am going to leave that up to Dr. Fauci and everybody else, and I think the answer is we want to share them. I would imagine we want to share the numbers. Admiral, do you want to discuss that?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The 500 billion masks that you cited, they're due for delivery in 18 months,
TRUMP: Not billion.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's 500 million masks, excuse me.
TRUMP: I said, wait a minute.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The half-a-billion masks, they're due for delivery according to HHS in 28 months. The last number on ventilators we have was 12,000 to 13,000. Can you give us an updated number on that?
TRUMP: There's never been numbers like this. A ventilator is a machine, it's a very complex machine, and to think that we have to order hundreds of thousands, nobody has ever heard of a thing like this. When we had in the stockpile, we had thousands in the stockpile, thousands ready to go. That's a lot. All of a sudden you need hundreds of thousands.
And you're not talking about -- the mask is whether it's plastic or whether it's material, that is one thing. But you're talking about a very sophisticated, heavily computerized machine, and delicate. And you need hundreds of thousands of them. Nobody has ever heard of a thing like that.
With that being said, General Motors, Ford, so many companies -- I had three calls yesterday directly without having to institute like you will do this, these companies are making them right now. But to think of these numbers, it's pretty mand boggling.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Do you have numbers to share, though, right now? Do you have numbers to share with us right now?
TRUMP: Mike, go ahead, please.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You bet. We've spoken a lot about masks this morning, but the president has also given the task force a priority of assessing the availability and expanding the availability of ventilators. And on Monday we will detail some very encouraging news for Americans. You speak about the number of 13,000. It is a little more than that
that we have in the national stockpile. But it's important to remember that that doesn't include the more than 100,000 ventilators that are in health care facilities and hospitals around America today.
It doesn't include what will be produced. As the president said, we're seeing companies step forward. Manufacturers tell us that a ventilator actually isn't a very complicated piece of equipment, and many of them are literally surging forward to create more ventilators.
But one of the more exciting developments in the last week, which we'll detail more on Monday, is that in the president's engagement with our health care community we learned that ventilators that are currently used by anesthesiologists, that are used in outpatient clinics and other procedures, can be converted to be used as ventilators for people struggling with the effects of the coronavirus. We've confirmed that a particular screen in that device can be changed readily. We're working with the FDA to approve that.
But again, this is a great testament of the American people and our health care professionals that are stepping forward and bringing ideas forward that literally, as we'll document Monday, will increase the supply of ventilators by tens of thousands.
But, look, the president has made it clear. We want to make sure that all the incredible, courageous men and women who are serving in health care around America have the support they need, that our patients that are struggling with recovering from coronavirus have the equipment they need. And we'll have a lot of detail on Monday as we continue to assess --
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You said two days ago you'd have 1.4 million tests onboard by the end of this week, by today. Do we have that? Can you give us the number that we have?
PENCE: Let me let Admiral Giroir speak to that.
ADM. BRETT GIROIR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES ASSISTANT SECRETARY: So I'll answer your question and then try to persuade you to stop asking about a specific number, OK? So from March 2nd to March 14th we have put over 10 million laboratory tests into the U.S. commercial market. And we expect that by March 28th to be well over 27 million into the market. So that answers your question.
And let me tell you why it is not the right question. Not every lab can run every test. Not every test is completely self-contained. So the more important question is not how many tests are in the market. We got them in the market. It is to make sure that every segment of the market has the kinds of tests they can use.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Admiral, we are using your numbers, trying to find out for the public if the things you've promised are happening.
GIROIR: Yes, they are happening. We promised 1 million or 4 million. There's 10 million tests in the market now.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And are the masks that are in the strategic reserve being deployed, Mr. Vice President?
GIROIR: Yes, the masks in the strategic national stockpile --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: So it is not 13,000 anymore. It would be a lower number, would that be fair to say?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Ventilators. I'm sorry. The respirators. Thank you. We're trying to understand if the things we have been told sitting through these briefings in many days are happening and getting into the hands of the health care providers.
TRUMP: You understand it. You understand it. You're an intelligent woman, Kelly. You understand exactly what he is saying. And what he is saying is rather incredible, because we inherited an obsolete, broken system. And when you hear the number of tests that will be provided and are now, it's incredible. And I've heard a lot of governors say the same thing.
