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THE SITUATION ROOM

White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; U.S. Reports 780+ New Deaths Today, The Most In One Day. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired March 31, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:00] MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- hospital in the country it's imperative that you continue to report daily to the CDC the results of those tests to give us the visibility on the data to best inform resource decisions.

Also, we reiterated today to governors in-person and also through correspondence to every governor the importance of using their National Guard if need be to move medical supplies. FEMA is very busy, as you'll hear in a moment, delivering literally millions of supplies to states around the country. But we're urging every governor to make sure to work with their state emergency management team and maybe use the National Guard to move those supplies from warehouses to hospitals.

At the present moment, as the president said, we've distributed more than 11.6 million N95 masks; more than 8,100 ventilators around the nation; millions of face shields, surgical masks, and gloves.

We initiated an air bridge that the president announced yesterday. Flights have arrived in New York, one arrived Illinois yesterday, and a flight will arrive in Ohio in the next 24 hours. FEMA is literally working and contracting around the world with now more than 51 flights that will be bringing vital medical supplies.

On the subject of ventilators, FEMA is currently delivering 400 ventilators to Michigan, 300 to New Jersey, 150 to Louisiana, 50 ventilators to Connecticut, and in the last week and the week ahead more than 450 ventilators to Illinois. This is in addition to more than 4,400 ventilators that the president and FEMA directed to the state of New York.

We just want people that are working on the frontlines that the president just spoke about, Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci spoke about, we want you to know help is on the way. And at the president's direction, we're going to leave no stone unturned anywhere in America or anywhere in the world to make sure that you have the resources and the equipment to do your job.

So again, I want to just say thank you, America. Thank you for stepping up. Thank you for putting into practice the 15 days to slow the spread. And thank you for the response that tens of millions have already had for the 30 days to slow the spread.

We encourage each one of you, as we have governors around the country, to spread the word about the guidelines. Listen to your state and local authorities in areas that are more greatly impacted. We continue to urge people in the areas of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut to refrain from travel around the country and, people who've traveled from that area, check your temperature and self-quarantine for 14 days.

You can see from that chart the unique challenges people in the Greater New York City area are facing with the coronavirus and we want to do all that we can to protect your health, focus resources in the community and prevent unnecessary spread.

Lastly, as the president highlighted yesterday, businesses around America are stepping up as never before. Tomorrow, I'll travel with Secretary Sonny Perdue to Gordonsville, Virginia to the Walmart Distribution Center just so the American people can see firsthand how the food supply is continuing to roll on 18 wheels and through airfreight all over America. And we thank, again, the grocery store operators around America and everybody that's working out on the highways and byways every day to keep that food supply rolling and rolling strong.

And to the American people though, we just want to assure you that we're going to continue to work our hearts out -- work our hearts out to make sure our health care providers have everything they need. That anyone struggling with coronavirus has a support and health care they need.

I'm absolutely confident, seeing the way our governors are responding and seeing this team the president has assembled in the White House Coronavirus Task Force, confident of the prayers of the American people that we'll get through this -- but it will take all of us doing our part -- but we'll get through it together.

QUESTION: Just to be clear, what is the projected death toll should be reasonably good at following these mitigation measures?

TRUMP: Well, it would be reasonably good. I guess we could say that -- I'd like to have maybe Dr. Fauci or Deb come up and say. I mean, I have numbers but I'd rather have them say the numbers, if you don't mind. It's a big -- it's a big question.

BIRX: So of course, this is a projection. It's a projection based on using very much what's happened in Italy and then looking at all the models. And so, as you saw on that slide, that was our real number, about 100,000 to 200,000 and we think that that is the range. We really believe and hope every day that we can do a lot better than that because that's not assuming 100 percent of every American does everything that they're supposed to be doing, but I think that's possible.

[18:05:00] QUESTION: (Inaudible) the next two weeks, as you said that the next two weeks are going are going to be very painful. Is the bulk of this going to happen over the next two weeks?

BIRX: No, You'll have an up slope, so as mortality, the fatalities to this disease, will increase, and then it will come back down, and it will come back down slower than the rate at which it went up. And so that is really the issue, how much we can push the mortality down?

FAUCI: Yes, our hope is to get that down as far as we possibly can. The modeling that Dr. Birx showed predicts that number that you saw. We don't accept that number, that that's what it's going to be. We're going to be doing everything we can to get it even significantly below that.

So you know, I don't want it to be a mixed message. This is the thing that we need to anticipate, that doesn't mean that's what we are going to accept. We want to do much, much better than that.

QUESTION: But, doctor, when we look at the curve it goes much further in time. So we would have death and cases for much longer. I mean, we do expect...

(CROSSTALK)

BIRX: Slide No. 2 -- so that's a generic -- I'm sorry, if you could go back to the slides and put up slide two. OK, so what I showed you was a generic picture of what happens in an epidemic, when you mitigate.

So no mitigation, mitigate. This is based on the experience around the globe with this particular virus. And it does have a tail, but the peak you can see by this projection is over the next two weeks. This is tracking mortality, the number of fatalities from this virus. That's the part that we think we can still blunt through superb medical care that every client is receiving but also even more stringent people following the guidelines.

QUESTION: I can't see the small characters. Are we seeing this until June? I can't really...

BIRX: This is June.

QUESTION: This is June. So we would still see problems and deaths in June.

BIRX: It's a projection.

QUESTION: It's a projection, of course.

FAUCI: So I'm just getting back to what I said about the step wise (ph) thing. Deaths always lag. So you will be seeing deaths at a time when as an epidemic we are doing really, really well because the deaths will lag.

QUESTION: Dr. Fauci, should Americans be prepared for the likelihood that there will be a hundred thousand Americans who die from this virus?

FAUCI: The answer is yes, we need -- as sobering a number as that is, we should be prepared for it. Is it going to be that much? I hope not, and I think the more we push on the mitigation the less likely to be that number, but as being realistic we need to prepare ourselves that that is a possibility that that's what we'll see. QUESTION: (Inaudible) very short period of time for that to happen, can the country handle that in such a short period of time, within a couple of months? 50,000 a month?

