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White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; NYC Mayor: "Race Against Time" At Hospital Where 13 Died In 24 Hours; U.S. Coronavirus Death Toll Tops 1,100; Doctors Describe "Apocalyptic" Scenes At Hospital; House To Vote Tomorrow On $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill Passed By Senate; Gov. Says 17-Year-Old Died From Coronavirus In Louisiana. Aired 5-6p ET

Aired March 26, 2020 - 17:00   ET

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


(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[17:00:31]

WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Welcome to our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room" and we're following breaking news. We're standing by right now for -- excuse me -- a White House briefing on the coronavirus pandemic, as America marks a grim milestone passing 1,000 coronavirus deaths today. The number tonight up to more than 1,100 with more than 80,000 known cases. Worldwide, there are more than 511,000 reported cases right now and more than 23,000 deaths

As the epidemic continues to spread here in the United States, the President has told the nation's governors he'll be issuing new guidelines, easing social distancing in some areas, as part of his push to get the country back to work in the coming weeks. But his own health advisors have warned that loosening the guidelines before the virus is contained will worsen its spread. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease specialist told CNN, and I'm quoting now, you don't make the timeline, the virus makes the timeline, a direct quote from Dr. Fauci.

The situation is getting increasingly dire as hospitals in the hardest-hit areas are suffering right now. CNN's Nick Watt has the latest for us. Nick, there are some horrible stories coming out of hospitals in New York and elsewhere.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Absolutely, Wolf. Listen, if you are a hospital administrator and you're trying to save lives, you hate unknowns and you hate variables, and that is what people are dealing with here at Cedars-Sinai in LA. They serve about a million people, 40 locations and right now, they tell us they're dealing with supplies day by day. And it's a similar scene across this country.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

DR. COLLEEN SMITH, EMERGENCY ROOM DOCTOR, ELMHURST HOSPITAL: All the feet that you see, they all have COVID.

WATT (voice-over): And 13 died at this one New York hospital in one day.

SMITH: We had to get a refrigerated truck to store the bodies of patients who are dying. We are right now --

WATT (voice-over): "The New York Times" had a camera inside.

SMITH: I don't have the support that I need, and even just the materials that I need physically to take care of my patients and it's America.

WATT (voice-over): CNN has reached out to Elmhurst Hospital for official comment on the statements of this doctor.

SMITH: Leaders in various offices, from the president to the head of Health and Hospitals saying things like, we're going to be fine, everything's fine. And from our perspective, everything is not fine.

WATT (voice-over): New York Governor says there is enough protective equipment for now, but distribution might be stopped and start

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): You cannot get the curve down low enough so that you don't overwhelm the hospital capacity.

WATT (voice-over): New York State has, by far, the most confirmed cases right now. But they've also done by far the most testing. 25 percent of the national total, says the governor. So everywhere else.

DR. ALEXANDER SALERNO, PRIMARY CARE PHYSICIAN: I think it could be as much as one and three walking around asymptomatic right now.

WATT (voice-over): Hence, more than half the country ordered stay home to slow spread. The first confirmed case in the U.S. was January 21, Washington State. About a month later, the President said this.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're going down, not up. We're going very substantially down, not up.

WATT (voice-over): That day, there were 56 cases. Today, more than 80,000 cases in every single state. According to a CNN tally.

Down in Miami, starting Friday night at 10:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m. curfew, that city council debate looked like this.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: For the record, the motion passed unanimously, 50.

WATT (voice-over): Over in Louisiana, a spike, more than 500 new cases and 18 deaths in one day. The word from New Orleans city that was 80 percent submerged by Hurricane Katrina 15 years ago.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This is affecting everyone, really. This is going to be the disaster that's going to define our generation.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: And the next generation is stepping up. We've heard that around 70 students at New York med school have agreed to graduate early so they will begin their internships in April, not in July. And we just heard from the mayor of New York 40 additional ventilators, Wolf, have now been sent to that hospital in Queens that we featured at the top of that story.

[17:05:03]

BLITZER: We are so grateful to all those doctors and nurses out there. Nick Watt, thank you very, very much.

Let's go to the White House right now. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta is joining us. Jim, President Trump is pushing to get the country back to work sooner than a lot of the health experts think is safe. What's the latest?

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf. President Trump has told the nation's governors in a letter that the administration is working on new guidelines that would help state and local leaders come up with new social distancing measures in the weeks ahead. The letter says counties across the U.S. will be designated high risk, medium risk or low risk depending on their exposure to the virus. But we are learning that not all Coronavirus Task Force members had seen Mr. Trump's letter to the governors before the letter was released.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): In the clearer sign yet, he intends to reopen parts of the U.S. in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic, President Trump is moving toward relaxing the nation's social distancing measures. In a letter to the nation's governors, the President said the administration is drafting new guidelines for maintaining, increasing or relaxing social distancing. The plan to classify counties with respect to continued risk posed by the virus, high risk, medium risk and low risk.

TRUMP: Large sections of country probably can go back much sooner than other sections. And we're obviously looking at that also. People are asking, is that an alternative? I say, absolutely, it is an alternative.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The proposal may be at odd with what administration health experts like Dr. Anthony Fauci have been urging, a go-slow approach.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You don't make the timeline. The virus makes the timeline.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Not to mention, both Democrats and Republicans who have been pleading with the President to listen to these scientists.