We took over an obsolete, broken testing system that wouldn't have worked for even a small problem, let alone one of the biggest pandemics in history. And what these gentlemen have done is incredible. I am going now to negotiate a great deal for our workers and our citizens. I'll be back tomorrow. We're probably doing this tomorrow. And if I might, I'd like to ask Vice President Pence to take over. And thank you all very much.
PENCE: Thank you, Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice president, the military has sent planes to Honduras, Morocco to pick up Americans and bring them home who are stranded there, but there are still a lot of other Americans who are stranded and can't get home. So does the military plan to send planes to pick those folks up? Or will those planes be going, when will they be going? Can you assure Americans who are stranded in foreign countries that they will be able to get back?
PENCE: Well, we received a briefing this morning from the State Department about their efforts. And we want to be very clear. While the president has suspended all travel from Europe, including the U.K. and Ireland, suspended all travel, of course, from China since January, that any American who can get home can come home. They'll go through additional screening. It's all been implemented, and is working in an orderly way at a number of airports around the country.
But there are instances, Morocco being among them, where there simply are not flights to get home. Our State Department has been working very closely with our embassies in those relevant countries. I was told this morning that all the way going back to bringing Americans back from China that we have made individual efforts to bring home about 3,000 Americans. I think there is an ongoing effort to address that with chartered commercial flights that the government is providing. Obviously also military transport is available.
But our task force received a briefing this morning, and we would just encourage any American that is looking on from overseas, contact the local U.S. embassy. Let them know about your circumstances and know that we're going to work, continue to work very diligently to get our Americans home.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys, last question.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Two quick ones, education and a medication one. You guys have announced that standardize testing is essentially canceled in this country. To the tens of millions of students out there, the teachers and their parents who are sort of scratching their head, wondering what does that mean?
Obviously, a lot of this is driven by local and school districts, by the state. Is there any federal guidance on this? And if not today, could you have Secretary DeVos or somebody come and explain that to the millions who are literally sitting at home trying to figure out what exactly that means?
PENCE: I think it's a terrific question. And we will bring Secretary Betsy DeVos here tomorrow or on Monday to address our efforts. The objective here was, as people are embracing the president's 15 days to slow the spread, we have decisions by local school boards and local and state officials that have canceled school or suspended school for a time.
And we wanted the federal Department of Education to make it clear that the burden of standardizing testing, which back in my days as governor I remember takes a number of days, and sometimes up to a week to administer, is not going to be placed on schools. But we'll have the secretary here to address that very specifically. And it's a very good point on your part.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I mentioned I had a medication question, and I wanted to ask you while the president was here, because earlier he tweeted that there were two -- let me just find it. Two certain medications that when taken together, quote, have a real chance to be one of the biggest game changers in the history of medicine, and that they should be, quote, put in use immediately.
Since he's not here I can't ask him what he meant, but I'm wondering if Dr. Fauci and the admiral could clarify, if you have any sense what he was talking about, and whether his 74.5 million Twitter follow he recalls should be taking medical advice from him or from someone else?
PENCE: The president brought together the top pharmaceutical companies in America and in the world a number of weeks ago. And they formed a consortium to work on a range of responses, beginning with therapeutics, which for a layman like me, that just means medicine to make you feel better. They're already going to work on that. We actually think, Dr. Fauci, I think there is some sense that our great pharmaceutical companies may actually be producing therapeutics that will give relief to Americans struggling with coronavirus as soon as this spring.
We also challenged them to work together as rapidly as possible to develop a vaccine going forward. And as Dr. Fauci has indicated, we brought a vaccine to clinical trials, now the better part of a week ago, the fastest time in history. Now, it's the first phase of the trials, and people should understand, as our health experts have described, that there will be a period of as much as a year and a half before we can make those vaccines available.
But as the president said at this podium, there is some anecdotal evidence that several existing medicines may have brought relief to patients struggling in China and in Europe. And the president has tasked the FDA to work very rapidly to allow what's called off label use for those. One is a malaria medicine.