FAUCI: You know, it will be difficult. I mean, no one is denying that we are going through a very, very difficult time right now. I mean, we are seeing what's happening in New York. That is really, really tough. And if you extrapolate that to the nation, that will be really tough, but that's what it is, Jim (ph), and we are going to have to be prepared for that.

BIRX: Yes, I think that because the model, that model that was from IHME, that's based and heavily ladened by the data that has coming in from New York, and New Jersey and Connecticut. So you know, that can skew to a higher peak and more significant mortality.

If all of the other states are able -- and all of the other metro areas are able to hold that case number down, then it's a very different picture. But you have to predict on the data you have, which is heavily skewed to New York and New Jersey.

FAUCI: Getting back to that, that's really unimportant slide that Dr. Birx showed, the cluster of other cities that are not New York and not New Jersey. If we can suppress that from any kind of a spike, the numbers could be significantly lower than what we talked about.

QUESTION: You have some cities that are not following these guidelines...

(CROSSTALK)

FAUCI: Right, and that's the reason my plea at the end of my remarks, Jim (ph), that now is the time to put your foot on the accelerator, because that's the only thing that's going to stop those peaks.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Some of the cities are doing very well, as you see, very well at this early stage, but the number of -- as the doctor said, 100,000 -- between 100,000 and 200,000, maybe even slightly more, but we would hope that we could keep it under...

[18:10:00]

(CROSSTALK)

BIRX: Do we have the next slide, the next slide after that?

Just go -- yes, one more slide. Perfect, yes.

QUESTION: Mr. President, would you tell cities that aren't doing what, you know, New York, New Jersey, Washington, you know, the cities that have been taking charge and all of this, would you urge some of the cities that haven't been doing this, Mr. President, to get with the program? TRUMP: Well, I would, but if you see New York -- I believe the blue is New York, New York is having a much harder time than other of the cities. Certain cities are doing -- actually if you look down here, what an incredible job. They were early, they were very, very firm, and they've done an incredible job. This is New Jersey, New York.

This is...

BIRX: Remember California and Washington State were down here, and they had some of the earliest cases.

QUESTION: But we're seeing places in Florida not doing what New York and New Jersey have been doing, what Washington state has been doing.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: ... doing very well in comparison.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President, could I maybe direct a question to you and then to Dr. Fauci as well. You told us yesterday that your -- the U.S. at last is accomplishing 100,000 tests per day, but we are still hearing difficult stories from the front lines of the first responders, who you praised so appropriately a little while ago, that they can't test all of the people that they need to test. Do you have any kind of projection as to when everyone who needs a test will be able to receive one?

TRUMP: Yes, I can only say we are doing more than anybody in the world by far. We are testing -- highly accurate tests. These are tests that work. As you know, many tests are being sent to countries...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well we're doing -- everyday we get -- and the word is "exponential." We are getting more and more, and now we have the new test that you saw yesterday. That's going to be rolled out, I think, tomorrow or the next day. And Every day we're getting more and more and more and we have the new test that you saw yesterday, that's going to be rolled out tomorrow or the next day, and that's going to take only a few minutes, literally a few minutes, to see the result, and it's a highly accurate result.

I mean, the tests we are giving out not by us, by other countries, where there was a 50-50 chance that it was wrong. What kind of a test is that? These are highly accurate tests. But the new tests that coming out are very quick, and they were just developed. Abbott Labs did the one yesterday, so we're doing more than anybody in the world by far, and they're very accurate tests, and we're getting a lot of information from those tests.

PENCE: The tests the president unveiled yesterday, the Abbott Laboratories tests, which is a 15 minute-tests. Our team is working very closely with Admiral (inaudible) and FEMA to make sure that those are distributed around the country. Earlier this week, Abbott Laboratories is actually going to be producing 50,000 tests a day, and distributing those around America. There's already the machines in some 18,000 different locations around the country. And they've told us they have several thousand on the shelf now, and what we're doing is trying to identify the areas where we may yet have pockets, or as Dr. Birx often says, where we want to do more immediate testing so that we can do what's called surveillance testing to identify where there may be coronavirus cases, where there's been very little incident.

But if I can just amplify one other point, and that is when you look at this chart, go back 15 days and the reality is that -- and this is me speaking as a layperson -- but as I've listened to our experts, New York, and the greater New York City area have unique challenges. It's a city that we really believe may have had exposure to the coronavirus much earlier on than we could have known, and had its own challenges. New York, Connecticut, New Jersey are leaning into this effort.

But when we look at this chart for all the other states, including Washington State and California, it really does give evidence -- at least it begins to give evidence that the 15 days to slow the spread is working, and that in fact the American people are putting these things into practice in states across the country, including in New York and New Jersey, even though they faced a greater magnitude of cases for certain circumstances that are related to international travel in those communities. But I think...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... national shelter in place...

(CROSSTALK)

PENCE: I know. I think the American people -- what I would suggest to you, Jim, is the American people can look at these numbers in the other 48 states and they can see that in the last 15 days, the president's coronavirus guidelines were working. That's precisely why President Trump is asking every American to continue to putting these guidelines into practice for 30 more days.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Sir, right now, we're at about 4,000 deaths here in the United States. You're suggesting a spike of more than 90,000 deaths over the next few weeks. Do you have a demographic breakdown of the areas that are most at risk, and where most of those deaths may occur?

[18:15:00]

BIRX: Well right now -- and I think if you ask Chris Murray, he would say he's using the information coming out of New York and New Jersey and applying that to potentially other states have the same outcome. I just want to say again, this yellow line -- this yellow line -- and this is all corrected for 100,000 residents, so this is normalized so we can compare apples to apples. This is still Washington State, this yellow. So they've been able to for a long time of measuring cases, not have a spike.

So it's possible and we are watching very closely to make sure it doesn't have a spike. That's with the people in Washington state are doing, this is every community -- so Washington state early about two weeks before New York or New Jersey, California, a week before New York and New Jersey really talked to their communities and decided to mitigate before they started seeing this number of cases. Now we know that makes a big difference. Early as Dr. Fauci said, if you wait until you see it, it's too late.

QUESTION: Do you have a demographic breakdown, Dr. Birx, of where these deaths may occur?

