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THE SITUATION ROOM
Coronavirus Cases Surpass One Million Worldwide; Source Close To Task Force: "Certainly Possible" Virus Can Spread Through Talking And Breathing; Source: Thousands Of Ventilators In Maintenance As Federal Government Struggles To Meet Needs; Defense Dept. Seeks 100,000 Body Bags Anticipating Virus Deaths; Mnuchin Commits To Sending Out Stimulus Funds In Two Weeks; Coronavirus Cases Surpass One Million Worldwide; Trump Invokes Defense Production Act For A Second Time To Increase Ventilator Production. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 2, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DR. ANDREA BONIOR, LICENSED CLINICAL PSYCHOLOGIST: And that's such a great lesson to teach our kids. I think that's something that is positive that can emerge from this.
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, our session is over. I'll see you soon. Dr. Andrea Bonior, thank you so much as always. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
BONIOR: Thank you.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: We want to welcome our viewers here in the United States and around the world. I'm Wolf Blitzer in "The Situation Room". Experts on the White House Coronavirus Task Force are about to brief the public on another deadly day in the coronavirus pandemic. Globally now, more than 1 million people have now tested positive. Here in the United States, more than 5,600 have died and at least 236,000 have been infected.
Also tonight, very disturbing new research indicates the virus may be spreading even more easily than previously believed. Some experts now say people can spread the coronavirus just by talking and even breathing.
This hour, I'll speak with the doctor who were in the White House about the evidence, that's coming up. We also have new reporting on the struggle to get desperately needed ventilators to hospitals across the country as thousands of machines remain on the sidelines due to maintenance troubles.
First, let's go to CNN's Nick Watt. He's got more in all of today's developments. Nick, give us the latest.
NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, here in California, the case counts still rising in here in Los Angeles. The Mayor has turned over the enormous Convention Center, the National Guard has turned it into a field hospital. And the Mayor has also told utility companies that they can cut off water and power to any nonessential businesses that are still refusing to close. The epicenter still over there in New York.
JUDY SHERIDAN-GONZALEZ, PRESIDENT, NEW YORK STATE NURSES ASSOCIATION: We are dying. We are getting sick. It doesn't matter how many ventilators we get, if we are dead and cannot run the ventilators.
WATT (voice-over): 21,000 health care workers are now flocking to New York to help in their hour of need.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): Lives are going to be saved because these reinforcements came.
WATT (voice-over): Still latest projection, 16,000 people could die across this state and --
GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): At the current burn rate, we have about six days of ventilators in our stockpile.
WATT (voice-over): Sunday, officials say is New York City's crunch day for masks, gloves and gowns.
LAURA UCIK, REGISTERED NURSE: I was given one disposable yellow gown to reuse all day taking care of COVID patients and I would hang it up on an IV pole in between patients and put my single N95 mask into a brown paper bag. Every day when I go to work, I feel like a sheep going to slaughter.
CUOMO: If you have the capacity to make these products, we will purchase them, but we need it like now.
WATT (voice-over): Massachusetts bought its own masks direct from China, and the Patriots lent their plane to pick them up. A spike now in Louisiana supplies from the national strategic supply shipped out to hospitals by the National Guard. But that federal store is now nearly dry and 2,000 ventilators in the stockpile are unavailable because they weren't maintained properly while in storage by the Trump administration. And now --
GOV. STEVE BULLOCK (D-MT): They're bringing these big planes from supplies overseas. Immediately then everything that's brought, 80 percent of it is just dumped in the private market. So then governors are competing against one another and at times the federal government to try to get these supplies.
WATT (voice-over): The Defense Department is now looking to procure an extra 100,000 body bags. Last week alone. 6.6 million more Americans filed for unemployment. And more than 90 percent of Americans now under stay home orders
NICOLE BUCHANAN, HUSBAND DIED OF COVID-19 COMPLICATION: Just stay home.
WATT (voice-over): Nicole Buchanan's 39 year old husband Conrad just died.
BUCHANAN: Our life has turned into this horrible nightmare. You guys have to take this seriously.
WATT (voice-over): Here in Los Angeles, we are now being told to wear masks.
MAYOR ERIC GARCETTI (D-CA): Please do not get medical grade or surgical masks or these N95 masks. We must not contribute to the shortage of these essential personal protective equipment for medical personnel and first responders.
WATT (voice-over): Some experts say this virus could spread not just through coughing and sneezing but through talking, even just breathing.
WATT: Now, there has been a lot of talk today about social distancing and church services. Some pastors defying orders. The Governor of Florida exempting religious services from the stay-at-home order saying that they are essential.
The Governor of California was just asked about it. He was unequivocal. He said we need to social distance everywhere. Period. Full stop. Wolf.
BLITZER: All right, lots of news and Nick Watt reporting for us. Thank you.
We're standing by for an update from the experts over at the White House Coronavirus Task Force. We'll have coverage of that. Our Chief White House Correspondent Jim Acosta, in the meantime, is joining us. Jim, so what should we expect from today's briefing?
JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, officials are likely to be asked about this new letter sent to the administration warning that the coronavirus could be spread by talking and breathing. A source close to the Coronavirus Task Force said the White House is taking that warning seriously saying, quote, it is certainly possible the virus could be spread that way.