But this morning I think the president reiterated the hopefulness that he feels about this, that because these are medications that are time- honored and tested, they've been taken for many, many years, that we want to pursue, number one, making those available if someone's doctor believes that it's appropriate. The doctor would be able to prescribe that medicine even though that's not indicated. That's called an off- label use.
But the other piece is, as Dr. Fauci said, and I'll yield to him, in deploying those medicines, we were working specifically with one state to do so in a way that represents a clinical trial. So it would not just be compassionate use, which the medicines are already being used for in some jurisdictions today, but also we could study it and determine the viability of it. And, in fact, we're working diligently right now with that supply chain to make sure that those medicines are available.
Dr. Fauci, did you want to speak to that?
FAUCI: It is essentially what I said multiple times from this podium, is that when you have -- first of all, we're trying to develop de novo drugs that are not yet out there, not approved, that ultimately would be effective. And the way to prove that is to do a randomized controlled trial to prove safety and efficacy. I'm not totally sure what the president was referring to, but I believe he was referring to a report that used both hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin together to have a possibility of being in effect.
Many of the things that you have hear out there are what I had called anecdotal reports. They may be true, but they're anecdotal. So the only thing that I was saying is that if you really want to definitely know if something works, that you have to do the kind of trial that you get the good information.
The president is talking about hope for people. And it's not an unreasonable thing to hope for people. So when you have approved drugs that physicians have the option in a decision between the physician and the patient, are you going to use the drug that someone says from an anecdotal standpoint, not completely proven, but might have some effect, there are those who lean to the point of giving hope and saying give that person the option of having access to that drug. And then you have the other group, which is my job as a scientist, to say my job is to ultimately prove without a doubt that a drug is not only safe but that it actually works.
Those two things are really not incompatible when you think about that, particularly when you're in an arena where you don't have anything that's proven. We went through the same sort of thing with a little bit of a different twist during the HIV/AIDS epidemic until we finally developed drugs that were absolutely knock out drugs that were safe and that were effective. But in the beginning, there was that tension about that. So you really got to have a balance. I've got to do my job as a scientist, and others have other things to do.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Vice president?
PENCE: Let me just, if I may, let me just say, I hope this morning has been informative. We will be back again tomorrow. And I hope the American people are encouraged because of the incredible whole of government approach, because of our collaboration with states. You're seeing testing expanded all across the country.
That incredible public/private partnership with commercial labs is now making testing available by the tens of thousands. We're working very diligently with incredible response from American industry to make sure that personal protective equipment and ventilators and all the things that our health care providers need to meet this moment is there.
But let me just say again, what every American can do today. That is first and foremost, heed your state and local authorities. There are individual states, California, Washington state, and at this moment especially New York, that have issued guidance to their citizens, and as the president said, we wholly support the leadership that those governors are providing in their states.
But secondly, every single American can put into practice our principles of our 15 days to slow the spread. The president's coronavirus guidelines, as I said, we are six days in, and the purpose is not because every American is at risk of serious illness. As we said before, all our experts tell us, all our data shows that the risk of serious illness to the average American remains low.
But because the coronavirus is, we think, three times more contagious than the flu, to slow the spread, to literally lower that curve and spare Americans around our country with being exposed to or contracting the coronavirus, or worse, every single one of us can put these principles into practice.
I recommend that you go to coronavirus.gov and sit your family down. Call a neighbor and a friend. Support efforts in your local community to put these principles into practice. And as people all across this country continue to do just that, I just know we'll get through this and we'll get through it together. Thank you all.
WHITFIELD: All right, this was day six of the task force's 15 days to slow the spread of the coronavirus, and that briefing was quite the journey, covering a lot, and leaving a lot of unanswered questions as well. The president leaving just moments ago, seemingly very frustrated when pressed about the specificity of masks, respirators, ventilators, the availability of such, and the distribution. The president also being asked about when he learned of the threat of the pandemic and what was put into place.
What we did hear, we heard from Anthony Fauci who says we know we are having an impact. He also implored to people the importance of putting off cancer and elective medical procedures. Also we heard from the vice president who did confirm that a member of his staff did test positive, and he said that person had mild, cold-like symptoms, but has not been to the White House since Monday.
And out of an abundance of caution, the vice president as well as his wife will be tested later on this afternoon. And Dr. Fauci also saying that very soon he is moving, this administration is moving toward testing that may be self-administered.