BIRX: So there's a demographic breakdown that we've discussed before related to mortality and it's as we are seeing the New York exactly what we saw in Italy. Very low mortality -- not to say that young people under 30 or young people under 40 aren't getting ill, they are, but most of them are recovering.

So the profile looks identical to Italy, with increasing mortality with age and pre-existing medical conditions. And so that is holding in the same way. But what we're hoping is through the work of communities -- and again, it comes down to communities, this is not -- this is communities deciding this is important to them do not have the experience of New York and New Jersey. And I think -- we are worried about groups all around the globe. I mean, I don't know if you heard the report this morning, there's 8,000 ventilators in the U.K. If you translate that to the United States, that would be like us have been less than 40,000 ventilators.

We have five times that amount. So these are the things that everybody is having to face and I think the United States is in an excellent position from our medical care position, but we don't want to have to test that system. We want this to be a much smaller epidemic with much smaller mortality.

QUESTION: Can I ask a follow-up question to the testing question real quick before we move on. So the testing numbers, I understand a million tests done is a big increase, but we were told there would be 27 million tests available by the end of the month. So can you outline, where in the supply chain, where in the logistics chain are the other 26 million tests right now?

PENCE: I think this is -- just for purposes of clarification, there's a difference between sending a test that can be administered to a test being done. But because a month ago or more, the president brought together the top commercial labs in America and said we need you to partner with us to create a brand-new system that would rapidly process tests, we're now at 1.1 million tests and we believe it's a fair estimate that we are testing about a hundred thousand Americans a day.

That will continue to grow, it'll continue to accelerate. But I think the misunderstanding early on was there were many tests being distributed, many test kits being sent. But under the antiquated system as the president has described it, the antiquated system, those were being processed in state labs or at the CDC or private labs on a very slow, methodical system that could only produce maybe 30 to 50 tests a day.

But this new partnership that we have with commercial laboratories, allows the progress that we are making, but the breakthrough with that with(ph) laboratories now moves to point of care, which means you're going to have devices and tests that people will literally able to take at their doctor's office, at a hospital, at a clinic, at a nursing home and have results in 15 minutes.

QUESTION: So those 26 million tests we were talking about, where those under the old antiquated system?

PENCE: Yes.

QUESTION: So are we still using those 27 million tests or have we completely moved on?

PENCE: The answer is yes, now though the new systems.

[18:20:00]

BIRX: So even today, which is, I have to day, coming out of laboratories and develop tests and worked on vaccines and then gone into the field to combat epidemics, it is disappointing to me right now that we have about 500,000 capacity of Avid tests that are not being utilized. So they are out, they're in the states, they're not being run and not utilized. So now we have to figure out how do we create awareness?

Because sometimes when you put in early platform out like our first platform out in the high speed was Roche, so you get that out, people get dependent on that and you don't see that there's the availability of other tests. So right now there's half a million tests sitting, capacity, that are not being utilized.

So we're trying to figure out how do we inform states about where these all are, how do we work through every laboratory association so they are aware and how do we raise awareness so people know there is point of care, there's Thermo Fisher, there's Abbott testing and there's Roche. And if you add those together, that's millions of tests a week.

QUESTION: There not being reporter.

BIRX: And they're not -- and so those are the...

QUESTION: (inaudible) they're not being reported.

BIRX: Or they're not even being used, that's what's really -- so that's what we're working on.

QUESTION: What's the reason they're being used (ph)?

BIRX: Because when people get used to a single platform, they keep sending it back to that lab, so it's getting in a queue to wait to get on a Roche machine, rather than being moved to this other lab that may have Abbott capacity. Because they are all in different laboratories.

QUESTION: (inaudible)?

BIRX: I think -- well actually Admiral Giroir is figuring it out to really create some kind of visual so that every governor and every health commissioner can see all of their capacity in their countries -- I mean in their states, county by county, so that they know where the tests are. So we've pushed a lot of tests out, but they're not all being utilized.

TRUMP: It's up to the people, when they don't send them back. I mean, they use them, they don't send them back. And doctor, go ahead.

FAUCI: I mean, Dr. Birx explained it very well. I just want to get back John, to your question. It's a logical question when you look at the number, you want to know what the demography is going to be -- this is a number that we need to anticipate, but we don't necessarily have to accept it as being inevitable and that's getting back to what I'm saying about we can influence this to varying degrees and if we influence it to the maximum, we don't have to accept that. That's something we need to anticipate but I want to do -- not I, all of us -- want to do much, much better than that.

QUESTION: What do the models suggest is on the low end if you have full mitigation?

FAUCI: That was full mitigation.

TRUMP: It says 100,000 to 200,000, anything (ph) it's a lot of people, right? It's a lot of people. Well, you didn't ask the other question, what would've happened -- because this is the question I've been asking Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx for a long time, and they've been working on this for a long time. The question is what would've happened if we did nothing? There was a group that said let's just write it out, write it out.

What would've happened? Because there was a group that said let's just ride it out, let's ride it out. What would have happened? And number comes in at 1.5 to 1.6 million people up to 2.2, and beyond. So that's 2.2 million people would have died if we did nothing, we just carried on our life. Now I don't think that would've been possible because you would have had people dying all over the place, this would not have been a normal life.

How many people have even seen anybody die, you would have people dying on airplanes, you would've been seeing people dying in hotel lobbies, you would've seen death all over. So I think from a practical standpoint, that couldn't have been carried too far. But -- but if you did nothing on the higher side, the number would be 2.2, or maybe even more end on the lower side, 1.6 million people.

QUESTION: Understood, but if 100,000 is the number with full mitigation, how do you push it -- how do you push it lower?

BIRX: So -- we'll go together. We've been at this a long time -- you go first. FAUCI: So John, it's an obvious very good question. If this is full mitigation and its 100,00, why my standing here saying I want to make it better? Because that's what the model tells you it's going to do. What we do is every time we get more data, you feed it back in and we look at the model. Is the model really telling you what's actually going on?

And again, I know my modeling colleagues are going to not be happy with me, but models are as good as the assumptions you put into them. And as we get more data, then you put it in and that might change. So even though it says according to the model which is a good model that we're dealing with, this is full mitigation. As we get more data, as the weeks go by, that could be modified.

(CROSSTALK)

[18:25:00]

QUESTION: Why does the model now -- the top line on the lowball estimate, why does that not top out -- I think it said 240,000, not 200,000. Is that a change? is that because the states haven't been doing enough?

BIRX: You know, it just has to do with if you had more New Yorks and New Jerseys, you know, Chicago, Detroit, L.A., Dallas, Houston. All of our major cities modeled like New York, that's what gets us into trouble.

But I am reassured by looking at the Seattle line, by looking at the L.A. line, by looking at what California's been able to do, that that is not something that -- I don't believe that's going to happen. That is the outside case of having 10, 15 metros like New York and the New Jersey metro area.

QUESTION: But New York had community spread pretty early, undetected. So don't many of those other states, if not more of them, who had even less information, aren't they likely to see the same spike?

BIRX: Well, California and Washington State reacted very early to this. I -- yes, Washington State had some of the earliest infections. They have kept it low and steady, and for now a month has been tracking it with a small increase in the number of cases, but not this logarithmic form of the virus.

And so that's -- that's the piece that we're trying to prevent, that's the piece that we're trying to prevent in New Orleans, in Detroit, in Chicago and in Boston right now. And trying to make sure that each of those cities work more like California than the New York metro area.

QUESTION: Mr. President, I just wanted to get your thoughts on face masks. We asked you about this yesterday, and you signaled you were thinking about it.

TRUMP: Just to end (ph) the last topic, though, I think I can say this because I spoke to Dr. Birx before and to Dr. Fauci. For whatever reason, New York got off to a very late start. And we (ph) see what happens when you get off to a late start. New Jersey got off to -- and I think both governors are doing an excellent job, but they got off to a very late start.

When you look at Washington State, if you remember, that all started in a very confined nursing home. And you had 20-some-odd people, I believe, dying in one home. That doesn't mean it escaped that home. And so they have a very different statistic than other states.

But I mean, I remember it very vividly, the nursing home in Washington State, where you had many people dying, every day, people were dying in the one exact location. So they were able to keep that, relatively speaking, into that location.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: One second.

(inaudible)?

QUESTION: Were you surprised when you saw these projections? The numbers are sobering.

TRUMP: They're very sobering, yeah. When you see 100,000 people, that's at -- and that's at a minimum number. Now, what we're looking at -- and as many people as we're talking about -- whatever we can do under that number and substantially under that number, we've done that through really great mitigation, we've done that through a lot of very dedicated American people that.

You know, 100,000 is -- is according to modeling, a very low number. In fact, when I first saw the number -- and I asked this a while ago -- they said, it's unlikely you'll be able to attain that. I think we're doing better that (ph) -- now I think. We have to see, but I think we're doing better than that because as John (ph) said, that would be, you know, a lot of lives taking place over a relatively short period of time.

But think of what would have happened if we didn't do anything. I mean, I've had many friends, businesspeople, people with great, actually, common sense, they said, why don't we ride it out? A lot of people have said, a lot of people have thought about it, ride it out, don't do anything, just ride it out. And think of it as the flu.

But it's not the flu, it's vicious. When you send a friend to the hospital and you call up to find out, how is he doing? It happened to me, where goes to the hospital, he says goodbye, sort of a tough guy, little older, little heavier than he'd like to be, frankly. And you call up the next day, how is he doing? And he's in a coma? This is not the flu.

So we would have seen things, had we done nothing. But for a long while, a lot of people were asking that question I think, right? I was asking it also. I mean, a lot of people were saying, well, let's just ride it out. This is not to be ridden out, because then you would have been looking at potentially 2.2 million people or more, 2.2 million people in a relatively short period of time. If you remember, they were looking at that concept -- it's a concept I guess, you know? It's a concept, if you -- if you don't mind death, a lot of death. But they were looking at that in the U.K., remember? They were very much looking at it.

[18:30:00]

And all of a sudden, they went hard the other way because they started seeing things that weren't good, so they were, you know, they put themselves in a little bit of a problem.

Now, Boris tested positive, and I hear he's -- I hope he's going to be fine. But in the U.K., they were looking at that. And they have a name for it, but we won't even call -- we won't even go by the name. But it would have been -- it would have been very catastrophic, I think, if that would have happened.

But that was something that everybody was talking about, Steve (ph), like, just don't do anything, don't do anything. Forget about everything, just ride it out. They used the expression, ride it out. We would have had, at a minimum, 1.5, 1.6 but you would have had perhaps more than 2.2 million people dying in a very short period of time. And that would have been a number that -- the likes of which we've never seen.

So now, when we look at our package that we just approved for $2 trillion, all of a sudden, it seems very reasonable, right? When you're talking about 2 million lives, all of a sudden it seems very reasonable. I must say, a lot of people that have been seeing the more advanced numbers -- because these are much more advanced numbers now.

You know, when you first started, we didn't know and this was a kind of a virus and nobody knew that much about it, even the experts, you don't really know where it's going. But then they see what goes on in Italy, and they see what goes on in Spain, and you see -- France is having a very hard time, and other countries, having a very, very hard time.

But once they see what's going on, they start making projections. So I hope they're going to be very high projections, but based on everything else, that would be the number. Let's see if we can do much better than that. I hope we can.

Yeah, John (ph)?

QUESTION: What about masks? You didn't answer, the masks.

QUESTION: Yeah, the masks.

TRUMP: Oh. OK.

QUESTION: What's your recommendation?

QUESTION: I understand there's an issue with supplies...

TRUMP: That's right. QUESTION: ... if there wasn't a...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, it's this way. You know, you can use a scarf. A scarf is -- everybody -- a lot of people have scarves, and you can use a scarf. Scarf would be very good. And I -- my feeling is, if people want to do it, there's certainly no harm to it. I would say do it. But use a scarf if you want, you know? Rather than going out and getting a mask or whatever.

We're making millions and millions of masks but we want them to go to the hospitals. I mean, one of the things that Dr. Fauci told me today is, we don't want them competing, we don't want everybody competing with the hospitals, where you really need them.