In the meantime, the President is complaining about governors who say they don't have enough medical equipment to deal with the crisis. But the record clearly shows it was the President who was downplaying the virus as his administration failed to prepare for the pandemic.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Raising new questions about the deadly coronavirus pandemic, a top expert on the National Academy of Sciences has written a letter to the White House warning the virus could be more contagious than previously thought. The letter warns, "The results of available studies are consistent with aerosolization of virus from normal breathing". That's likely to fuel interest in urging Americans to wear masks outside their homes. A practice that Los Angeles officials have just adopted. GARCETTI: We are now recommending that Angelenos use homemade face coverings when they're in public and interacting with others.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The pandemic is savaging the U.S. economy with an astonishing 6.6 million Americans filing unemployment claims last week, the highest number on record. Another sign top administration officials were wrong about the virus.
WILBUR ROSS, COMMERCE SECRETARY: So I think it will help to accelerate the return of jobs to North America, some to U.S., probably some to Mexico as well.
ACOSTA (voice-over): On the shortages of critical equipment in the battle against the virus, President Trump is blaming local leaders tweeting, "Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the federal government. Some have insatiable appetites and are never satisfied. The complainer should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit more". More governors say they feel like they're on their own.
BULLOCK: What Democrats and Republicans been saying is the states are managing this, but we're not getting the support from the federal government that we need.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The President is resisting the idea of issuing a national stay-at-home order.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: You have to look at -- I'd say, you have to give a little bit of flexibility. We have a state in the Midwest or if Alaska as an example, doesn't have a problem, it's awfully tough to say, close it down.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But it's clear some GOP governors are taking their cues from the President, like Florida's Ron DeSantis who just issued his own order based on Mr. Trump's comments this week.
GOV. RON DESANTIS (R), FLORIDA: You've seen his demeanor the last couple days. That's not necessarily how he always is. I mean, I think that we all look at this and say, you know, this thing is really nasty.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Georgia's GOP Governor Brian Kemp says he was surprised to learn people without symptoms can spread the virus.
GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): Those individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad. Well, we didn't know that until the last 24 hours.
ACOSTA (voice-over): But hold on. The experts said that back in January.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: You know that in the beginning. We were not sure if there were asymptomatic infection, which would make it a much broader outbreak than what we're seeing. Now we know for sure that there are.
ACOSTA (voice-over): Part of the problem, a Trump advisor said the President was listening to aides insisting the virus would disappear in April, adding, he took a gamble and got it wrong.
TRUMP: You know, a lot of people think that goes away in April with the heat, as the heat comes in. Typically that will go away in April.
ACOSTA (voice-over): A widow of a veteran who died from the coronavirus said the President was spreading confusion.
PATRICIA COWDEN, HUSBAND DIED FROM CORONAVIRUS: The Commander in Chief was saying it was nothing, you know. I don't want to add anger to my other feelings. So I just can't be mad about it. I just think there was a lot of confusion, too much confusion for something so serious.
ACOSTA (voice-over): One government official who tried to warn the public, Dr. Anthony, now needs extra security due to death threats.
FAUCI: You just focus on the job you have to do and just put all that other stuff aside and try as best as possible not to pay attention to it and just forge ahead.
ACOSTA (voice-over): The White House has announced the President has invoked the Defense Production Act once again to stimulate the production of more hospital ventilators. As to the economy, it's not clear how quickly Americans will get any relief from the recently passed $2 trillion stimulus bill. Just today, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi established a special committee to investigate the government response to the coronavirus.
Our Capitol Hill colleagues are reporting that it could take 20 weeks, 20 weeks for some Americans to receive their stimulus checks by mail. Clearly Wolf, that is way too long. And one other note about the briefing that should be starting shortly, Dr. Anthony Fauci, I am told, is not going to be at this evening's briefing, Wolf.
BLITZER: Interesting. All right, Jim Acosta, we'll watch it clearly very closely. Thank you very much.
We're joined now by the Governor of New Jersey, Phil Murphy. Governor, thank you so much for joining us. I know you have a lot going on. More than 500 people in New Jersey have now died from the coronavirus. About a third of those deaths were confirmed in the last 24 hours alone. Are you prepared for what the next week, the next month could look like for your state?
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Wolf, good to be with you. We're trying like heck. I mean, we're short. Still ventilators, personal protective equipment, beds, healthcare workers. The great news is we'll put a call to arms and we've gotten 7,100 people raising their hands to volunteer. But we have a ways to go, we're doing everything we can. We started this in January. This has been a heck of a challenge to stay out in front of this. We've gotten some help from the federal government, which we're grateful for. We need a lot more.
BLITZER: I want to read to you that tweet by President Trump that Jim Acosta just mentioned. Let me read it once again to you. "Massive amounts of medical supplies, even hospitals and medical centers are being delivered directly to states and hospitals by the federal government. Some have insatiable appetites and are never satisfied, politics? Remember, we are a backup for them. The complainers should have been stocked up and ready long before this crisis hit." How do you respond, Governor, to that?
MURPHY: I wouldn't describe our appetite is insatiable. I would describe it as based in science and facts and data. You know, we are trying to call this as best as we can from the beginning, based on the facts that are before us and, you know, we're getting hit hard. We are part of, particularly in the northern part of our state. We're part of the greater Metro New York reality, New York City reality. And we're not asking for a spec more than we need.
By the way, the state of New Jersey at least was never in the business of acquiring personal protective equipment. As I sit here before you, we've now acquired only in the past few weeks 10 million pieces. So, you know, the federal government, like a whole lot of other areas in our lives, but certainly in a crisis, there's nothing replacing it. The federal government has got to play a big outsized role right now.