I have got a host of people with us right now. White House reporter Jeremy Diamond who you heard there in the press conference pressing on the timeline for the availability of N95 masks. Elizabeth Cohen is with us as well. Shawn Turner, Arthur Caplan. Let's begin with you, Jeremy. Again, a rather contentious briefing. The president and the vice president, the task force trying to take a very optimistic approach but seemingly a little irritated from some of the questions about specificity.
JEREMY DIAMOND, CNN WHITE HOUSE REPORTER: Right. This is certainly a moment where we see the president wanting to tout all that his administration is doing right now. And they are doing a significant amount at the moment, trying to ramp up that capacity of N95 masks and get out more ventilators to health care providers.
But at the same time, and this is the question that I was really pressing on, is the matter of why this wasn't done sooner. And that is because we are already seeing from doctors across the country who are fighting this pandemic, we are already seeing in hospitals across the country that there are already shortages of medical supplies, of protective equipment, and even particularly in New York there is at least one hospital in the Bronx that is already reporting shortages of those ventilators that they need in order to keep those most severe cases, those individuals who are having trouble breathing, alive. And so that is why I was pressing there on this notion of why some of these things weren't done several weeks ago.
Again, the president was asked, also, about this Defense Production Act, which he did sign into effect a few days ago, but he has not actually used the authorities under that act to actually direct certain medical supply providers or mask providers to send masks to certain places or to direct other manufacturers to begin producing some of those critically needed supplies.
The president and his advisers here explaining that they believe that the current system that they are working with, using both the states to try and ask for some of this equipment, the federal government, this kind of patchwork system that they seem to think is the most effective at the moment. Again, the president has of course left open the possibility to using that act in the future to get some of that, but hasn't so far.
And then just one more thing, Fred, if I can, to talk about this issue with China, because the president, we have now heard him today perhaps in the starkest terms really criticizing China for not informing the United States soon enough about this coronavirus, about the possibility of this global pandemic. That is something that I've been hearing from advisers close to the president for several weeks now. But the president is only now catching up to that criticism, it seems.
And I asked the president specifically about a tweet that he issued in late January about a month after China actually learned about this coronavirus, and the president then was praising China's work to combat that epidemic and praising its transparency in that effort. And the president, I pressed him on that contrast given that today he is talking about them being secretive, at the end of January he was saying they were being incredibly transparent.
So again, it seems that the president now would like everybody to just focus on what his government is doing now, but those hard questions about what his administration did and did not do in the weeks leading up to this pandemic are of course crucial.
WHITFIELD: Part of his response to you is when he was in part praising China, saying China has worked very hard. China has gone through hell, but I wish they would have told us earlier. I found, Jeremy, one of the rather confusing portions was about the open market issue and FEMA's responsibility or delivery or availability of these N95 masks.
And the FEMA administrator said you can buy them on the open market. You can request them, meaning any state or locality, through FEMA. But at the same time, it is more successful that it's locally executed and state managed. And then the vice president chimed in saying, go to your store room, get your N95 masks and make it available to hospitals.
What are people supposed to walk away with? What kind of understanding from that messaging about the availability or whose responsibility or whether hospitals who don't have enough of those masks, how they'll actually get them?
DIAMOND: Yes. Well, the hope, I guess is that some of those hospitals that are actually experiencing the shortages know the correct routes to go through. We had the FEMA administrator here talking about how this is very similar, that it's the same mechanisms, essentially, as under a natural disaster, and that people should go to their state and then go to the regional FEMA administrator who then will bring it back, bring back that request to the FEMA's national headquarters here in Washington.
But, again, there was a question about the timeline of how long it will actually take to get some of those excess supply of masks that are in the strategic national stockpile, and also to get those masks that are being mass produced right now, both industrial masks and medical supply masks, how quickly they can actually get there. You actually had the president following up for one of the reporters who was asking that question, asking the FEMA administrator how long. And even the president couldn't get a specific answer.
Dr. Anthony Fauci, though, he did say that he hopes it will be a matter of days. But, again, no clear certainty here. And, certainly, we are going to continue to see a lot of these hospitals continue to experience some of those shortages, particularly because, again, we have not even hit the peak of this pandemic in the United States yet.
WHITFIELD: Right. The president seemingly frustrated, saying to the reporter Kelly O'Donnell, saying you know the answer to the question. You know it. And then Fauci chiming in, saying, it could be days.
All right, let me bring in some others here to help us understand all that we just witnessed. Elizabeth Cohen, Shawn Turner, Art Caplan. So Art, let me ask you about the frustration that many localities have expressed, hospitals have expressed about getting access to vital supplies here. If they were listening to this press conference, do they feel any more assured there will be access and that availability will come soon?
ARTHUR CAPLAN, PROFESSOR, NYU SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: Well, I have to say it depends on where you are. In the New York area, for example, no. They're already short. They're starting to see the surge. I'm getting lots and lots of communications, calls, and e-mails saying we don't have the equipment.
The masks aren't here. They don't want to hear that they're going to be here in a week or a month. They need them now. There are some doctors already getting sick, and so we're losing some of the workforce. Not that they're going to die. They are usually younger and in pretty good health.
But they're out of circulation for helping others. That puts stress on the manpower, not just the lack of beds and ventilators, but you don't have people to care for others. So I am really hearing concern about this.
And I'm getting a lot of questions, some from former students who say, am I going to go in there if I'm pregnant? Am I going to go in there if they don't give me the proper equipment? What is my moral duty? And I'm going to tell them, I do think they have a moral duty, but I also understand when somebody says, I'm pregnant as a nurse. They're not giving me the right protective gear. I'm not going in.
WHITFIELD: Shawn Turner, "The Washington Post" has reported that U.S. intelligence agencies were issuing ominous, classified warnings in January and February about the global danger posed by the coronavirus while President Trump and lawmakers play down the threat and fail to take action that might have slowed the spread of the pathogen according to U.S. officials familiar with this by agency reporting, this coming directly from "The Washington Post." The president was not excited about answering that question, was very
critical of "The Washington Post." What does this do to continue to either fracture the relationship between this administration and the intel community, undermine what intel community sources are telling "The Washington Post," how do you see it?
SHAWN TURNER, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Well, look, I think that we first have to start going back and looking at what the intelligence community has been saying for at least the last five years in the worldwide threat assessment. For the last five years running the directors of national intelligence have been saying that one of the most significant threats facing the country was the possibility of a pandemic.
And it's certainly the case that when, as we do we collect intelligence, when the United States intelligence community began to realize that there was something happening in China and that it was something that was significant and potentially could impact the United States and the rest of the world, the intelligence community would have had a responsibility to provide that information to the president.
I don't have any information to suggest whether the president actually acted on that information as soon as he received it or whether he was open to that information, but it is important to point out that that information would have been provided to him.
And the president's tone with regard to where this virus came from and what China did or did not do at the time is really unfortunate, Fred. There will be a time to look at process and to assess what happened here. But that time is not now. What the president really has to understand is no matter where the virus started, and it certainly could have started anywhere in the world, it's everyone's problem now. So the intelligence community is looking at this and trying to figure out, what can we do around the world to help deal with this?
The president has to understand this is his problem, this our problem now, and it's not a time for blaming the intelligence community or anyone else. It is a time for dealing with this issue directly.
WHITFIELD: And Elizabeth Cohen, Dr. Fauci seems to be in a very challenging position because, again, he wanted to reiterate that the president is coming from a very hopeful point of view when talking about the two medicinal therapies that the president tweeted about, but Fauci says it is important for him to continue to underscore this is anecdotal, that clinical trials are still necessary. This seems to be a very delicate balance for Anthony Fauci to talk about, the point of view from researchers in the medical community versus the president, his task force, from a political persuasion.
ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Right, exactly. So what Dr. Fauci was saying, Fred, is that you need to have two different ideas that seem like they're oppositional, but really they're not, two different ideas in your head at one time. On the one hand, of course we hope this treatment works. We really hope that it works. On the other hand, we need to see if it works, and it might not. It might not work or it might not be safe on these patients, or perhaps both of those things. Either or both of those things.