So you can use scarves, you can use something else over your face. It doesn't have to be a mask. But it's not a bad idea, at least for a period of time. I mean, eventually, you're not going to want to do that, you're not going to have to do that. This is going to be gone, it'll be gone. Hopefully gone for a long time.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Please.

QUESTION: Mr. President, the mitigation steps that are on your 30-day plan, is that enough? Or is more needed? Have you been discussing that behind the scenes?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to find out. We hope it's enough, we hope it's enough. We hope we're at a level where we can say, let's go because our country wants to get back to work. We really want to get back -- everybody wants to get back to work.

Now, I could ask the doctors to answer that question, but we discuss that all the time. What do you think.

QUESTION: Have they been recommending harsher mitigation steps?

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, I think we're very -- I think we've been very harsh. I mean, you look at the streets, I looked at Fifth Avenue today on camera, and I didn't see anybody walking on the street. And I'm used to watching that street, you can't even see -- you can't see the asphalt, you can't see the concrete. And you look and there's nobody. There was one car, it looked like it might have been a taxicab. And it was in a time of the morning that normally, there'd be a lot of people. I mean, you know, I think -- I think the mitigation's been very strong.

Please?

QUESTION: Mr. President, will you confirm your plans to defer tariff payments for 90 days? And secondly on...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I didn't -- I didn't do anything about tariff payments. I don't know who's talking about tariff payments, they keep talking about tariff payments and we haven't done that. China's paying us -- we made a deal with China. Under the deal, they're paying us 25 percent on $250 billion.

And they pay it -- and I spoke with President Xi the other day and he didn't mention that, we didn't mention that. We had a great conversation, by the way, a really productive conversation having to do with many things. Most of it was on the virus.

But, you know, we're not talking -- who are you with? Who are you with?

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: If I -- if I could just clarify...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Who are you with? No, no, no.

QUESTION: Wall Street Journal.

TRUMP: Oh.

QUESTION: There's reporting by The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg that there's -- there's a plan in motion...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Yeah, I know. It's incorrect reporting.

QUESTION: ... to...

TRUMP: Well, that might be but I'm going to have to approve the plan.

QUESTION: ... that's (ph) in China.

TRUMP: The one thing I will tell you, I approve everything. And they haven't presented it to me. So therefore, it's false reporting. So therefore, don't do the story. If we're going to do something, we -- I'd be glad to let you know. There's nothing wrong with doing it, but we'll let you know.

Yeah, please? A couple (inaudible) then we'll get back to you, John (ph).

Go ahead.

[18:35:00]

QUESTION: Thanks, sir. Philip Wegmann, RealClearPolitics. I wanted to ask you about individual states issuing stay-at-home orders. What do you think, for instance -- in Florida, Ron DeSantis has resisted urges to issue one of those but he said moments ago that if you and the rest of the task force recommended one, that would weigh on him heavily.

What sort of circumstances need to be in place for you to make that call and say this is something you should consider?

TRUMP: Different kind of state. Also, great governor, knows exactly what he's doing, has a very strong view on it and we have spoken to Ron. Mike, do you want to just tell them a little bit about that?

PENCE: Well let -- let me echo our appreciation for Governor DeSantis leadership in Florida. He's been taking decisive steps from early on and working closely with our team at the federal level. But let me be very clear on this, the recommendation of our health experts was to take the 15 days to slow the spread and have the President extend that to 30 days for every American.

Now that being said, we recognize that -- that when you're dealing with a health crisis in the country, it is -- it is locally executed by healthcare workers but it's state managed. And so we continue to flow information to state governors, we continue to hear about the -- the data that they're analyzing and consult with them.

But at the President's direction, the White House coronavirus task force will continue to take the posture that we will defer to state and local health authorities on any measures that they deem appropriate but for the next 30 days, this is what we believe every American in every state should be doing at a minimum to slow the spread.

TRUMP: So unless we see something obviously wrong, we're going to let the governors do it. Now, if it's obviously wrong -- I mean, people can make things -- they can make a decision that we think is so far out that it's wrong, we will stop that.

But in the case of Governor DeSantis, you know, there is two thoughts to it -- and two very good thoughts to it and he's been doing a great job in every respect. So we'll see what happens. But we only would exercise it if we thought somebody was very obviously wrong.

Go ahead, your turn.

QUESTION: Thanks. I -- I had a question in a minute (ph) for Vice President about the -- the national strategic stockpile but while you're at the podium, I wanted to ask about your call with President Putin a couple of days ago.

I know a big economic concern for a lot of people has been the state of oil prices right now. So I'm wondering if you raised that with President Putin, if you were able to ...

TRUMP: I did (ph). We had a call, it was probably about that -- the oil prices because, as you know, Russia and Saudi Arabia are going at it -- and they're really going at it and by going at it to the extent that they are, the oil has dropped to a point where I -- look, it's the greatest tax cut we've ever given, if you look at it that way because people are going to be paying $.99 for a gallon of gasoline.

It's incredible in a lot of ways, going to help the airlines but at the same time it's hurtful to one of our biggest industries, that's the oil industry. It's really -- it -- it's not even feasible, what's going on. So I spoke to President Putin about that, I also spoke to the Crown Prince about that -- Saudi Arabia.

QUESTION: Have they agreed to do anything?

TRUMP: No, I think -- yeah, they -- they're going to get together -- and we're all going to get together and we're going to see what we can do cause you don't want to lose an industry. You're going to lose an industry over it, thousands and thousands of jobs.

We have -- I don't know if you know, there's oil all over the oceans right now. The boats are all filled, the ships are -- they're renting ships -- ships that were dying that weren't doing well and now like they're -- that's where they're storing oil and they're sent out to sea and they sit there for long periods of time. There's so much oil. In some cases, it's -- it's probably less valuable than water. In some parts of the world, water's much more valuable.

So we've never seen anything like it but the two countries are discussing it and I -- I am joining at the appropriate time, if need be. We had a great talk with President Putin, we had a great talk with the Crown Prince.