BLITZER: And you say they're not doing enough?
MURPHY: Listen, again, we've got open lines, they have delivered. We've now gotten a total of 850 ventilators. I am grateful for that. We've got to ask him for an additional 1,650. We're trying to buy personal protective equipment literally today. Personally, I bought on with folks at Germany, Taiwan, People's Republic of China, as well as some folks in the United States. We're not waiting for it.
We are building out hospitals. And again, the Army Corps is helping us and I thank them profusely. But in all of those channels, in all of those avenues, we can only do so much. Any one state can only do so much. And, again, we need our federal partners with us.
BLITZER: We now know this is very disturbing, Governor, that thousands of the federal government's ventilators could not be distributed, because they were not maintained before this pandemic reached the U.S. What does that tell you about the overall U.S. level of preparedness for a crisis of this magnitude?
MURPHY: Yes. I would say this, the ventilators we've gotten, and I'm not going to would (ph) at least until to date, Wolf, we've had a very high hit rate of functioning, Thank God. On the one hand, I'll leave history to the historians in terms of how we got here. But on the other hand, man, we got all of us have to do one of the biggest post mortems when the dust settles on this in the history of our country. We got to figure out how the heck we gotten to this spot and make sure we never get this spot ever again. BLITZER: Yes. A lot of people want a 911 type commission of inquiry to make sure we learn from the lessons in case, God forbid, this ever comes up again. We will have much better preparedness.
Your neighboring Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York says the virus could continue to plague his state until August. Are you preparing for a similarly lengthy timeline?
MURPHY: Yes. I don't know that I've got a specific date for you, Wolf. But we know this is not going to be tomorrow or next week, or even probably a month from now. This is a marathon. You know, New Jersey and New York, along with our neighbors in Connecticut, we have put in place now for many weeks, some of the very strongest restrictions on people moving around. And by the way, if you're watching from New Jersey, one piece of advice, stay at home, period.
The great news is if you look at these heat maps, the travel has gone down dramatically. Please God that translates into a flattening of the curve. And therefore a much more reasonable exchange between the rate of people who are sick in our healthcare systems ability to treat them.
That may extend the reality but it may well be a much more manageable reality --
BLITZER: Very quickly because we got to.
MURPHY: -- I don't think is -- we got to make sure the order is right here and we get the virus first, then we get the economy back open.
BLITZER: Is it time for the people of New Jersey to start wearing masks or face coverings right now?
MURPHY: I saw what Los Angeles is doing. I think in a perfect world with the amount of supplies that we would need to do that, probably, I'm not a health expert. My fear is that we've already got shortages with health care workers, first responders. We're hearing from our retail and transit brothers and sisters, they feel exposed. I think we have to deal with the order of priorities first.
BLITZER: Governor Murphy, good luck to you, good luck to all the folks in New Jersey. I know this is an extremely painful and difficult experience. So thanks so much for joining us.
MURPHY: Thanks for having me, Wolf.
BLITZER: An important note to our viewers, stay with CNN for a "Global Town Hall: Coronavirus Facts and Fears" hosted by our own Anderson Cooper and Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Dr. Anthony Fauci and New York Governor Andrew Cuomo will be taking your questions. That airs later tonight, 8:00 p.m. Eastern only here on CNN.
There's more news we're following right now. We're going to speak with the author of an alarming new letter to the White House warning the coronavirus may spread through normal breathing and talking. Does that mean all of us should start wearing masks?
And we're also waiting to hear from the experts over at today's White House coronavirus briefing. Much more of our coverage right after this.
BLITZER: So we're following some breaking news, the Commander of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier has been relieved from duty. The Commander Captain Brett Crozier warned in a memo to Navy leadership that more action was needed for the coronavirus outbreak aboard the ship. The Commander is being removed because it's suspected he actually leaked that memo. The Navy aircraft carrier had some 114 infected sailors on board, but about 1,000 sailors have now been evacuated from the ship moved to shore to Guam, where the ship is currently import.
We're watching the story. It's an important story and we'll get more information. We'll update you as we get that information.
In the meantime, we continue waiting for the medical experts to speak over today's White House coronavirus briefing. We'll have coverage of that. But there's some very, very alarming new research suggesting that normal breathing and even talking in addition to coughs and sneezes may actually spread the coronavirus. The research is detailed in a letter to the White House by Dr. Harvey Fineberg, the Chairman of the National Academies Standing Committee on Emerging Infectious Diseases and 21st Century Disease Threats.
Dr. Fineberg is joining us right now. Dr. Fineberg, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks for all the really important work you're doing. And I want to start with the new information we're getting a source close to the White House Coronavirus Task Force commented on your analysis saying, and I'm quoting now, it's certainly possible that the virus is spreading simply by people talking or breathing. Is it more than just possible?
DR. HARVEY FINEBERG, CHAIR, NATIONAL ACADEMIES STANDING COMMITTEE: We can only say it's possible, Wolf. We can't say with certainty. What we know about respiratory viruses is that they are spread by visible droplets and tiny invisible droplets, and then even tinier aerosol that can be in the air.
And there have been studies of all three modalities to show that they are produced by humans breathing. Some of us put out many more aerosols than others when we breathe by talking, especially when we use something like a tea or a pee. And also, just by singing, coughing, sneezing, all the things that produce visible spray. All of these modalities can carry virus, they can carry virus that we inhale, and they can carry virus that settles on a surface that we touch, and then bring to our face.
BLITZER: Because we've been repeatedly told over these weeks that stay 6 feet away from someone, is that really based on the new information you and your team have put together? Is that really far enough?
FINEBERG: The physical distancing is based on sound information about how far droplets that are larger in size go before they fall to the ground or to a surface nearby. So there's a good rationale for that amount of distance. Now, it is true that some studies of sneezing can project droplets much further than that. So it's not a great idea to be right in front of someone who's sneezing. But as a general rule, the 6 foot distance is a pretty good guide for physical distance.
BLITZER: You're the head of this committee that was formed to give the White House expert advice on coronavirus. Do you know if your work is getting into the President's hands right now? Has the President been briefed on your information?
FINEBERG: The President, I'm sure, has many, many sources of information. Our reports go directly to the Department of Health and Human Services and to the Office of Science and Technology Policy.
BLITZER: Dr. Fineberg, I want to go back to you. But, right now, I want to go to the White House, the Head of the Small Business Administration Jovita Carranza is speaking. I want to hear what she says.
JOVITA CARRANZA, SMALL BUSINESS ADMINISTRATOR: -- center in the response effort, and we are working hard to get money to them quickly. This is an unprecedented effort by this administration to support small businesses and we know that there will be challenges in the process. Secretary Mnuchin and I are working in tandem to ensure that feedback from our partners is being heard and implemented. The private and public sector must work closely together to ensure that small businesses and their workers across the country are put first.
This administration believes wholeheartedly that if you are a small business, you are a critical part of the economic fabric of this country. And your viability is critical to the economic wellbeing of your employees. At SBA, we are working around the clock to support small businesses, ensuring that we are prioritizing emergency capital for small businesses that are suffering economic harm as a result of this unprecedented situation. This relief will help stabilize a small business sector, by providing businesses with the financial resources they need to keep their workers employed, and keep up with their day- to-day operating expenses.
Today, I want to ensure that small businesses all over the country know about the Paycheck Protection Program and how they can benefit from this. Simply put the Paycheck Protection Program is to help keep employees on payroll and small businesses open. SBA will forgive the portion of the loan that is used toward job retention and certain other expenses.
We are working closely with lenders so that businesses can go directly to their local lenders. Paycheck Protection Program is in addition to substantial work that the SBA has and will continue to do to help small businesses, including providing advances on SBA disaster loans, and forgiving existing SBA loan payments over the next six months. Additional details on these critically important programs can be found at sba.gov, and we will be updating these resources regularly.
Our hearts go out to those affected by this terrible virus. Our communities around the country are stepping up, and we will get through this together. At SBA, we know that every phone call, e-mail or application submitted has a small business owner, their employees and the communities they support around the other side.
Our most important objective is to allow small businesses to keep their employees on board and keep their businesses viable through this unprecedented disruption. I want to reiterate the importance of patience in this process as we work together to ensure that businesses are able to access needed credit. We will continue working around the clock as we've done with our federal and private sector partners, expanding capacity and working to make our systems as robust as possible to meet the needs.
Thank you, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Thank you. You're very good. Thank you.
STEVEN MNUCHIN, TREASURY SECRETARY: Thank you, Mr. President, thank you, Mr. Vice President, thank you, Jovita. Mr. President, you've made clear to us, we now need to execute. We need to get money to small business and American workers and that's what we're doing. The SBA and Treasury committed to get this program up and running tomorrow. And when Jovita says, people working around the clock, they literally -- we had both teams working until 4:00 in the morning and start working again today.
We've heard feedback from lenders, community banks, regional banks, and we've spent the last 24 hours making this system even easier. So this will be up and running tomorrow. I encourage all small businesses that have 500 or fewer people, please contact your lenders. Any FDIC institution will be able to do this, any credit union, existing SBA lenders, and FinTech lenders.
You get the money, you'll get it the same day. You use this to pay your workers. Please bring your workers back to work. If you've let them go, you have eight weeks plus overhead. This is a very important program.
I'm pleased to announce we are going to raise the interest rate on these loans. And again, the interest rate is paid for as part of the program. The borrower doesn't have to pay this to 1 percent. We had announced it was going to be 50 basis points. We've heard from some smaller community banks that their deposit costs, even though the government's borrowing at three or four basis points, this is on average a 90-day loan to make this attractive for community banks. We've agreed to raise the interest rate.
Again, I encourage everybody, take out the Paycheck Protection Program. I'm also pleased to report the economic impact payments. I previously said this would take us three weeks, I'm pleased to report that within two weeks, the first payments will be direct deposit into taxpayers account. And as the President said, last night, the President authorized me to say that anybody that has Social Security recipients won't need to file a new tax return and we'll have that. If we don't have your direct deposit information, we'll be putting up a web portal so that you can put that up. It is a very large priority. The President has made clear we want to get this money quickly into your hands.
I'm also pleased to report that we continue to work closely with the Federal Reserve. We're in the process of designing a new facility that we call the main street lending facility. We're also looking at facilities for state governments as well. And I'm also pleased to report the employee retention credit. It's up and running. The first $10,000 of wages. You get a 50 percent credit that's $5,000 per person.