And we have to keep that in mind. We can't just say, as the president's tweet gives the feeling of, isn't this great. Well, it might be great. But it might not be great. And doctors like Dr. Fauci know that we get into trouble when we say oh, we hear it happened there. We hear it happened here.
We hear these anecdotes. Let's go full force. Let's give it to everybody. That is a mistake. This hydroxychloroquine drug, it is generally safe, but it can cause heart problems. It can cause serious eye problems. We want to make sure that we're not causing problems to these patients. We want to make sure that we're helping them.
WHITFIELD: All right, Elizabeth, Arthur, Shawn, we'll leave it there for now. Thank you so much. Appreciate it.
All right, and this breaking news into CNN, a positive case of coronavirus snarls air traffic in the New York area after multiple airports were ordered to ground all flights. We're live with the details next.
WHITFIELD: Welcome back. This breaking news out of New York, air traffic is snarled. CNN's Cristina Alesci is here with more. Cristina, what is the latest, what does this have to do with the coronavirus and someone testing positive?
CRISTINA ALESCI, CNN BUSINESS AND POLITICS CORRESPONDENT: We don't know exactly if it is connected to the coronavirus. The FAA issued temporary ground stops at several New York City airports. And, again, we don't know the reason quite yet. We're still trying to figure it out.
But what this illustrates is if it turns out that it is connected in any way to the coronavirus or anyone testing positive on those flights or on the ground or what have you, it really underscores the difficulties and the complexities of both operating flights and taking them in the age of the coronavirus. That's why we have had a virtual halt of domestic and international air travel through this.
Now, to underscore that point, last week a New York based air traffic controller trainee did test positive at one of the facilities, and as a result they had to clean that facility, do the contact tracing. And so this again is an example of how fraught with challenges air travel is for millions of Americans and for the operators, themselves.
WHITFIELD: All right, Cristina Alesci, thank you so much for that.
Meantime, in New Jersey the governor issuing a statewide stay-at-home order. He also is telling all nonessential retail businesses to close. That goes into effect at 9:00 tonight. Evan McMorris-Santoro is following the developments just from just across the river at the Javits Convention Center in New York. And of course, we heard earlier New York Governor Andrew Cuomo says that center will become a field hospital for New Yorkers. What more can you tell us about that?
EVAN MCMORRIS-SANTORO, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, that's right. If you know New York, you know that the Javits Center is a place where the city showcases things. It's a place where Hillary Clinton had her election night party. It's where the New York auto show is every year. And in the coming weeks or the coming days it may become the show case for this city's response to coronavirus.
Governor Cuomo said today in a press conference that this is one of four sites across the state he is going to turn into temporary emergency field hospitals. He said he can possibly put 1,000 beds here at the Javits center in an attempt to relieve some of that strain on this city's health system as the coronavirus works its way through the city.
WHITFIELD: And I think he said something like 250 beds perhaps could fit in a field office at the Javits Center. What about across the river, New Jersey, people will be ordered to stay home. What are all of the circumstances that we know?
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Just to be clear on the Javits Center thing, he said 1,000 beds here, and then other beds, other parts of the city and other places in the state.
WHITFIELD: Got it.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: When it comes to New Jersey, look -- no problem. When it comes to New Jersey, this is what we're dealing with now, part of this new normal. The governor said today that nonessential businesses are going to close down tonight at 9:00 p.m. So that means, look.
You can still leave your house. You need to buy gas. You need to buy groceries. Even liquor stores in New Jersey, convenience stores, places like that. But other businesses are going to close down at 9:00 for the foreseeable future. It is just part of that new normal that we're dealing with as we're learning as a country to deal with this social distancing and this quarantining.
WHITFIELD: Right, a whole new world, whole new normal as we know it for who knows how long. Evan McMorris-Santoro, thank you so much. Appreciate that.
MCMORRIS-SANTORO: Thank you.
WHITFIELD: Not a single continent, actually, has been left unscathed by the coronavirus. The number of global cases continues to rise, and yet the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, for now it's still on. Today crowds gathered there to welcome the arrival of the Olympic flame, and this comes amid growing calls for the Olympics to be postponed, including from some U.S. teams, including track and field. Meantime, in France footage there shows nearly deserted streets. This
is in Paris, usually bustling, now empty. The city, like many others, is in lockdown. And this comes amid concerns that there is a lack of medical supplies throughout that country, and hospitals there say they are overwhelmed, forcing the French Air Force to relocate patients in order to ease overcrowding. Extraordinary.