REP. NANCY PELOSI (D-CA): It won't happen unless we respect science, science, science. And for those who say we choose prayer over science, I say science is an answer to our prayers. ACOSTA (voice-over): President is under pressure to reignite the economy after nearly 3.3 million Americans filed unemployment claims last week, the highest number on record. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin tried to downplay the staggering figure as only a temporary setback.

STEVE MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: I just think these numbers right now are not relevant. And, you know, whether they're bigger or smaller in the short term, you know -- I mean, obviously, there are people who have jobless claims. And again, the good thing about this bill is the President is protecting those people.

ACOSTA (voice-over): The top administration officials have been wrong before, like when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross predicted the coronavirus would be good for the economy earlier this year.

WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America.

ACOSTA (voice-over): Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell says Americans will just have to write it out.

JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We may well be in a recession. But, again, I would point to the difference between this and a normal recession. This isn't -- there's nothing fundamentally wrong with our economy.

ACOSTA (voice-over): To give the economy a jolt, the Senate passed the $2 trillion stimulus bill unanimously with a House vote expected Friday. But some local officials like Washington D.C.'s Mayor are outraged over how the aid is being allocated.

MAYOR MURIEL BOWSER (D-WA): The district will only receive $500 million while every other state will receive a direct payment of at least $1.25 billion.

ACOSTA (voice-over): In a sign of "The Times", President Trump met with world leaders in the G20 over a video conference call instead of in person to discuss ways to combat the virus. Dr. Fauci said people around the world simply have to adjust to life in the era of social distancing.

FAUCI: It's not convenient to lock yourself in. It's not convenient to not do the kinds of things. It's not convenient for you not to be played basketball. But we're going through a period of time now where we've got it as a country, pull together.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: Now as for the administration's plan to relax some of the social distancing guidelines in certain areas of the country, the President may find that some of these governors and mayors are unwilling to follow his lead that may suit White House officials just fine as they -- so the President, are eager to distance Mr. Trump from the political fallout of the virus. Wolf?

BLITZER: All right. Jim Acosta at the White House for us, thank you.

Joining us now, the New Orleans Mayor, LaToya Cantrell. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. I know these are really difficult, very hard times for you, for everyone in New Orleans, especially Louisiana, as you know, has now reported more than 500 additional cases of coronavirus since yesterday. Is it realistic for the President to suggest that lower risk areas should now relax their social distancing measures?

MAYOR LATOYA CANTRELL (D-LA): Absolutely not. Relaxing the social distancing measures will take us back and not move us forward. You know, when you're in the middle of the river going back, it's just as important as moving forward, so we might as well move forward. And as we see residents are complying with the stay home mandates.

[17:10:02]

And we're also seeing an uptick in testing, an uptick in the results. And also that will allow us not only to analyze data, but to have a better understanding of trends as well as where our curve is, so that we can continue and move forward with flattening the curve. That's what will get the economy going.

BLITZER: Experts say, Mayor, that the Mardi Gras celebrations at the end of February in New Orleans, may have actually played a role in accelerating the spread of this virus. More than a million people came to your beautiful city at the time. We're showing some video of that right now. At the time, Mayor, did you have any guidance from health experts on the potential risk of coronavirus?

CANTRELL: Well, you know that the city of New Orleans as it relates to Mardi Gras, we plan Mardi Gras it's a year long effort. And a part of our unified command is the federal government, Homeland Security as well as FBI. So in reaching out, meaning my health directors and public safety officials, every step of the way consulted with federal partners as well as the CDC in reference to COVID-19.

The federal government did not issue any red flags, and therefore, we move forward with federal agents being a part of our unified command on the ground. And with the first time, the city of New Orleans for Mardi Gras, we were at a SEER-two rating. That was an improvement given to us by the federal government. So, every step of the way, the federal government has been partners with us with Mardi Gras. No red flags weer given. So absolutely, we move forward.

BLITZER: Yes, you certainly did. I'll ask you the same question I asked your Governor yesterday with hindsight and we're all obviously a lot smarter with hindsight. Do you think Mardi Gras should have been canceled or postponed this year?

CANTRELL: Well, with -- if red flags were given, I would say at the federal level, leadership matters. And so while I was the first in the state of Louisiana to stop social gatherings, I had to cancel the St. Patrick's Day Parade. You know, all hell broke loose when I did that, but it was necessary. So given data, allowing a science to lead us, it does matter. And leaders on the ground, we rely on the facts to make decisions for the people that we serve. Given no red flags, we move forward. In hindsight, if we were given clear direction, we would not have had Mardi Gras and I would have been the leader to cancel.

BLITZER: Yes, I know that. I guess the reports are that within a week or two after Mardi Gras, all of a sudden the cases started emerging in Louisiana.

CANTRELL: Yes.

BLITZER: Obviously, that's very disturbing. I will point out that we did some checking back on February 12. The CDC, Dr. Nancy Messonnier said, and I'm quoting her now, we can and should be prepared for this new virus to gain a foothold in the United States. But you're saying no one from the federal government came to you and urge you to at least cancel or postpone Mardi Gras.

CANTRELL: That's absolutely correct. And not only that, it was backed up with the response of our national leader. When it's not taken seriously, at the federal level, it's very difficult to transcend down to the local level in making these decisions. But when the experts told me that social gatherings would be an issue, I move forward with cancelling them as well as St. Patrick's Day Parade, as well as our Super Sunday where our Mardi Gras Indians' parade, the suits that they've made, you know, all year long. So, this is something that not only concerns us but it sets the tone for how leadership matters at every level of government in the United States of America where mayors are on the front line.

BLITZER: Yes, you certainly are. We're grateful to you, Mayor. Your state's Governor John Bel Edwards just announced that a 17-year old, a 17-year old --

CANTRELL: Yes.

BLITZER: -- has died of this virus in Louisiana. Our hearts, of course, go out to his family. It's unclear if there were underlying health conditions, if they were at play, but what does that tell you about the risk of the of this virus, the risk it poses?

CANTRELL: Well, the risks are real. And we need to not only pay attention, but also continue to use social distancing practices, as well as the stay home mandates. They are working, they will work, but it will take time for us to be able to analyze the data and to determine where the curve is so we can continue to flatten that curve.

My heart goes out to all of our families who have been impacted, the 46 people who have died, the 17-year old, and even when we were saying that, you know, only seniors or older individuals can come down with the virus.

[17:15:11]

Clearly we've been proven, that's been proven wrong. But all of our people are at risk. And it's up to us to do everything that we can to protect our vulnerable, our young and our old.

BLITZER: Yes, well said indeed. Mayor, thank you so much for joining us. The New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Good luck to you. Good luck to everyone in your beautiful city. Appreciate it very much.

CANTRELL: Thank you so much. Thank you.

BLITZER: And to our viewers, stay with CNN later tonight for a live global town hall coronavirus facts and fears. Our own -- yes, our own Sanjay Gupta and Anderson Cooper will host Dr. Anthony Fauci. And Bill Gates will join them later tonight, that's at 8:00 p.m. Eastern.

And stay with us here this hour. We're going to have live coverage of the White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the briefing room. The President will walk in, make a statement, others will be there. They'll take questions.

Our special coverage will continue. We'll also have more from a doctor's truly harrowing videos of a hospital overwhelmed with coronavirus patients.

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[17:20:34]

BLITZER: We're standing by for today's White House briefing. Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force will come into that briefing room. The President has already announced he will be there. I assume he's going to be asked to explain his new proposal to categorize all the counties in the United States is either high risk, medium risk or low risk for the virus. We'll have live coverage of that coming up.

And it comes amid a time when we're hearing some very disturbing stories about the horrific conditions inside various hospitals here in the United States. Brian Todd has a closer look at what's happening on the front lines of the fight to save lives. Brian, what are you finding out?

BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a short time ago, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio called one besieged hospital in that city, Elmhurst, the epicenter within the epicenter. And he said the city is rushing vital supplies to that hospital to save lives. Still, officials and doctors at that hospital and others especially in the New York City area, say that they're living on the edge right now.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SMITH: All the feet that you see, they all have COVID.

TODD (voice-over): Dr. Colleen Smith says she doesn't care if she gets in trouble for taking this footage and sharing it with the media. Smith is an E.R. doctor at Elmhurst Hospital in Queens, one of the hardest-hit facilities treating coronavirus patients in New York City.

The video she took which she sent to "The New York Times" shows an overloaded emergency room. Patients lining up outside and a refrigerator truck which she says the hospital had to get to store the bodies of patients who died.

SMITH: I don't have the support that I need. And even just the materials that I need physically to take care of my patients, and it's America. And we're supposed to be a first world country.

TODD (voice-over): Smith told "The Times" on a regular day prior to the outbreak, her E.R. would see about 200 people. Now it's about twice that. She filmed a new shipment of ventilators Elmhurst had just received from another hospital.

SMITH: Five, five ventilators. Oh my god.

TODD (voice-over): Staffers at Elmhurst described the scenes at that hospital to "The Times" as apocalyptic and said calls over a loudspeaker of "Team 700". The code for when a patient is in danger of dying, comes several times on each shift.

CNN has reached out to Elmhurst Hospital for a response to Dr. Smith's video and comments. The hospital has not replied, but in a previous statement, they said they are working hard to meet demand. But caregivers at other New York area hospitals are also worried and are talking about it.

Dr. Meredith case, an internal medicine resident at Columbia's Presbyterian Medical Center tweeted yesterday. "Today was the worst day anyone has ever seen, but tomorrow will be worse. Meredith We are on the precipice of rationing." Dr. Susannah Hills, a head and neck surgeon at the same hospital, tell CNN she believes it's inevitable she is going to be exposed to coronavirus.

DR. SUSANNAH HILLS, HEAD & NECK SURGEON, COLUMBIA PRESBYTERIAN MEDICAL CENTER: In my department, the procedures that we do are procedures that tend to aerosolize the virus or emit particles into the air. And that's particularly high risk for exposure.

TODD (voice-over): Some hospital staffers seem on the verge of breaking. A nurse at a Long Island hospital who treated coronavirus patients posted on social media, "I cried in the bathroom on my break. I cried the entire ride home".

SMITH: We don't have the tools that we need in the emergency department and in the hospital to take care of them and it's really hard.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

TODD: Another doctor, a pulmonary specialist at a prominent Boston hospital says she's scared right now of sharing the same air in a room with coronavirus patients. She says she goes in does only what she absolutely needs to do and then leaves. She says she can't even spend a few moments reassuring patients, which, of course, Wolf, leads to the overwhelming feelings of isolation for patients and doctors alike.

BLITZER: Yes. These health care professionals are real, real heroes right now under awful circumstances. Brian Todd reporting for us. Thank you, Brian, very much.

Let's turn to our medical and political experts as we await to the start of today's White House coronavirus briefing. And Sanjay Gupta, based on the dire accounts we just heard, and we're hearing a lot of them from hospitals on the front line right now, how can the American medical system avoid actually collapsing as this crisis grows exponentially worse and worse and worse?

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, I think, you know, lots of very tough decisions may need to get made, I mean, to prevent that collapse from happening.

[17:25:04]

I mean, you know, there's going to be a situation where you're going to have a higher demand than supply in all sorts of areas. You name it, right? I mean, the equipment such as ventilators, the personal protective gear, testing, but also the manpower. I mean, you know, respiratory therapists who are actually making those ventilators work, you need someone to do that, doctors, nurses obviously.

And then if people get sick, or as I think you're saying as well, Wolf, people are afraid that they're going to get sick because they don't have enough personal protective equipment. They're afraid that they're going to go home and then make their family members infected. It's really tough. It's not just the physical risk to themselves, but to their families and to their communities. So, it's -- tough decisions are going to have to get made, Wolf.

BLITZER: And worse -- this briefing is about to begin. But Dr. William Jaquis, I just want to ask you, are physicians trained on how to ration life-saving medical equipment like ventilators, potentially choosing between who lives and who dies?

DR. WILLIAM JAQUIS, PRESIDENT, AMERICAN COLLEGE OF EMERGENCY PHYSICIANS: No, Wolf, they're not. I mean, that's not something we face very much before. You know, we certainly face those issues with life and death and for a single patient when there might be a decision to be made in life and death. But we've never been in a situation that I can recall.

And I don't think anybody I've spoken to could either is the point where we've had to do that for several people and take somebody that normally we would continue to ventilate and now we have to remove that ventilator from them, or trying to decide who among them even gets on the ventilator. It's very, very depressing too many of our physicians in a very difficult situation.

BLITZER: And we see Dr. Anthony Fauci is now on the podium there and Ambassador Deborah Birx, the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator. The two of them are there. I assume the President and the Vice President will be walking out very, very soon. President will open with a statement, he wrote a letter today to all the nation's governors saying he wants to -- the latest data to show which counties in the United States are in high risk, which are at medium risk, which are low risk. Here comes the President and the Vice President. Let's listen then.

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

Beautiful day. Very good, what you're doing, look at all those empty seats. Never seen it like that. Oh, boy. How the world has changed. How the world has changed, right? But it's going to end up being better than ever.

I want to thank you very much for being here and I'd like to update you on the steps we're taking on our ongoing fight to defeat the virus. This morning at 7:55 a.m., I spoke to the leaders of the G-20, had a great meeting and we have a lot of different ideas, a lot of good ideas, we're working together. The leaders gathered virtually around the world to discuss the whole subject of the problem that right now a 151 nations have got.

We had President Alberto Fernandez of Argentina, Prime Minister Scott Morrison of Australia, President Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau of Canada, President Xi of China, President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany, Prime Minister Modi of India, President Widodo of Indonesia, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte of Italy, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe of Japan.

Congratulations to Japan, on making a great decision on the Olympics. We're going to make it next year, 2021. President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador of Mexico. I want to thank the President of Mexico for having done such a great job with respect to the military. We have 27,000 Mexican soldiers on our southern border and very few people are getting through, I can tell you that. And we got to keep it that way.

And we have a great relationship with Mexico now. President Putin of Russia, King Salman of Saudi Arabia, President Ramaphosa of South Africa, President Moon of, as you know, a country that we spend a lot of time in, South Korea. We're working very hard on that. Prime Minister Sanchez of Spain, President Erdogan of Turkey, Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Council -- Charles Michel, United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres, World Health Organization Director Tedros Adhanom, World Bank President David Malpass, and the International Monetary Fund Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva.

[17:30:00]

So that's a big group, but it's a great group. It's a -- and they were all there, every one of them. And we talked about the problem and hopefully it won't be a problem for too much longer. The United States is working with our friends and partners around the world to stop the spread of the virus and coordinate our efforts. We discussed how vitally important it is for all of our nations to immediately share information and data. And we've been doing that to a large extent, but we'll do it even more so.

And to inform our -- I guess you could say, inform each of us on the fight that we've got going one way or the other, it's a little bit different, but we're handling it a little bit in different ways. But there is great uniformity. I think, we had -- it was a terrific meeting, tremendous spirit among all of those countries. You had 20 countries plus the other people that I mentioned, and a tremendous spirit to get this over with.

After the meeting with the world leaders, I spoke with the governors of our 50 states and territories. Our team has been in constant communication with the governors and we had a terrific meeting. Somebody in the fake news said that one of the governors said, oh, we need Tom Brady. I said, yes. He meant that in a positive way. He said, we need Tom Brady. We're going to do great and he meant it very positively, but they took it differently. They think Tom Brady should be leading the effort.

That's only fake news, and I like Tom Brady, spoke to him the other day. He's a great guy. But I wish the news could be real, I wish it could be honest, I wish it weren't corrupt, but so much of it is. It's so sad to see. Just so sad to see. We had a great meeting. I'll tell you what, I'm sure you have tapes of the meeting. I'm sure that you were able to get tapes very easily, see it 50 governors plus.

And if you had tapes you'd see it was really, I mean, there was no contention, I would say virtually none. I would say maybe one person that was a little tiny bit of a raising of a voice, a little wise guy a little bit, but he's usually a big wise guy, not so much anymore. We saw to it that he wouldn't be so much anymore, but he is -- we had -- I, mean I would rate, Mike was there, a lot of the folks in the back were there, and it was a great meeting. Took place at about 12:00.

So we went from the G20 to the governors. We also spoke about the economic relief with the governors and the package that we're moving through Congress to deliver much needed financial assistance to hardworking families and small businesses. I want to thank the Democrats and Republicans in the Senate for unanimously passing the largest financial relief package in American history, 96 to zero, and I have to say it's the largest by far. And I'm profoundly grateful that both parties came together to provide relief for American workers and families in this hour of need.

The House of Representatives must now pass this bill, hopefully without delay. I think it's got tremendous support when you're at 96 to nothing. And, as you know, a couple of those people are quarantined and one, Ryan Paul, he's actually got it, but he'll be better. He's been a great guy. He's been a great friend of mine actually.

The massive $2.2 trillion relief package includes job retention loans for small businesses with loan forgiveness available for businesses that keep their workers on the payroll, it's pretty good. Loan forgiveness, keep the workers on the payroll, that's pretty good. Direct cash payments will be available to American citizens earning less than $99,000 per year. $3,400 for the typical family of four. Expanded unemployment benefits, the average worker who has lost his or her job will receive 100 percent of their salary for up to four full months.

These are things that -- by the way, we have plenty more to go and -- but there are things that nobody's ever had any package like this done, and I just want to thank them. Hopefully, it'll get approved equally easily in the House. Really, I think it will go through pretty well from what I hear, virtually everybody.

[17:35:10]

There could be one vote, one vote, one grand stander maybe, you might have one grand stander. And for that we'll have to come back and take a little more time, and it'll pass, it'll just take a little longer. But let's see whether or not we have a grand stander. Critical support for the hardest-hit industries with a ban on corporate stock buybacks and tough new safeguards to prevent executive compensation abuse.

Over $100 billion for our amazing doctors, nurses and hospitals, $45 billion for the disaster relief fund, more than doubling the amount available, this is tremendous stuff. $27 billion for the coronavirus response, including $16 billion to build up the strategic national stockpile, with critical supplies, including masks, respirators, and all sorts of pharmaceuticals. $3.5 billion to expand assistance to childcare providers and childcare, the benefits to healthcare workers, first responders and others on the front lines of the crisis, and these are really brave, incredible people I have to say. And some of them are getting sick, and some of them are getting very sick, and some of them don't even recover. They're incredible people.

$1 billion for Defense Production Act procurement. We are, as you know, using the act, but we use it only when necessary. We use it as leverage, we generally don't have to use it to accomplish what we want to accomplish. As of today, FEMA has shipped over 9 million N95 masks, 20 million face masks, 3.1 million face shields, nearly 6,000 ventilators, 2.6 million gowns, 14.6 million gloves, and we're sending more every day and we've got tremendous amounts of equipment coming in.

A lot of great companies are making equipment right now. The ventilators, obviously, they take a little longer to make, but we have a lot of companies making them. And we're going to be in great shape. We took over an empty shelf. We took over a very depleted place in a lot of ways. As you know, the testing is going very, very well, and that was obsolete and broken and we fixed it, and it's been going really good.

And I think very importantly, the stockpile, we're really filling it up and we fill it up rapidly. But we get it out, sometimes we have it sent directly to the states instead. And again, the state has to be doing this kind of a thing also. We're sort of a -- we look from behind a little bit and we look at how are they doing and if they need help, we do it, but it's their first responsibility. Sometimes they just can't get it, but we load it up and we send it out, but if we can, we have it sent directly to the state. We want it to go directly to the point where we want it.

I can now announce something that I think is incredible, what they've done in the Navy, because the incredible Naval hospital ship, the USNS Comfort, which is incredible actually when you see it inside, will be underway to New York city on Saturday. So it's going to be leaving on Saturday rather than three weeks from now. They did the maintenance quickly and it was going to be there for quite a while longer, another three or four weeks, and it should be arriving.

I told the Governor 20 minutes ago, Governor Cuomo, that the ship will be arriving at New York Harbor on Monday. I think I'm going to go out and I'll kiss it goodbye. I'll go to -- it's in Virginia as you know, and I will go and we'll be waving together, because I suspect the media will be following. Johnny (ph), you going to be following? Maybe, you never know, huh?

JOHNNY: I have concerns, a very important vessel.

TRUMP: Great ship. It's a great vessel, that's right. So if you want to go, I'll see you there, and if you don't, that's OK. After being fully loaded with medical supplies, it's going to be, it's loaded up to the top and it's over at the Norfolk Naval Base, that's where it departs. It is expected then to, I mean, we're saving about three to four weeks by the incredible work done by the Navy, and I actually look forward to Saturday to see it go.

The ship will arrive and I believe it's going to get a little bit of a ceremony. There's something very beautiful about it. It's an incredible piece of work. Going to be landing at Pier 90 in Manhattan to provide hospital surge capacity for the New York metropolitan area, so it's a surge capacity.

[17:40:01]

They may use it for this or they may have other people coming in from hospitals unrelated to the virus and then they'll use those hospitals on land. They'll use those hospital for the virus, but we'll see how they do it. They could do it either way, one way or the other, whichever one is best. But it could be, because it's set up so well for a regular hospital, that they may take people out of hospitals and then use those rooms for the virus.

The National Institute of Health and the private sector, working closely with the FDA, continue to collaborate to discover and test treatments and therapies that can effectively reduce the duration and symptoms of the virus and help, very much help, people to recover. And I'm firmly committed to bringing these treatments to market very quickly. We have a lot of tests going on with regard to different medicines, and I hope we get lucky. I hope we hit -- a lot of talented scientists and doctors are working on therapeutics, a cure, vaccines. I think we're doing very well.

Tony may speak to that a little bit later, but I think we're doing very well with regard to the vaccines. I think we're doing well with regard to a lot of the things I just mentioned, but we'll have to see what happens. We're going to know fairly soon about a lot of them.

But it's very advanced and the vaccines are very advanced prior to, as you know, a fairly reasonably long test period of, in that case, over a year. Every American should be proud of the incredible spirit our country has brought to this effort. It's been incredible. Citizens from all walks of life have come together to turn the tide in this battle. We're witnessing the extraordinary power of American unity like a lot of people have never seen, even getting a vote. You're talking about trillions of dollars and you get a vote of 96 to nothing.

We are waging war on this virus using every financial, scientific, medical, pharmaceutical and military resource to halt its spread and protect our citizens. I want to express our tremendous thanks to the American people for continuing to practice social distancing like you people are practicing right here. I don't know, this room may never be the same. Maintaining good hygiene and follow government guidelines. Vice President Pence lifts up that card every time, and it's not very complicated, but hopefully you can do that.

And your commitment will make all the difference in the world, and that's one of the big ones will be for awhile, stay home. Just relax, stay home. Making a lot of progress as we continue to gather more information and accelerate the testing where we're doing record numbers of tests now, far more than any other country has done.

I told you yesterday, eight days here, because you heard so much about South Korea, the media kept of talking South Korea, South Korea. We have a great relationship with President Moon and South Korea. But when I hear so much about South Korea, so in eight days, in eight days, we do more testing than they did in eight weeks, and it's a very highly sophisticated test. We'll be able to deploy even more data- driven and targeted approaches to slow the -- ultimately, you know, it's a very devastating thing, but we will vanquish this virus, and it's -- a lot of progress has been made.

That's why earlier today I sent a letter to Americas governors describing how we will be using the data to update existing guidance on social distancing, which will be developed in close coordination with our nation's public health officials and scientists. Because of the sacrifices of our great doctors and nurses and healthcare professionals, the brilliance of our scientists and researchers, and the goodness and generosity of our people, I know that we will achieve victory and quickly return to the path of exceptional health, safety and prosperity for all of our citizens.

We have to get back to work. Our people want to work, they want to go back. They have to go back and we're going to be talking about dates, we're going to be talking with a lot of great professionals. But this is a country that was built on, getting it done and our people want to go back to work. I'm hearing it loud and clear from everybody, so we'll see what happens.

We're going to have a lot more information early next week and we'll be reporting that back, but I just want to leave it with you. We have to go back. This is the United States of America. They don't want to sit around and wait and they'll be practicing. And by the way, a lot of people misinterpret when I say go back.

[17:45:04]

They're going to be practicing, as much as you can, social distancing and washing your hands and not shaking hands, and all of the things that we talk about so much. But they have to go back to work. Our country has to go back. Our country is based on that. And I think it's going to happen pretty quickly. I think it's going to happen pretty quickly. A lot of progress is made, but we got to go back to work.

We may take sections of our country, we may take large sections of our country that aren't so seriously affected and we may do it that way, but we've got to start the process pretty soon. So we'll be talking to you a little bit more about that next week.

And with that, if you have any questions you could ask. And then I'm going to have Vice President stay behind and he's going to take questions and also introduce some of the people. You can ask them some questions. John, please.

JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President, unemployment numbers out today, 3.3 million.

TRUMP: Yes.

ROBERTS: I take it not a surprise.

TRUMP: No, not at all.

ROBERTS: But still a staggering number. I wonder about your perspective on that.

TRUMP: Well, it's a nobody's fault, certainly not in this country. Nobody's fault. We got very lucky when we made a decision not to allow people in from China at a very early date. I say that because some people don't want to accept it, but this was a great decision made by our country. Or the numbers that you're talking about, we're a big country, it'd be far greater, far, far bigger.

So when I heard the number, I mean, I heard it could be 6 million, could be 7 million. It's 3.3 or 3.2, but it's a lot of jobs. But I think we'll come back very strong. The sooner we get back to work, you know, every day that we stay out, it gets harder to bring it back very quickly. And our people don't want to stay out.

So I know those numbers, John, but I think you'll see a very fast turnaround once we have a victory over the hidden enemy, as I say, it's a hidden enemy. Sometimes a hidden enemy is a lot tougher than somebody that stares you in the face, right? So we'll see what happens. But, I mean, they're fully expected numbers, at least. I mean, at least. Steve, please.

STEVE HOLLAND, WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT, REUTERS: The U.S. proposal to deploy some troops along the Canadian border --

TRUMP: Yes.

HOLLAND: -- and Prime Minister Trudeau is complaining about that. Why is that necessary?

TRUMP: Well, we have very strong deployments on the Southern border, as you know, with Mexico. And we had some troops up in Canada, but I'll find out about that. I guess it's equal justice to a certain extent. But in Canada, we have -- we do have troops along the border.

You know, we have a lot of things coming in from Canada. We have trade, some illegal trade that we don't like. We have very strong sanctions on some, we have very strong tariffs on dumping steel. And we don't like steel coming through our border that's been dumped in Canada so they can avoid the tariff.

You know, I charge a lot of tariff for the steel, and it's been great for our steel companies because now they can really go. You look at what's happened with steel, it's been pretty incredible. But we've taken in billions and billions of dollars in tariffs on steel, and much of it comes in from China, but they can come through the Canadian border too, so we're always watching for that.

HOLLAND: I'm reading the numbers correctly, the United States now has surpassed China as the country with the highest number of virus cases. Does this surprise you at all? Is it following a predictable trajectory?

TRUMP: No, I think it's a tribute to our testing. You know, number one, you don't know what the numbers are in China. China tells you numbers. And I'm speaking to President Xi tonight, I believe that we'll have a good conversation, I'm sure. But you just don't know, you know, what are the numbers.

But I think it's a tribute to the testing. We're testing tremendous numbers of people. And every day, the way the system works -- and I want to thank especially, Roche has been fantastic, a great company. They've done a tremendous amount -- Deborah was telling me before that they were really -- they've really stepped up to the plate and done great, as have other of the companies. But it seems that they're really doing it particularly well.

So, you know, we'll see what happens there. But it's a tribute to the amount of testing that we're doing. We're doing tremendous testing. And I'm sure you're not able to tell what China is testing or not testing, and I think that's a little hard.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And Mr. President, on the 3.3 jobless claims, you just suggested it could be six to seven million. A lot of those workers --

TRUMP: No, I didn't say that. No, you're wrong. I didn't say that. I said some people were projecting that it would be six or seven and it's, I believe, 3.3.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It came at 3.3.

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Millions of Americans out of work, some of them will be losing their insurance. What's your plan to make sure, through no fault of your own, as you just mentioned, if they stay insured? Are you willing to plus up the subsidies for some of the exchanges under Obamacare, expand Medicaid? What's being considered?

[17:50:03]

TRUMP: So, well, I mean, the things I just read to you are being considered and other things are being considered. People are going to be getting big checks and it's not their fault. What happened to them is not their fault.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But for their health --

TRUMP: So we're doing a lot of different things on health insurance. We have meetings on it today. We're taking care of our people. This is not their fault what happened, and we're taking care of. We're starting off by sending them very big checks. I think for a family of four, it's about $3,000.

And we're taking care of our people, we're taking care of our workers. This was not -- you know, as I say, this was not a financial crisis. This was a health crisis, a medical crisis. We're going to take care of our people. Please. Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The National Restaurant Association came out --

TRUMP: Restaurant.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: -- with the survey this morning saying that 3 percent of all restaurants in this country have shuttered for good in the past three weeks. And the projection is that 11 percent more are going to close in the next 30 days. So, what do you say to a restaurant owner who is looking at his sheets and thinks he has to close within the next 30 days?

TRUMP: Well, I hate to -- I know the business very well. I understand the restaurant business is a very delicate business. It's a business that is not easy. You know, I always say, in a restaurant business, you can serve 30 great meals to a person or a family and they love it.

One bad meal, number 31, they never come back again. It's a very tough business, but they're great people that run restaurants. And I've heard 3 percent could be lost and you could go as high as 10 percent or 11 percent, but they'll all come back in one form or another. It might be a different restaurant, but it's going to be a great business for a lot of people.

And we're making it easy for people to -- look, what we're doing in terms of loans, what we're doing in terms of salaries, they'll all come back. It may not be the same restaurant, may not be the same ownership, but they'll all be back. Yes, sir, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You mentioned the pledges from American companies to provide supplies, but as we top 81,000 cases in the U.S., does it make sense to re-look at using the Defense Production Act?

TRUMP: Well, I talked about the Defense Production Act a lot and I've, you know, I've enacted it. I have it. I can do it with a pen. And we have actually used it on two minor occasions, and then we could withdraw it. But for the most part, the companies, we don't need it. We say we need this and they say, don't bother, we're going to do it. I mean, we're dealing with Ford, General Motors, 3M, we're dealing with great companies. They want to do this, they want to do this. They're doing things that, frankly, they don't need somebody to walk over there with a hammer and say, do it. They are getting it done. They're making tremendous amounts of equipment, tremendous amounts. And when this is over, we're going to be fully stockpiled, which they would have never been except for a circumstance.

This was something that nobody has ever thought could happen to this country. I'm not even blaming. Look, we inherited a broken situation, but I don't totally blame the people that were before me and this administration. Nobody would have ever thought a thing like this could have happened.

But the Production Act, Defense Production Act is a wonderful thing, but I just haven't had to use it. They know it's activated. They know I can use it. Maybe that frightens them a little bit. You know, it's got tremendous power, but I haven't had to. Please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. A question for me and then another question, if you'll let me, for some of my colleagues who are social distancing.

TRUMP: Go ahead. Where are they? They were all outside trying to get in. I know.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The first question has to do with a cruise liners like Carnival and Royal Caribbean.