For everyone who's kept someone, you can immediately get that money, you can deduct it from what you owe the IRS immediately. If you don't owe us money, you'll get a refundable tax credit. So that is up and running. I'm also pleased to report we have the program up and running. We're taking applications from the airlines, from the cargo companies and from national security companies.
So thank you very much, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Thank you, Steve. For Jovita or Steve, any questions?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, a Chase Bank sent a letter to its business clients today saying that they don't have the necessary guidance from the SBA, from the Treasury Department to be able to accept loan applications starting tomorrow. The need is clearly enormous, but at least one major bank says they're not fully empowered yet to be able to help there.
MNUCHIN: As I spoke to all the CEOs yesterday, I had a conference call with them. We got very good input from them on what they needed. As I said, people were working until 4:00. I believe we just put up the federal register with the new guidelines for lenders. I've been assured that the banks will be in the process starting tomorrow.
Now again, it's going to take a little bit of time, but we committed that this will be available tomorrow. And I encourage all companies, go to sba.com, go to treasury.gov you can see the information you need immediately.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Just to follow up with the small business owners. A number of them saying that they were on that conference call and that there's a tremendous power struggle going on between the Treasury and SBA and that it's over process and forms, is what they tell me that, lenders are actually opting out because they can't make enough money to even service the loans. So how are you going to make sure these small business owners get the capital they need to survive right now?
MNUCHIN: First of all, I can assure you Jovita is here. Jovita used to work for me as the treasurer. There's no power struggle. Jovita and our team, as I said, worked together until 4:00 in the morning, started working at 7:00 again. We've made the form simpler and I can assure you at five points, I've told these bankers they should take older traders and put them in the branches. There'll never be another opportunity to earn five points on a 90-day government -- fully government guaranteed loan.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And the checks right into direct deposit? IRS now saying it'd take four to five months. You're saying two weeks --
MNUCHIN: Let me be clear. I don't know where you -- let me be clear. I don't know where you're hearing these things. I told you this would be three weeks. I'm now committing to two weeks. We're delivering on our commitments. The IRS, which I oversee, within two weeks, the first money will be in people's accounts.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes. Just a follow up. I think the problem is not about the first checks for folks who have direct deposit. Sounds like those will go up pretty quickly. The question is then for folks who don't have direct deposit, and there was a staff memo that was released by the House Ways and Means Committee today saying that that process could take up to five weeks. That takes you to mid-August. Is that how long it's going to take?
MNUCHIN: That is not going to take five --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: In five months, I'm sorry.
MNUCHIN: Yes. Again, let me just say, when Obama sent out these checks, it took months and months and months. I am assuring the American public they need the money now. What we're going to do is, again, if we have your information, you'll get it within two weeks.
Social Security, you'll get it very quickly after that. If we don't have your information, you'll have a simple web portal. You'll upload it. If we don't have that, we'll send you checks in the mail.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How many checks can you process a week, though? How many checks can you --
MNUCHIN: Again we can process a lot of checks, but we don't want to send checks. In this environment, we don't want people to get checks. We want to put money directly into their account.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. This is for, I guess both you and the Administrator. There've been some anecdotal reports that business people are trying to get access to the online site to submit the applications. The website's been crashing. I've heard of webinars going offline because there's just too many people on them, so how are you guys going to be ready, you know, tomorrow to get these loans out?
MNUCHIN: We've brought in a lot of external resources at SBA and us to make sure there's additional capacity. As I said, we heard a lot of good feedback yesterday to simplify this process. It's going to be up and running now.
Now, let me just be clear. That doesn't mean everybody is going to get their loan tomorrow. But the system will be up and running. We encourage people over the next week, sign up. You can go on right now. You can go on the web, see what information you need. Very simple process.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, on a separate subject. Have you been in touch with Leader McConnell and Speaker Pelosi about their differences right now about another stimulus package?
MNUCHIN: I've spoken to the leader. I've spoken to the Speaker. I've spoken to the President constantly. When the President's ready and thinks we should do the next stage, we're ready. The President's talked about the issue of infrastructure since the campaign. I think you know that's a big priority for him. And again, if we run out of money on the small business program, we'll be back right away to Congress to get this increased.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Does the unemployment numbers today increase the urgency of doing a Phase 4?
MNUCHIN: Well, let me just say, you know, we're going through something that we've never done before, where the government has shut down big parts of the economy because of health reasons. Our economy was in great shape. Our companies were in great shape. There are three ways that Americans are going to be protected. For small business, they'll get paid by their business through this program, the direct deposit. There's also enhanced unemployment.
So we realize unfortunately there are a lot of companies that because they aren't in business over a short period of time, again, we're working with the states on enhanced unemployment. And as soon as the medical professionals and the President give the all clear, we're going to have a ton of liquidity. We have about $6 trillion. This has never been done between us and the Fed to put into the economy to support American workers and American business.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Secretary, in addition to the jobless numbers we saw today, Phase 3 was signed before the social distancing guidelines were extended for another month. So what additional relief are you going to give to Americans as they stay out of work for all these extra weeks? I mean, what are you waiting for?
MNUCHIN: Well, we'd -- in designing this program, we thought that we had liquidity for about 10 weeks, and that's what we've designed. And again, I think the President's been very clear. If we need to go back to Congress to support the American economy and American workers, we will be doing that.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Secretary Mnuchin, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has formed a select committee to oversee the distribution of recovery funds and she says she wants to make sure that those funds are wisely and efficiently spent. Do you think that select committee is something that's necessary?
MNUCHIN: I don't. I mean, you know, the -- both parties wanted us to have oversight, wanted us to have transparency. We have full transparency. We have an oversight committee that the Speaker gets to pick someone, the leader gets to pick someone. I believe there's five people on it.
And again, that committee will review the money that we're spending. And again, we support full transparency. Taxpayers should understand how we're going to support this economy and jobs.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, Senator Murkowski has asked you to consider providing loans to energy companies under the CARES Act, the Phase 3 bill. What are your thoughts on that? Would you consider providing those loans to energy companies?
MNUCHIN: So thank you and let me clarify. I have very limited ability to do direct loans out of the treasury. I can do them for passenger airlines, cargo airlines, contractors and national security companies. Outside of that, we work with the Federal Reserve to create broad- based lending facilities, which we will do. So our expectation is the energy companies like all our other companies will be able to participate in broad based facilities, whether it's the corporate facility or whether it's the Main Street facility, but not direct lending out of the treasury.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A question for clarity about the direct payments to Americans. For those folks who don't have bank accounts, who don't have direct deposit information on file with the IRS, how long would they have to wait for their check?
MNUCHIN: Well for people who don't have direct deposit, again we'll have an easy way they put it up. We can on a rolling basis, I think, you know, within a couple of days when they give it to us, we'll send the money out. We do realize there are people who are under-banked. And again we're working with all the digital companies, prepaid debit cards. We're working with all of them to make sure we have a process that every American gets their money quickly. This money does people no good if it shows up in four months and we will deliver on that, promise.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: So quickly is a matter of weeks then perhaps, not months?
MNUCHIN: Quickly as a matter of weeks and not months. That's correct.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Would you consider a moratorium on --
MNUCHIN: Go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, one area where you can make direct loans is to the airlines. How much do you expect that the Treasury Department and the federal government will be involved in overseeing the operations of airlines as it pertains to which routes get cut back, how much they operate, what they do about their employees and the like?
MNUCHIN: So there are very strict requirements that's built into the bill. Again, this was a bipartisan requirement. One, anything we do with the airlines, they have to maintain substantially all of their employees. So again, any money that we provide them will go to pay their employees.
We're going to be working with the Secretary of Transportation. There are requirements to maintain certain routes. So again, we have a very clear process. We've hired three outside advisors, will be financial advisors and three law firms. We'll be releasing that information shortly. And I want to thank them. They're all working for basically very, very little money. They couldn't work for free so they've agreed to basically work for what they would sign up to work for charitable organizations.
So again, no big fees to bankers. We've got a great team of three lawyers and three financial advisors that will assist us.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Secretary, just to follow up on that, will you give us a list of the names of those people who are advising you when you release the information?
MNUCHIN: Of course we will. We'll give you the names as well as the contracts. So again --
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Do you have any names right now other than Black Rock?
MNUCHIN: So again, I'm happy to announce we have the PJT Partners, OK, is going to do the passenger airlines, Moelis & Company is going to do the cargo and contractors, and Perella Weinberg will handle the national security. And there'll be three law firms which we'll announce shortly that will be working in each one of those sectors.
And again, let me just be clear, we need to get this done quickly. The airlines need money. We're going to work very closely with the Department of Transportation and get this done quickly. We've actually already received contracts from a lot of the people. Again, there's guidance up on the web. Full transparency. We've asked for applications.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, on the airline issue again, Speaker Pelosi and others have said that the government taking stakes in those airlines should not be a condition for the federal government to provide payroll support specifically. What's your response to that?
MNUCHIN: I spoke to the Speaker last night about that. This was something that was highly negotiated between the Republicans and the Democrats. The President was personally involved in this. He was on the phone with us many times. Mitch McConnell, Mark Meadows, senators on both sides.
There is a specific line in the bill that says that the Secretary, meaning me, will determine proper compensation, so this is not a bail out for the airlines and I will be working, once we get our advice from our financial advisors, we get the applications from the airlines. I'll be working very closely with the President and we'll make sure that we strike the right balance. Not a bail out. Taxpayers get compensated. But these airlines, these are national security issues. We want to keep our airlines intact.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Mr. Secretary, just more broadly perhaps for the administrator if not for you as well. Some small businesses, restaurant owners, for example, are finding that laying off their employees so that they can start collecting unemployment is better both for them as business owners and for their workers. What incentives do they have right now to keep their employees on the payroll if no one's coming into their restaurant?
MNUCHIN: Well, the incentive that you have -- and we want American business to be kept intact -- the incentive is these are loans that turn into grants. So if you're a business owner and you're a restaurant, you can hire your people back. You get money for their medical, you keep them on the medical plan, you get money for your rent, you get money for your electricity, so you're motivated. We want you to have a business that you can reopen quickly when it's appropriate. So this doesn't cost the business owners anything.
You know, when people talk about it, I can't imagine any American worker who had a job, is offered to keep their job isn't going to want to have it. And let me just be clear, we've also talked about this unemployment issue. You can only get unemployment if you don't have a job. So unemployment is intended for those people that are some of the mid-size or larger businesses and we're very sympathetic to this, that these companies can't afford. And for those people, the enhanced unemployment will be a significant benefit.