We also discussed more so with President Putin, in this case, the virus cause Russia's being hit pretty hard and we discussed many things -- trade. We discussed a lot of things with both but in the case of both, we very much discussed the oil and the oil prices.

I mean, you look, it's $22 but it's really much cheaper than that if you want to negotiate. Nobody's seen that. That's like from the 1950s, it really is. You know, to think that it was $50, $60, $70, $80 and now it's $22 -- but, you know, if you put a good bid in at $9, I think you could probably get what you wanted, right?

John (ph), please?

[18:40:00]

QUESTION: Mr. President, you tweet -- you tweeted earlier today that now would be a good time to start looking forward, if there is a light at the end of the tunnel, and work on an infrastructure bill. Again, you suggested it should be $2 trillion, which is twice what the last one was -- or the proposal, at least.

Are you anticipating that like after the economic crisis of 2008, 2009, America will need to have so-called shovel ready jobs, ready to go to get people back to work?

TRUMP: Well the problem with that one is they had maybe shovel ready jobs, maybe not, but they never used it for the purpose of infrastructure. So far, nobody's been able to find any money that was spent on infrastructure. I want to use it for infrastructure. And one of the reasons I'm suggesting it, John (ph), is we're paying zero interest -- the United States is paying almost zero interest rate. The Federal Reserved lowered the rate -- the Fed rate -- and that and a combination of the fact that everyone wants to be in the United States.

You know, we have the -- a dollar that's very strong. And I know that sounds good but it does make it hard to manufacture and sell outside because other currencies are falling and our currency is very strong -- it's very, very strong. Proportionately, it's through the roof.

So we have a strong dollar, people want to invest in the United States, especially nowadays, where they're looking at safety. They have all of the problems, plus the virus in 151 countries. They all want to come into the United States.

And -- so we have a zero interest rate essentially and I said "wouldn't this be a great time to borrow money at zero interest rate and really build our infrastructure like we can do it?" So the plan was -- the Republicans had a plan of about $750. I would say -- they were, where at $75 (ph) -- you had -- the Democrats were a little less than $1 trillion, the Republicans were a little bit less than that and I'm suggesting $2 trillion -- we redo our roads, our highways, our bridges, we fix up our tunnels, which are, many of them, in bad shape, like coming into New York, as you know -- really bad shape.

And we really do a job on our infrastructure and that mean -- doesn't mean we're going to do the Green New Deal, cause I won't do it, I won't approve it -- we're not going to do the Green New Deal and do -- spend, you know, 40 percent of the money on things that people just have fun with.

QUESTION: How would you pay for it, sir?

TRUMP: We're going to borrow the money at zero percent interest, so our interest payments would be almost zero and we can borrow long term. People want to be in the United States, they want to be invested in the United States. Go ahead, Jim (ph).

QUESTION: I -- I wanted to get back to the virus. You were saying at the beginning of the press conference that you're looking at holding back 10,000 ventilators. Is that because you need to pick and choose where these ventilators are going to have to go because of the nature of the pandemic?

TRUMP: Right, it's a good question ...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... and also I -- I just wanted to ask Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx, if it's possible after you finish, is that part of the reason why you're projecting 100,000 to 200,000 deaths, that there are going to be some people who aren't going to be able to get ventilators or ...

TRUMP: Actually, just the opposite because we're holding back -- we have almost 10,000 and we're holding because we're going to need them over the next couple of weeks as this surge goes on. You see the chart.

We haven't hit the top yet and we have to be able to move them immediately and we can't take them because it's going to be very hard to do that -- we can't take them to places that aren't needing them. Plus, we have requests for ventilators in hospitals and in states and cities that don't need them, in our opinion -- they don't need them. They won't need them at the top.

So we're holding it back for flexibility. We actually just took 600 and we sent them to different locations today. But we have close to 10,000 and we'll be able to get them -- and we're all set to march. We have the National Guards and we have FEMA and we're all set to move them to the places.

So as per your second question, what we're going to do is save lives because of it, cause otherwise we would not be able to get to the ventilators. And we don't know what the hottest spot ...

QUESTION: ... ventilator shortage right now?

TRUMP: In some areas, we might, but we've done a great job with ventilators and we're having them made unbelievably -- we have now 11 companies making ventilators. Now they'll be starting to arrive in the next week but we've also grabbed a lot of them.

Some hospitals had more than they were saying or at least more than we knew about, which is a good thing, not a bad thing. But we want to be able to have -- I guess the word would be "flexibility" so that if the surge turns out to be much stronger in Louisiana, which it could, that we can immediately bring 1,000 or 2,000 to Louisiana.

Otherwise, we wouldn't be able to get them, we wouldn't be able to say "listen, Governor Cuomo in New York, we want to take ventilators away from New York" and they'll say "well we can't do that, it would be a disaster."

So we have great flexibility. Now, when the surge occurs, if it occurs fairly evenly, we'll be able to distribute them very quickly before they need them. But we want to have -- we have a reserve right now, it's like having oil reserves, except more valuable, frankly -- but we have a reserve right now and we'll be able -- and we also have a great team of people ready to deliver -- they can move them fast.

[18:45:00]

So when we see it going up in a certain state -- and Louisiana could be one and Michigan could be another, with Detroit because Detroit is having a lot of -- a lot of hard time right now. Detroit came out of nowhere, and that's what happens with this. It comes out of nowhere. So we are ready, Jim, depending on what happens, and we have a stockpile, and that's why it's called a stockpile.

Now a lot of the ventilators and a lot of the other equipment, rather than sending it to the stockpile, we had it sent directly to a hospital, to a location, to a place. So we didn't have the cumbersome nature of having it come in unboxed, put it in (ph), and then deliver, we have it brought -- which they'd never done before. They don't do that. Generally speaking, they don't that.

But we've had -- I think, Mike, we've had tremendous success at doing that. That's for other items including ventilators, where it's brought to the site that needs it, but we have a good supply of ventilators and we're ready to go -- we're all ready, we're -- we have trucks ready, we have everything ready because as we're saying, John, this could be a hell of a bad two weeks. This is going to be a very bad two and maybe even three weeks, this is going to be three weeks like we haven't seen before.

QUESTION: Are you sure (ph) the hospitals will be prepared for that? We're hearing from some hospitals are saying (ph)...

(CROSS TALK)

TRUMP: Well I think the hospitals...

QUESTION: ...that they're facing what looks like a medical warzone in some of these places.

TRUMP: Yes, they -- they are going be facing a warzone, that's what it is. I've heard -- I've heard some of the paramedics and some of the doctors, they said they were -- they've been in warzones, they've been in -- they've never seen anything like this. You look at Elmhurst hospital in Queens, I've never seen -- I mean, I look -- I just think it's so -- because that's a hospital that's near where I grew up, and it's -- it is a warzone in a true sense.

Yes, please?

QUESTION: Yes, on the ventilators, so we've been hearing from governors who say they are fighting amongst themselves, essentially bidding amongst themselves to get these ventilators...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: They shouldn't be doing that. If that happens, they should be calling us. Look, we have ventilators but we've distributed thousands of ventilators, but they shouldn't be doing that. And if they need them that badly, we know. We have pretty good ideas of where they're going to need them.

Some people frankly think they need them and they don't need them. I don't want to mention names, but there are some people that want them and it's really not the right thing. Then they -- you have some people that I guess automatically hoard a little bit, they want to have more than they think they need, but you know a ventilator is a very precious piece of equipment right now, it's hard to make, it takes a long time to make it, it's complex. Some of them are like the dashboard of an airplane, I mean they're very complicated and very expensive machines, and some are much simpler.

But we're ready to go, depending on what happens. But we have some hospitals in some states that think they need ventilators and we don't think they do. Now, if they do need them, we will have them there before they need them. We'll be able to move very quickly.

QUESTION: So you're confident that...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What about the hydroxychloroquine? Is there any -- there any data on these trials?

TRUMP: Nothing that I've heard. I mean, that's the first question I make every morning. I tell you, I call up -- you know, we have 1,100 -- 1,100 in New York right now, and we have other locations where they're -- where patients, people are taking them. Now the good news is -- it's only (three days), and you know it's like a seven or eight day treatment -- the good news is we haven't heard anything bad. In other words, there have been no catastrophic events,

But we haven't -- it's a little bit too soon to talk about it. It would be a total gamechanger, John, if that happened. If that happened, it would be a gamechanger. And we include that in that and I think in all cases the Z-Pack -- you know what the Z-Pack is -- so we're going to see what happens with the hydroxychloroquine.

Yes, just one second (ph) Steve, yes?

QUESTIONS: Are there other -- are there other antiviral drugs that are -- that have some promise of working soon?

TRUMP: We're looking at a lot of them. We're looking at a lot of them. Some show promise. I think maybe the doctor might want to speak about the vaccines, because a lot of -- Johnson and Johnson is advanced, very advanced, we'll see what happens.

The one thing with the vaccine is you -- it doesn't help this group because this group -- it's -- you know, you need to test a vaccine. The one thing with the drug you just mentioned, right, is that that's been out, it's a malaria drug and also an arthritis drug so it's been out there for a long time. Very powerful drug, but it's been out there for a long time. So it's tested in the sense that you know it doesn't kill you.

But you may want to discuss the vaccines for a second, Doctor.

FAUCI: Thank -- thank you, Mr. President, but just for a second before the vaccine, in answer to your question, Steve, there are a number of candidates. The drugs that are now being looked at in various ways, either compassion of use (ph), clinical trials, are generally drugs that already exist for other things.

There's a whole menu of drugs and interventions that are now going into clinical trials that are not approved for anything yet. I mean, for example, things like immune serum (ph), convalescent plasma, or hyperimmune globulin, or monoclonal antibodies, a variety of other things.

[18:50:00]

Right now, there's a lot of activity going on behind the scenes in the design of the kinds of clinical trials that will give us an answer, because you need an answer because if it doesn't work you want to get it off the table and go to the next one. So there are a lot of things.

QUESTION: How long does that normally take? Weeks, months?

FAUCI: Yeah, no, it takes at least months, at least months, at least. So, I mean, that's the reason why you're seeing a lot of activity with drugs that already exist for other purposes because they're already there. But the drugs that you want to show in a good randomized clinical trial, at very best, are going to take months.

Just one word on the vaccine. You know, exactly like we said, we hope that as we get into the summer, if in fact there are cases out there when you're in a phase II or phase III trial, or II, IIB, as we call it, that we might get an early efficacy signal. And an efficacy signal means that even though you haven't definitively proven that a vaccine works, you get enough information that if it were an emergency, you might be able to have an Emergency Use Authorization for it.

(UNKNOWN): That sounds incredible.

TRUMP: And I have to say this. Hydroxychloroquine and azithromycin, which is, you know, you take it with it, maybe, if you want, for the infection. I think some medical workers are doing that, using it maybe or getting it prescribed perhaps, as -- for another use. But the word is that some are and some aren't. I mean, I think it's not a bad idea to do it, but that's up to the doctors.

But there is a theory going around that in our country and some other countries, people are taking that that work in the hospitals, that work with the patients because there is some evidence -- and again, it's going to have to be proven, it's very early.

You know, we're rushing this stuff through. This was supposed to take a long time to be proved, and I prevailed upon the FDA to get it approved it immediately on the basis that it was already on the market for a lot of years for another use -- malaria, mostly. And arthritis, but mostly malaria. So we'll see what happens, but there is a theory out there that for the medical worker, doctor, it may work, it may work. And if you take it, it's -- you know, it's been out there for a long time.

Please, go ahead.

QUESTION: I just wanted to -- to go back to Jim's question about the national stockpile. The governor of Connecticut today...

TRUMP: About which?

QUESTION: The national strategic stockpile. The governor of Connecticut today said that he was disturbed to learn that the stockpile is now emptied -- that's his words -- and he said... TRUMP: Well, it's not empty. Let me explain something. What we do -- and I thought I said it accurately, I certainly meant to -- rather than having it brought into the stockpile, where appropriate, other than certain things like we have quite a few of the ventilators, which is not a lot when you look at the whole country, actually. it sounds like a lot, almost 10,000.

