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Members of the Coronavirus Task Force Hold a Press Briefing. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired April 10, 2020 - 15:30   ET



DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: And Governor Murphy of New Jersey, he's a very liberal guy, I'm not, but we've had a great relationship.

John Bel, as you know -- I call him John Bel. John Bel Edwards -- people call him John Bel, it's sort of a cool name -- from Louisiana, I have a very good relationship with him.

Gavin Newsom, I think we fight at -- hey, we're fighting right now. I want automobiles to be made cheaper, and safer, and stronger but you save $3,000, $4,000 per -- and environmentally equal, or better maybe, and we're fighting on that. We fight on a lot of different things. We fight on the border. He wants open borders, I want -- I don't (ph) want people to come into our country illegally. But I've gotten very friendly with Gavin Newsom. He's done a very good job here.

I think I've gotten very friendly -- I mean, he's been, I think, sort of a friend of mine for a long time, don't get to see him much, but Governor Cuomo of New York. We talk all the time. I told you, I spoke to him literally the last call just before walking in here.

I've gotten to -- I've really developed a lot of good friendships with the governors and including the governors -- I think Mike DeWine, a Republican, but I think he's done a great job in Ohio. So yes, I want to put on both parties. I want to have some governors. I'm not going to have all of the governors but I'd like to put some representative governors on the council, yes. I would like to do that.

QUESTION: Have you asked any to serve yet (ph)?

TRUMP: I have. I've asked a couple of them. They've all said yes. So far, everyone's said yes. I think everybody would like to be on that council. It's a very important council.

Go ahead. In the back, I think you haven't gone yet.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Two questions, if I may? Do you have a message to those pastors who are still planning to have Easter services, defying the public health guidelines?

TRUMP: What's -- you're going to have to say it louder. To those what?

QUESTION: To those pastors who are still planning to have Easter services in-person.

QUESTION: Pastors who are defying the...


TRUMP: Oh, the pastors. I didn't understand your word. OK. You have a very nice voice but it's a little bit low and you're far back.

I've had talks with the pastors and most of the pastors agree -- and this is a very complex subject, let's face it, you know, for the obvious reasons. I don't have to go into it. Most of the pastors agree that they are better off doing what they're doing, which is distancing. They feel that -- let's get this over with. And they want to get back to church so badly.

I mean, can you imagine? We have Easter Sunday and I'm going to be watching Pastor Robert Jeffress, who's been a great guy. Did I tell you? He's been a great guy and I'm going to be watching on a laptop.

Now, a laptop is not the same as being in his church or being in another church. It's not, no matter what you say. You don't get to (ph) say, oh, isn't it wonderful. But I've done this for three weeks and they've had tremendous -- I let people know who it is.

They've had the biggest audiences they've ever had. They have millions of people now watching and people are really liking what they're hearing. So I'm going to be with, on Easter, pastor -- I don't even know if he knows it yet but he will soon, I think he will in about two minutes -- Pastor Robert Jeffress. And he's a terrific guy, a terrific man.

I've gotten to know him very well. He's a man of great compassion. He loves our country and I'm going to be with him on Easter. Meaning I'm going to be with him, watching on a laptop. It doesn't sound good but it's -- you know, it's one of those things. It cannot be church. You know, I'm not going to get into it. It cannot church.

Most pastors and most people, you know, of faith, people that we listen to, and respect and admire -- Franklin Graham is a person I have great respect for. Most people will -- and who's done an incredible job in New York on Central Park where they put up Samaritan's Purse. He's done an incredible job, the son of the late, great Billy Graham. His family is incredible.

He's incredible. