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White House Coronavirus Task Force Holds Briefing as Global Death Toll Tops 100K. Aired 2-2:30p ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 14:00   ET

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


[14:00:00]

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over time our guidelines to slow the spread are decreasing the rate of new cases very substantially and will result in fewer hospital admissions, and we're seeing that -- it's incredible, I think with no exceptions, it's looking like it's lower. And again, that's because of the people doing what they had to do -- great people. And working with elected representatives, and the doctors, the nurses -- and everybody -- I mean, just everybody. Everybody has been so amazing.

I was told this morning again, please mention all of those people working at the grocery stores, and it's true. The checkouts, and the clerks, and the people that are really -- and a number of those people have become infected. So we want to thank them, and a shout-out to them.

With the tireless devotion of American doctors, and nurses, and all of the medical people we've kept our fatality rate very, very low compared to other countries. My administration's closely monitoring the data on the virus's impact on our cherished African American communities because they've been hit hard.

And the Surgeon General will be sharing more of that information right after we're finished here, he'll be coming up and saying exactly what's happening because it's really -- it's very troublesome, I will tell you that.

I'd also like to provide clarity on the important point for many Americans on elective surgeries while we've asked hospitals to cancel surgeries and procedures that do not take place -- at this time, just not to do them now. The choice to delay any treatment still remains between the patient and their doctor.

We're not advising Americans to postpone medical treatment that their doctor believes should occur now. So there's different kinds of surgery, obviously. But we're really getting to the point where you can start to think about doing that surgery, if necessary, pretty soon -- I think pretty soon.

Yesterday I directed Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue to expedite aid to American farmers. And Secretary Perdue will be using all of the tools at his disposal to develop a program, and very quickly, of at least $16 billion to provide relief for farmers, ranchers, and producers impacted by the coronavirus. In this time of crisis we must keep our supply chains moving from the beginning -- right from beginning to end, and we're committed to supporting the amazing men and women who produce supply.

I did last night, a statement on social media, and I said, I have directed Secretary Sonny Perdue to expedite help to our farmers -- especially to the smaller farmers who are very, very badly hurting right now. I expect Secretary Perdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable and safe, and our great farmers are prosperous and continue to be prosperous.

We're working very hard to make sure our food supply chain is sound and plentiful, but we all know that that begins with our farmers, cattlemen, ranchers, and producers -- so we're going to be working with the small farmers, the big farmers, the cattlemen, the ranchers, all of the producers -- we're going to take care of them. We're working with them right now.

We have a lot of money that was put there through our use of tariffs and other means, and we're going to help out our farmers. And I don't think -- I'll tell you, I've been helping our farmers for a couple of years, because they were targeted, as you know, by China -- and others. And I think they've very grateful to what -- for what we've done.

On the medical front, the FDA has issued 47 emergency use authorizations for advancements in testing new ventilator designs, innovations in personal protective equipment, and experimental medicines. And Dr. Hahn is going to be talking about that.

We've cut through the red tape to give doctors and patients unprecedented freedom to make their own healthcare decisions, granting access to potential therapies and drugs. Since Monday we've deployed two major shipments of hydroxychloroquine from our national stockpile and it's going to various cities. And we are also disposing and getting as quickly as we can, portions of it to the Department of Veteran's Affairs and the Department of Defense.

And speaking of the Department of Defense, they're going to be sending us 10 million N95 masks that they had, and we're in great shape in every way. We're in great shape with ventilators, we're in great shape with protective clothing. We have additional plane loads coming in but we're not getting any calls from governors at this moment. I can speak, I think, for Vice President Pence who will be talking in a little while. We're getting very few calls from governor's or anybody else needing anything.

[14:05:00]

They're in great shape for the surge that's coming in certain areas in particular and that's a good job, you've done a great job in that mark, really a great job, I appreciate it, the whole country appreciates it. More than 2 million coronavirus tests have now been completed, and we are conducting approximately 100,000 more every day.

We're also working to bring blood based serology tests to the market as quickly as possible so that American's can determine whether or not they've already had the virus and potentially have immunity, they have immunity and they've had the virus, a lot of them don't even know they've had it. Sometimes it's brutal, you see the prime minister seems to be doing well now, I hope. He had a rough go of it and still is. But he's doing better.

And then some people don't even know they had it. It could be sniffles, it could be they don't feel perfect, but they've had it and they're the lucky ones. The NIH, CDC, and FDA are currently validating these antibody tests to ensure that they're accurate and they're doing that at break neck speed, I think we can say doctor, we're going to get them approved very quickly, Dr. Hahn.

When validated, we're confident that the production will scale up to tens of millions of tests very quickly. We're leading the world now in testing by far, and we're going to keep it that way. Other countries are coming to us and they're wanting to know about our tests and can they buy the tests and can they do whatever they have to do to get the test, and we're going to make that -- very soon, we'll be in a position to make that possible because it's important for them to have it.

And we're going to have an announcement on the world health organization sometime next week. As you know, we give them approximately $500 million a year, and we're going to be talking about that subject next week. We'll have a lot to say about it. We'll hold it. Every American should be proud of what our country has achieved in just a short period of time.

The U.S. military has deployed thousands of personnel to build 23 temporary hospitals with more than 16,000 beds, and we have the potential to build many more if we needed them, but we're already to go, but I don't think we're going to need them, which is great, fake news. And we built those hospitals in 12 states and the District of Columbia using the defense production act and we used it like a hammer.

A lot of the media said we weren't using it, we used it like a hammer, to a point where all we had to do was say the words and everybody gave us masks and they've done a good job. They really have done a good job with few exceptions. And we've harnessed the full power of American industry to produce ventilators and other essential supplies. Right now, we're making thousands of ventilators, many of which we won't need, but we'll use them in our stockpile, and we'll build that up.

We'll also help build up the stockpiles, which they should've had in the states, and so we're working with governors on that and we'll also help other countries. There are countries that are calling us for help, they need ventilators and they're in no position to build ventilators. We are, we have Ford and General Motors and many, many companies are building ventilators. So, we're going to be helping at a not too distant point, we're going to be helping quite a few of the countries.

Now we've launched Project Airbridge to deliver nearly 300 million pieces of personal protective equipment from and around the globe. We're also shipping out 60 sterilization systems to ten different cities that can each sterilize up to 80,000 mask's each day and I'm even hearing it can go up to 120,000 mask's a day, certain equipment with certain additions. That's a company in Ohio that makes it, it's a great company, great -- I hear it's a great product, works very well.

I asked that question, I said how come we have to buy so many masks? Why can't we sterilize the mask's that are being used and the answer was you can't. In this case, they say up to 20 times, so we can take a mask, certain types of masks, the N95's in particular, and we can sterilize them, make them very clean, up to 20 times. That's a great thing. In addition, we've pass the largest emergency economic relief package in American history to save the U.S. economy and protect the American workers.

[14:10:00]

You know, this past week, which was four active days on the stock market, Good Friday today is not included, the markets are closed. In four days, we had the biggest market increase, stock market increase that we've had in 50 years. That tells you that there's a pent-up demand, that tells you they want to get back. There's something good going to happen, I really believe that. There's something very good going to happen. We have to get back.

So think of this in this horrible period, this horrible dark period where this monster came and worked it's horrible, horrible spell over the world, 184 countries as of this morning, 184 countries. We've done well, and I guess the market thinks we've done well because we had the biggest stock market increase without one day, we're talking four days instead of five, that we've had in 50 years, 50 years, think of that, more than 50 years, actually.

In short, the American people have launched the greatest mobilization of our society since World War II, deploying every scientific, governmental, medical and military resource to defeat the virus. So I want to just start then with, we're going to answer questions later. We'll have time. I think we have a lot of time today, a lot of people are off as they should be, Good Friday.

But -- so I'll stick around, we'll answer questions later, I want to start with Deborah Birx, please, Dr. Birx, and you can go over some of the numbers we just looked at and that would be great. Thank you very much Deb.

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOISE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you, Mr. President. And thank you for outlining how well we are doing in a series of metro areas. What also has been encouraging for those of you who are watching, epidemic curves every day, and I'm sure you are and lot (ph) -- watching them in log phase because that's how epidemiologists like to look at their curves. You can see for the first time that in the United States, we're starting to level on the logarithmic phase, like Italy did about a week ago.