But we're trying to have supply sent directly to the states because we save a big state -- we save a big -- we don't want medical supplies coming into warehouses all over the place, and then we take them from there and bring them to another warehouse. So we're having them brought from the -- ideally from the manufacturer directly to the hospital or the state where it's going.

So we're trying to keep it that way as much as possible. Now, in some cases, we are having it brought. Remember this, we also took over a virtually empty -- and I say it again, just like we had no ammunition in the military, and we had virtually no ammunition -- well, we had very little in medical supplies too, in our stockpile. So for the most part, we're trying very hard to have it delivered to the site where they need it.

Yeah, please, go ahead.

QUESTION: ... Mr. President. Here in the United States, domestically, we can practice social distancing. But some of our sailors, specifically on the USS Theodore Roosevelt...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... they're not able to, they're in confined spaces. What are your thoughts on that? Should they be offloaded?

And then, sir, are you concerned...

TRUMP: I'm going to let the military make that decision.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. But are you concerned about U.S. military readiness during this pandemic? For instance, what would happen if -- if, as reported, China was to increase patrols in the South China Sea? What would your response be?

TRUMP: Well, we're going to see all about that. Don't worry about our military. You know, you saw the military put up a hospital in three and a half days with 2,900 beds, with a lot of beds. Nobody's ever seen anything like it.

And by the way, that wasn't the only one. It wasn't just the Javits Center, it was at other locations. And now it's Louisiana, and now it's New Jersey, and now it's other places.

One thing that I think is indisputable is when I watched the Army Corps of Engineers -- and FEMA, working with them, but -- when I watched the Army Corps of Engineers throw up these hospitals -- and they're complex. I mean, these are incredible buildings, essentially, tents and various things. But they did it in such a quick -- such a short period of time. And our military is ready like you haven't seen.

[18:55:00]

And you know who the best -- the best guests (ph) on (ph) the different shows are -- we watch the shows at night -- and I think the best guests that I've seen in a long time are the military people. And they've never done it before. I've watched General Semonite, who I deal with a lot.

And I say, General, you've got to give us two new hospitals in Louisiana.

Yes, sir.

And the next morning, they're building them at 6 o'clock in the morning, and they're up in three days. I think they're the best -- they're the best guests you have. I guess I'm tired of the other guests, in all fairness.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: What kind of message do you have...

TRUMP: Jim (ph), go ahead.

QUESTION: Yes, sir. This may be an uncomfortable question, but what would the models have looked like, that Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci showed us, if we had started the social distancing guidelines sooner, in February or January, when China, South Korea were doing those...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Well, I'm going to let them -- I'm going to let them answer that.

Yeah?

QUESTION: ... reliable in terms of what information we're getting from them, but if we had started...

TRUMP: Yeah.

QUESTION: ... these practices sooner, could these models be different right now?

TRUMP: Yeah, I'm going to let them answer the question. But remember this -- and again, I say it and everybody says it. You know who says it better than anybody is Dr. Fauci.

I had a decision to make, maybe it was my biggest decision. China was heavily infected, and thousands and thousands of people were coming from China to the United States. And against the wishes -- not even wishes, but they disagreed with the decision -- I made a decision to stop China from coming in. Took a lot of heat, even from China. They weren't exactly happy, I'd just made a trade deal, a bit one, $250 billion trade deal, and I'm shortly thereafter saying you can't come into our country.

That was a big decision. That was earlier than the dates you're talking about, so that was a big decision. That was probably -- and by the way, not because I did it -- that was probably the biggest decision we made so far.

But if you look at the one graph, the problem New York has is, New York started late, but the other ones didn't start so late. Now, New York is also more complicated because -- you know, for obvious reasons. But it got a late start.

But do you want to maybe answer those questions?

BIRX: I think -- I don't know if you can go back to slide two, because I wanted to explain two things that I think is really important, because we had a lot of questions about mortality and what it meant.

OK. So you see this confidence interval? So here's the line, this is the confidence interval. This is where we have the ability to push it down. So you have a large confidence interval around the line. And so we're trying to move that gray down tighter and below the dotted line, so I think that's really important.

And then if you can go to the next slide?

So we really can't answer your question until we can get antibody testing out there. Because what we can't tell you is in -- and we can always do this, there's always samples in hospitals and other things, it's the way we really defined the HIV epidemic in the United States, we were able to go back to blood samples when we had the test, and really find out where it was and what was going on.

We really need to look in here, and really see, was there virus significantly circulating in early March and late February, and what did it look like and where was it? And was it all in the metro areas?

And I think that's what Dr. Fauci and I are very, very focused on, is getting serology testing out there to really figure out when it came, and really have those samples to be able to do that.

QUESTION: Because you understand the painful part of my question, and -- please, I don't mean to put you on the spot...

(CROSSTALK)

BIRX: No, we understand. But we can't answer it until -- yeah.

QUESTION: ... but there may be Americans at home saying...

BIRX: ... until we see that.

QUESTION: ... if we had started this sooner, we might not have 100,000 to 200,000 Americans dying.

BIRX: Well, that makes an assumption that it was here -- a lot -- there was a lot back here that we didn't see. And until we have the antibody test, I can't really answer that.

FAUCI: Just to underscore what -- what Dr. Birx was saying, if there was no virus in the background, there was nothing to mitigate. If there was virus there that we didn't know about, then the answer to your question is probably yes.

Now, the only trouble with that is that whenever you come out and say something like that, it always becomes almost a sound bite that gets taken out of context. But I think that's very important, what Dr. Birx has said. Is that if there was covert infections here that we didn't know about, and we didn't mitigate them, that that would have made a difference. If there was virtually nothing there, then there's nothing to mitigate. And I don't know the answer to your question.

QUESTION: But there were early cases...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But we were watching North...

FAUCI: Yeah.

QUESION: ... South Korea -- excuse me -- and China and Italy, and we weren't taking action...

FAUCI: Right, right. Yeah, right. That's right...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: ... when those countries were spiking.

FAUCI: In a perfect world, it would have been nice to know what was going on there. We didn't. Bu I believe, Jim (ph), that we -- we acted very, very early in that.

QUESTION: But if we had adequate testing, would we have known (ph)?

[19:00:00]