But we want to make sure 50 percent of the American workforce is small businesses under 500 people. The President, the Vice President, the Administrator and I want to make sure this part of the economy is ready and intact when we're ready to reopen.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A question for the Administrator. Is there a certain category of small businesses that you're most concerned about? Restaurants, hair salons, things like that?
CARRANZA: That's a great question. We're concerned about every small business. There's 30 million small businesses that we're really focused on and we're working feverishly to make sure that we can provide the available funds to them as quickly as possible.
So it's 30 million small businesses and the other businesses are being dealt with the PPP, with the Paycheck Protection. There was also the disaster, what we call the injury -- or Economic Injury Disaster Loan. And then there was an advance associated with that particular program as well.
So to answer your question, we're concerned about all businesses. And as the Secretary indicated, we're looking at employees being ready, not lost in this process. We want businesses to stay intact because they represent half the GDP. So if we spend a trillion to support 10 trillion or 11 trillion, I think that's a significant investment and that's what we're focused on.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Is there a certain segment that you think is particularly vulnerable?
MNUCHIN: Hang on, I just want to make one comment for explanation because I want to make sure everybody out there understands this. If you're an independent contractor, if you're a sole proprietor, you're eligible for this as well. Now that program won't be up and running until next week. But again, this is a very broad definition of small business.
So if you're an independent plumber, if you're an independent contractor, you're covered under this program. Slightly more complicated, you have to come into your bank and give them more information. But starting next week that part of the program will be up and running. Also charities, charities as well. Very important. The Vice President and President make sure that we covered small charities in this.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) churches and religious nonprofits?
MNUCHIN: It does, although there are some technical issues, but yes, it does include faith organizations.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Is that under the SBA program?
MNUCHIN: This is under the PPP. Yes, the new SBA program, they are covered.
TRUMP: OK. Thank you all very much.
MNUCHIN: Thank you, everybody.
TRUMP: Thank you, Jovita. Thank you, Steve. Good job. Thank you.
OK. So that begins right away and they start handing out checks, and a lot of people are going to have their businesses built back up quickly, I hope. And we'll see it. Complicated big small businesses, actually big business. So I thank them both.
And please, good. We have some great gentlemen. Let me see, great gentlemen. That's correct. Thank you very much.
Today, my administration is also issuing new guidelines to protect elderly Americans who remain the most vulnerable. By now, nursing homes should have suspended the entry of all medically unnecessary personnel. Today we're further recommending that all nursing home facilities assign the same staff to care for the same group of residents consistently to minimize any potential spread, and we're also urging facilities to designate separate areas for healthy and sick residents. And this is a practice that we probably will be recommending into the future long after the enemy has gone, this particular enemy is gone.
We're also making every effort to provide relief to our great veterans. We take very good care of our veterans. At my direction, Secretary Wilkie will use any authority at his disposal to extend deadlines for benefits and to postpone debt collections. We're now conducting well over 100,000 coronavirus tests per day. It's over 100,000 tests a day, and these are accurate tests and they're moving rapidly, which is more than any other country in the world, both in terms of the raw number and also on a per capita basis the most.
The FDA has also authorized the first coronavirus antibody test developed a body Cellex, a key step that will help identify people who have recovered and to understand their immune response and their immune system. Moments ago I directed Secretary Azar, and Acting Secretary Wolf to use any and all available authority under the Defense Production Act to ensure that domestic manufacturers have the supplies they need to produce ventilators for patients with severe cases of C-O-V-I-D-19. You know what that is, right? Become a very famous term C-O-V-I-D, COVID.
This action will help General Electric, Hill-Rom, Medtronic, ResMed, Royal Phillips, and Vyaire Medical overcome obstacles in the supply chain that threaten the rapid production of ventilators. We have over 100,000 being built right now or soon to be started. We anticipate issuing more orders under the Defense Production Act in the very near future. In addition to the one that I've just signed against 3M for face masks, we just signed an element of the act against 3M, and hopefully they'll be able to do what they are supposed to do.
Just spoke to Mary Barra of General Motors and she said they're very soon going to be ready to start production of the ventilators. They have a lot of ventilators that they've committed to build, and they'll be starting very, very quickly. FEMA continues to deliver resources to areas most effected by the virus, including New York. On top of the 3,000 beds we're already providing to the Javits Center, the Department of Defense is adding another 48 ICU beds.
Governor Cuomo has asked that this facility go and it's a big beautiful facility. It'd be converted to a COVID hospital and we hadn't done that yet. We hadn't thought in terms of doing that, but their use is, their real demand is for that. And we had meetings on it with the task force. We had meetings with the military and I've decided to say, yes, I'm going to do that.
That I will be signing and agreeing to a yes answer so that we will be doing that and also we will be staffing it, so the federal government is doing a lot of things that wasn't anticipated that it do. This is a 2,500 and/or 2,900, can easily be set up, hospital built in Javits Center. And so we're going to be converting that to a COVID-19 hospital and it's going to be a staffed by the military and by the federal government.
And based on the fact that I agreed to that, we had two other facilities that will likewise asking for it and that would be in Louisiana and also in Dallas and we'll be doing those. We spoke to the governor of Louisiana, spoke to the governor of Texas, and we've told them that we will be staffing those hospitals again above and beyond, but that's OK. We have to do that. In addition, the USNS Comfort is docked in New York to accept patients that is a non-COVID.