TRUMP: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They want this relief aid, but they're worried because they offshored to places like Panama and Liberia, they might not qualify. Senator Holley has said that they should move back to the United States before they get a check. Do you agree? Should they pay U.S. taxes to get U.S. taxpayer relief?

TRUMP: So I'm a big fan of Senator Holley and I also like the idea. There were some senators that didn't want to do anything like Carnival, great company, but they're based in different places. I won't tell you why. I could tell you exactly where they're based, but I won't do that. But they're based in actually more than one places, as ships are registered in different locations.

I do like the concept perhaps coming in and registering here, coming into the United States. It's, you know, it's very tough to make a loan to a company when they're based in a different country. But with that being said, they have thousands and thousands of people that work there, and maybe almost as importantly, that work on shore filling these ships with goods and products. And the cruise line business is very important. And I know Carnival, what a great job they do, Micky Arison.

[17:55:03]

And I would think that we could stick with Senator Holley and maybe really look at that very seriously. Look, it's a big business, it's a great business. It's a business that employs tremendous number of people outside of the ship itself. I mean, you look at these ports, it's loaded up with shops and people that are involved with the ship. So we're going to work very hard on the cruise line business and we're going to try and work something out, but I like the concept.

Yes, go ahead.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The second one. Thank you, sir. The Senate bill includes aid that's directly tied to the airlines and since before the pandemic, Boeing was already suffering from, you know, the losses of 737 MAX airplanes. Do you think it's appropriate to use this legislation to sort of provide them with $17 billion of aid on top of, you know, of 25 billion that they could qualify for as a passenger airline, and then another four billion that they could qualify for as a cargo airline? Is that fair?

TRUMP: So the airline business is a very tough business, over many years. It's been very, very tough. It's got everything. It's got labor, it's got very strong, powerful. You know, you look at the cost of these airliners.

Everything is tough. Very highly technological, you look at how complicated, how complex. It's got unions, it's got everything. The airline business, generally speaking, it's a very tough business, always been a very tough business.

With that being said, we have to keep our airlines going. And we're going to be using some. Now maybe we'll take a piece of the airlines for the country, for our country, where we loan money and we take a piece. It's all fully ready, we're ready to go. But if we didn't do that, we'd end up with no airlines and we can't do that.

The airline business is very vital to our country. It's a tough business. We have to understand that. So, not -- I mean, I could tell you other businesses that are different kinds of business. They are very good businesses, but airlines have always been very, very tough.

Please.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Two questions for you, Mr. President.

TRUMP: No, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President (INAUDIBLE).

TRUMP: Yes, I didn't call you, I called this gentleman.

MARIO PARKER, WHITE HOUSE REPORTER, BLOOMBERG: Thank you. Thanks a lot. On Monday --

TRUMP: Who are you with?

PARKER: -- did you speak with --

TRUMP: Who are you with? PARKER: I'm with Bloomberg.

TRUMP: Yes, Bloomberg.

PARKER: It's Mario Parker.

TRUMP: How's Michael? Doing good?

PARKER: Mr. President, on Monday, did you speak with Chinese President Xi before you urged Americans to not blame Asian Americans for the coronavirus? We noticed that you've backed off of that language. I know you're speaking with him again tonight.

TRUMP: No, I didn't. I'm speaking to him tonight. It's scheduled to go tonight. I'll have a call with President Xi of China. A very good relationship. No, I didn't like when they came up, and it wasn't him. Somebody at a lower level, mid level, we found out pretty much. But they made a statement that our soldiers brought it into China. No, it came from China.

And, you know, we just signed a very big deal with China. They're paying us a lot of money in tariffs and other things. They never paid us 10 cents. Look, China has taken advantage of the United States, until I came here, with sleepy Joe Biden and Obama and Bush and everybody else.

I'm not blaming them, I'm blaming everybody. They were allowed to -- $500 billion a year they were taking out. We had trade deficits that were so large, nobody's ever seen anything like it. And we've changed it.

Look, now we're taking in billions of dollars and we gave some to our farmers, because China, you know, they targeted our farmers. And our farmers are very happy and our farmers got through a very rough period because of what I was able to do. Took the money from China and gave it to the farmers and we had plenty of leftover after that. Now we're going into a phase two negotiation with China, but we're getting 25 percent on $250 billion, and then we're getting a lot on money after that.

So we've never had to deal with China. China took advantage of the United States. And you know what? I don't blame China for that. I blame the people that were right here, because they should have never allowed it to happen. But the relationship with China has been a very good one. John?

PARKER: Mr. President, did President Xi ask you to calm that language down or to not use that language?

TRUMP: He never asked me to calm it down, no. Somebody might have spoken to somebody, but nobody spoke to me about it.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. President --

TRUMP: I think it was time though, because, you know, I talk about the Chinese virus, and I mean it. That's where it came from. You know, if you look at Ebola, if you look at all -- Lyme, right, Lyme, Connecticut. You look at all these different horrible diseases, they seem to come with the name, with the location. And this was the Chinese virus.

But I don't have to say it if they feel so strongly about it. We'll see. But, you know, we have -- we just made a great deal with China. Great, hopefully, for both parties. But we've made a deal with China and we're going to do another one, it looks like. They want to do it very badly.

Maybe they'll want to wait, like Iran.