And so this gives us great heart, that not only in specific places, but we're starting to see that change. Obviously, a lot of that is driven by the improvement in New York City. You remember, for a long time, they were over 50 percent of our cases and 50 percent of our new cases, that has dramatically changed because of the impact of what the citizens of New York and New Jersey and across Connecticut and now Rhode Island are doing to really change the course of this pandemic and really change the trajectory of new cases.

We're seeing that -- what many states and metro areas were experience as twofold and fourfold -- fourfold increases that went to twofold, that now those are going to eight days between the doubling rate, watching this every day gives us hope across these metro areas from New York and New Jersey and all through Denver and of course through New Orleans.

We still see cases occurring in the Boston area and in Chicago, but their rate of increase seems to be stabilizing, and we really want to call out the work of the mayors of Baltimore and the district and Philadelphia who have really brought all of their health experts together, and working with their communities, are starting to really change the curve in those areas.

What we're seeing is we're united in social distancing, and that's been very encouraging to all of us, and it should be encouraging to the health care providers that are on the front line, many of which are serving our Americans with such dignity and respect and ensuring that everybody gets optimal care, and as the president noted, our mortality in the United States is significantly less than many of the other countries when you correct them for our population.

And that is really solely the work of our health -- our frontline health care providers. And so working with -- you can really -- hopefully you get the theme today that we are incredibly proud of our public health leaders at the city level, at the state level, at the federal level, who are working together to really change the course of this pandemic, working with their citizens in their communities to make these changes, and the American public who have really taken all of this to heart and stayed home.

I know last week, we really asked a lot of people in the Washington and Baltimore area to consolidate, not go out frequently to grocery stores or pharmacies, you can really see that that's having a huge impact. So it's really about the encouraging signs that we see, but as encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak.

BIRX: And so every day we need to continue to do what we did yesterday and the week before and the week before that because that's what, in the end, is going to take us up across the peak and down the other side.

[14:15:00]

We continue to really applaud the work of California and Washington state and Oregon. We're learning from all three of those states, from their public health officials about how they were able to keep the virus from ever becoming logarithmic, and I think that's an important lesson for all of us on how they did that, what the timing was in case we ever have to face this issue in the future. Thank you, Mr. President. TRUMP: Tony (INAUDIBLE)

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: Thank you very much, Mr. President. So again, just keeping on the theme that Dr. Birx had mentioned, this is the end of the week - that famous week that we spoke about last weekend, in which we - what actually was predicted to happen. We're starting to see the leveling off and the coming down that Dr. Birx had mentioned, but it's important to remember that this is not the time to feel that since we have made such important advance in the sense of success of the mitigation that we need to be pulling back at all. I was actually hearkened by the fact that we've been talking about the New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, and other areas where they have really big spikes, but there's other parts of the country in the middle parts of the country where they're concerned to make sure they don't get those spikes.

And I really want to salute the governors of states throughout the entire United States but particularly in the central part of the country because the governors often they see us in these press conferences and I've had calls over the last several days from several of the governors, you know, from Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Utah. Just about an hour and a half ago I spoke with the governors of Arkansas and Wyoming who are really committed to make sure that they don't get into the situation where they're going to have spikes in their state, and they're doing the kinds of things that they don't get recognized because people don't talk about them much.

But we have a big country. We have 50 states, and it's not only the big cities. So if we're going to pull out of this, we're going to pull out of it in the big cities and we're going to pull out of it in those areas that aren't as densely populated. And I just want to give a shout out to them. They're doing an extraordinary job. I was really - I wouldn't say surprised because I expect it of this country, but to hear what they're doing and the commitment that they're putting in to making sure that we don't have the kinds of situations that we've experienced unfortunately in other areas.

This is very important. I just want to close by one other thing. Something I mentioned yesterday and the day before that there are a lot of candidate interventions that are going into clinical trials. For those of you who are infested in it, I recommend you go to clinicaltrials.gov and you'll see the design of a clinical trial, and you'll see that many of them are the randomized control trials that are the really gold standard of how you find out whether something is really safe and effective.

And as the weeks and months and it'll probably be months, sometime in the summer we'll start to see which are working, which are not, and to focus on those that are we're developing and we're working. I'll be happy to answer questions later. Thank you.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER OF FOOD AND DRUGS, DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES: Thank you, Mr. President. The White House Task Force has been very focused on increasing the supply of personal protective equipment for our great providers. I was one of those providers a few months ago, and I can tell you nothing is more important than making sure they have what they need. So in order to increase the supply of N95 masks, FDA has worked with industry and has now authorized two companies who will supplies machines to sterilize N95 masks.

Admiral Polowczyk and FEMA are purchasing on behalf of U.S. government 60 sterilization machines as mentioned by the president, and they will be positioned around the county to increase the amount of supply of N95 masks. Each machine will be able to sterilize 80,000 95 masks - N95 masks per day, and we hope to actually increase that further.

The vice president and the White House Task Force challenged us yesterday, and we responded as a team, FDA issued revised guidance regarding the laundering of gowns because gowns are another issue in terms of supply that we're looking forward on. This is not something that normally happens around the country, but issued this guidance - it's on our website now at FDA. So there's information about how hospitals can do that to increase the supply.

We've heard concerns that maybe hospitals may not want to do that because of regulations, and I can - happy to tell you that Administrator Verma and I have worked on this. Certified providers and suppliers who follow FDI - FDA guidance as posted on the website will be compliant with Medicare and Medicaid requirements.

And then finally, last week FDA provided guidance to manufacturers on manufacturing specifications for cloth gowns. This is another attempt to increase the number of gowns. Typically it's plastic or other types of materials. And this guidance, if followed, can be used by manufacturers to actually make these gowns and no further regulatory red tape will be necessary. They can go into circulation. Thank you.

[14:20:00]

DR. JEROME M. ADAMS, U.S. SURGEON GENERAL: Thank you, Mr. President. Good afternoon, everyone. I started off the week talking about the challenges that lie ahead, and I want to finish the week just by reiterating what you've heard. Mitigation works. It definitively and quantitatively is working, and I want to say thank you to America for your efforts to help flatten the curve and to save lives.

But at the president's direction, yesterday I met with 2,000 Hispanic leaders from their communities, and today the vice president led a phone call that I was on with hundreds of African American leaders including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, including Derrick Johnson of the NAACP, including the National Medical Association and the Black Nurses Association, to talk about some of the alarming trends we're observing regarding the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.

And you've heard the stats. In New York City, Hispanics represent the majority of deaths. In Milwaukee County, Blacks are 25 percent of the population but almost 50 percent of the cases and 75 percent of the deaths.

So what's going on? Well, it's alarming, but it's not surprising that people of color have a greater burden of chronic health conditions. African Americans and Native Americans - excuse me - develop high blood pressure at much younger ages. And so, that's likely to be under control and does great harm to their organs. Puerto Ricans have higher rates of asthma, and Black boys are three times as likely to die of asthma as their white counterparts. As a matter of fact, I've been carrying around and inhaler in my pocket for 40 years out of fear of having a fatal asthma attack.

And I hope that showing you this inhaler shows little kids with asthma all across the country that they can grow up to be Surgeon General one day, but I more immediately share so that everyone knows it doesn't matter if you look fit, if you look young, you are still at risk for getting and spreading and dying from coronavirus. The chronic burden of medical ills is likely to make people of color especially less resilient to the ravages of COVID-19 and is possibly, in fact, likely that the burden of social ills is also contributing.

Social distancing and teleworking we know are critical, and you've heard Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci talk about how they prevent the spread of coronavirus, yet only one in five Africans and one in six Hispanics has a job that let's them work from home. People of color are more likely to live in densely packed areas and in multi-generational housing situations which create higher risk for spread of a highly- contagious disease like COVID-19. We tell people to wash their hands, but a study showed that 30 percent of the homes on Navajo Nation don't have running water, so how are they going to do that?

In summary, people of color experience both more likely exposure to COVID-19 and increased complications from it, but let me be crystal clear we do not think people of color are biologically or genetically predisposed to get COVID-19. There is nothing inherently wrong with you, but they are socially predisposed to coronavirus exposure and to have a higher incidence of the very diseases that put you at risk for severe complications of coronavirus.

But as the vice president shared on the call this morning, this history - and I want you to hear me say this - it does not have to be our nation's future. We're taking steps now in the midst of the COVID- 19 pandemic to reach, protect, and strengthen all communities impacted by this disease, and especially our communities of color. More details will be forthcoming, but we are actively working as the vice president and the CDC director laid out today data collection, targeted outreach to communities of color, and increasingly financial employment, education, housing, social and health supports so that everybody has an equal chance to be healthy.

And I want to close by saying that while your state and local health departments and those of us in public service are working day and night to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect you regardless of your color, your creator, your geography, I need you to know you are not helpless and it's even more important that in communities of color we adhere to the task force guidelines to slow the spread.

Stay at home if possible. If you must go out, maintain six feet of distance between you and everyone else and wear a mask if you're going to be within six feet of others. Wash your hands more often than you ever dreamed possible. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. And call your friends and family. Check in on your mother. She wants to hear from you right now.

And speaking of mothers, we need you to this if not for yourself then for you abuela. Do it for you granddaddy. Do it for big mama. Do it for your pop pop. We need you understand especially in communities of color we need you to step up and help stop the spread so that we can protect those who are most vulnerable. This epidemic is a tragedy, but it will be all the more tragic if we fail to recognize and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and an array of other diseases on communities of color.

[14:25:00]

The task force and this administration are determined not to let that happen. The president, the vice president has said we will not let that happen. We can't fix these issues overnight, but I promise you we will work with your communities to quickly and meaningfully move the needle in the right direction. Nothing less than the fate of our families and friends, my family and friends depends on it.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President . Today, the White House Coronavirus Task Force met and heard from the president the gratitude that he and I, and I know all the American people feel for all the dedicated workers of FEMA, HHS, U.S. Public Health Service, FDA, and all those that are literally working on your behalf around the clock, to partner with states and partnering with local health officials.

And Mr. President, allow me to add my thanks and admiration to all of the entire team here at the federal level. On this Good Friday, we remember those who've lost their lives to the coronavirus. We remember their families, our dedicated health care workers and our first responders. And we do well on this special day for Christians across this country to remember them in our prayers.

But as you just heard from Dr. Birx and from the experts, it's also a good day to remember that Good Friday is always followed by Easter Sunday. And there is hope. There is hope in this moment that thanks to what the American people are doing every day, adhering to the president's coronavirus guidelines for America, thanks to the fact that Americans are listening to state and local leaders and putting the health of their family members and neighbors first. We're getting there, America, we're making progress. But it's imperative that we all continue to implement all of the guidance in the 30 days to slow the spread.

As the surgeon general surgeon general just attested at the president's direction, we engaged more than 400 leaders in the African American community today, and allow me to express my appreciation for their leadership and for communicating to African Americans and other minority populations, some of the unique challenges that those communities face in the midst of this epidemic. And the CDC as the surgeon general said is working on not only studying the issue but very rapidly issuing new guidance and will be communicating that new guidance to all of those great leaders. On the subject of testing and supplies, the president gave a great

amount of detail, more than 2.1 million tests have been performed and we continue to work very, very closely with the FDA and suppliers around the country to expand the ability of testing. You just heard Dr. Hahn reflect on the fact very soon we will have an antibody test that Americans will be able to take and determine whether they ever had the coronavirus. I spoke today to the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis. We've been in contact with Senator Cory Gardner about an outbreak in a particular meat packing facility in the Colorado area.

At this time, our team is working with the governor and working with the senator to ensure that we float testing resources. At this point, there are some 14 people hospitalized, maybe 200 to 300 of the workforce have been impacted and we spoke about providing those resources this weekend. And I want to encourage people of Colorado that will work to support that effort, but I also want to emphasize that all the people that are working in food supply from farmers to meat-packers to distributors to truckers to grocers continue to have our gratitude as President Trump had said just a few moments ago.

On supplies, more than 5 billion have been obligated to the states 29,600 National Guard have been activated and at the president's direction, more than 4700 active duty military personnel have been deployed. Medical military personnel in nine states, focusing on the areas of most significant epidemic. Air Bridge, 26 flights have been completed, four flights are scheduled to arrive today bringing a quarter million gowns, 25 million pairs of gloves, 54 more flights are scheduled literally bringing in supplies from around the world.