To date FEMA has delivered more than 4 million N95 mask respirators. And it's -- think of that, 4 million, 4 million. Don't forget we're a secondary source. The states are doing it and we're backing them up, but we've gotten 4 million N95 respirators, 1.8 million surgical masks, 460,000 face shields, 1.4 million gloves and 4,400 ventilators just to the city and to the State of New York and some of them now are being sent. I spoke with both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio a little while ago and some of them are being sent to the city.
All of America stands with the people of New York in this time of need. It's definitely a hot spot, but we have other hotspots also and we're taking them -- taking care of them very, very strongly, very powerfully. We have the finest people in the world in those locations and I think the federal government has not only acted early but acted quickly, professionally. There's no people like this. Doctors, nurses, first responders and other healthcare providers who want to help New York at this critical time should visit website, nyc.gov/helpnow, nyc.gov/helpnow. They need help now. They need people to help them.
We have great facilities and we've built some brand new facilities, big ones, but we need help. We need help for professional people. So if you're in an area that isn't so affected, and you're a doctor, a nurse, a health care worker, please get to that website and we would really appreciate your help. New York City needs it. Louisiana, by the way, needs it. Michigan needs it. Whatever you can do, those are very strong hotspots. They need help.
In recent weeks, as the virus has spread and economic hardship has followed, we have seen Americans unite with incredible selflessness and compassion. I want to remind everyone here in our nation's capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations. Here we go again.
I've already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years. You see what happens. It's a witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt and in the end the people doing the witch hunt, they've been losing and they've been losing by a lot, and it's not any time for witch hunts, it's time to get this enemy defeated.
Conducting these partisan investigations in the middle of a pandemic is a really big waste of vital resources, time, attention, and we want to fight for American lives, not waste time and build up my poll numbers cause that's all they're doing. Because everyone knows it's ridiculous.
So we want to focus on the people of this country, even the people of the world, we're going to be able to help them because right now, as an example, we're building so many ventilators, very, very hard to build, but we're building thousands, thousands of them. And a lot of them will be coming at a time where we won't need them as badly because it takes time. Very complex, very expensive. And we'll be able to help outside of our country. We think we'll be able to help. That's something that you cannot easily produce.
As citizens, we're linked together by the shared bonds of national love, loyalty, and affection. There's no earthly force more powerful than the patriotic pride that stirs in our hearts. And that is so true.
It's incredible the job that everybody's been doing. Everybody. They don't sleep. They don't go to bed. Sometimes they get nothing. Said to somebody recently on the task force, how many hours sleep have you gotten over the last couple of days? The answer was none. None.
In one Massachusetts neighborhood, citizens come out of their homes each night at 8:00 from their porches and they sing God Bless America. Others have joined in spreading from house to house down one street up to the next until their little town with a spirit of patriotism and reminding all Americans that we're all in this together. We'll fight together and we will win together. We're going to win this.
Now what I'd like to do is I'm going to step out. We have a meeting on the subject and I'm going to step out just for a few moments. I'll be right back. We'll answer some questions. But you have some very hardworking people who have done an incredible job led by Vice President Mike Pence, head of the task force. And then Jared Kushner is going to say a few words and Admiral Polowczyk, Peter Navarro, Dr. Birx and myself.
I'll be right back. So I'll see you in a little while. I did take a test. It just came out. This is from the White House physician. It just came out. I just took it this morning. And I took it. It took me literally a minute to take it and it took me, I guess it was 14 or 15 minutes. I went to work. I didn't wait for it, but he said it took 14 minutes or something to come up with a conclusion and it said the President tested negative for COVID-19.
So that's the second one. I think I took it really out of curiosity to see how quickly it worked and fast it worked and it's a lot easier. I've done them both. And the second one is much more pleasant, Jeff, I can tell you that. Much more pleasant.
So I'll be back in a little while and, Mike, please take over. Thank you. Thank you all very much. I'll be right back.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you Mr. President. The White House Coronavirus Task Force met today, but earlier in the day the President convened all the key elements of our supply chain team in the Oval Office --
BLITZER: All right. We're going to continue to monitor the Vice President, other members of the task force. We'll get back to that, once the Q&A starts, the questions and answers.
But I want to simply assess what we've just heard. John King is with us as well. John, we heard the President make the case that a lot of ventilators are being built a lot of these critically needed supplies are being built, things are moving in the right direction. He sounded a bit more upbeat today, as far as the critical supplies out there than he was over the past few days.
JOHN KING, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, you were just talking to the Governor of New Jersey before the briefing, some of our colleagues throughout the day talking to other governors and mayors and healthcare professionals, and they paint a very different picture. Here's the challenge. We are a week, 10 days, two weeks, maybe 20 days away, depending on which state we're talking about in each conversation about when they hit crunch time, their Apex, the point at which they believe they will need ventilators and other equipment they do not have.
There have been some issues in the federal stockpile, ventilator sent that haven't been well maintained. So they need repairs. The President is making a big bet here that he will deliver by crunch time. New York City will be first, Connecticut, New Jersey, probably right behind it, Louisiana, Detroit, but this is going to pop up, Dallas, other places across the country as well.
Interesting, the President using the Defense Production Act again today to try to streamline essentially the purchasing power so that the federal government can get all the parts, get all the pieces to the companies that are now rushing to try to produce these ventilators. That's great, but that is an authority the President has resisted for a very long time. Back when the governors first started and the health care professionals first started screaming for federal health, the President said no, the private sector can handle this. The stockpile can handle this.