And then there is Spain. Much of the same. The country is now having to use military hospitals to keep up with the number of patients. Spain's health authorities report 5,000 new cases in just one day, and officials now warning that at least 80 percent of residents in Madrid are expected to get the virus. The government is responding by deploying 50,000 extra health workers and announcing millions in aid.
All right, here in this country the country's nurses are on the front lines of the battle against coronavirus, but they say they are not adequately equipped. From firsthand accounts we're hearing that there is a lack of medical supplies, protective gear, and ICU beds. President Trump has invoked the Defense Production Act, which would direct businesses to help. The legislation comes amid pleas from nurses on social media begging for the government to do more.
Here now is Sara Sidner.
SARA SIDNER, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Nurses and doctors from coast-to-coast are afraid and concerned.
CONSUELO VARGAS, ILLINOIS NURSE AND UNION MEMBER: I've been a registered nurse for over a decade. My hospital is in complete chaos and confusion in regards to COVID-19.
SIDNER: Do you feel like they were ready for this when it got to the United States?
CATHERINE KENNEDY, NURSE VP NATIONAL NURSES UNITED: No, absolutely not. They're still scrambling. We just don't have what we need.
SIDNER: Are you afraid for yourself and your patients?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Well, it's the first time in my entire career that I've ever been afraid, and I've heard other physicians say that they're afraid.
SIDNER: They are worried about how their hospitals and government are falling short as the coronavirus sweeps the nation. Experts warn, we're not even experiencing the worst of the pandemic yet.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A lot of hospitals are asking us to keep our mouths quiet.
SIDNER: This physician asked us to obscure her face and alter her voice because, she says, she believes she'll be fired for speaking out.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We don't have enough staff, we don't have enough protective equipment, and we have too many patients.
SIDNER: She works in Georgia. U.S. health officials are now asking doctors and nurses to do things they haven't had to do before.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're asked to reuse things, things that are used for one-time use only we're asked to use for the entire day, and then we save for the next day.
SIDNER: If you're being asked to reuse something over and over, going to different patients, aren't you putting patients and yourself at risk?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Absolutely.
SIDNER: In Roseville, California, Catherine Kennedy has been a registered nurse for 40 years.
KENNEDY: We are the front line. If we go down, we're furloughed home, who's going to take care of these patients?
SIDNER: They've never talked, but both agree their hospitals and government didn't properly prepare for a pandemic.
Some of the hospitals will say, look, we didn't know what this was either. This is new to us. How can you expect us to know what to do, how to prepare? What do you say to that?
KENNEDY: We were here before with Ebola. We had a protocol. And various hospitals were ready to utilize that same protocol that they did for Ebola. But the hospital said no. They didn't want to do that. And so then at the last minute they started scrambling.
SIDNER: But Kaiser Permanente, the hospital system Kennedy works for, said the procedure it's using to screen, test, and care for health care workers and patients suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19 are aligned with the latest science and guidance from public health authorities. These protocols and personal protective equipment have been reviewed and approved by their infectious disease experts and are in use by the major hospital systems. They said they're committed to ensuring healthcare workers have the right level of protective equipment.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I think these guidelines are irresponsible, and I think that they're playing with human lives knowingly.
SIDNER: You don't believe that it's OK to use different masks?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No. A bandanna is not made for particles of a virus. It's just a decorative item, maybe to keep pollution out a little bit. But it's not meant to protect from potentially lethal disease.
SIDNER: And then there are the fights over testing at some hospitals. Consuela Vargas is a registered nurse in a Chicago emergency room. She says she and other nurses were exposed to a potential COVID-19 patient at work, but days later they have not been tested. And they've not been told if the patient has tested positive.
VARGAS: So I'm supposed to return to work tomorrow. I don't know if I need to get swabbed. I don't know if I need to be off until we get the patient's test result back. I'm left wondering what to do.
SIDNER: Sara Sidner, CNN, Seattle, Washington.
ANA CABRERA, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon. You are live in the CNN NEWSROOM.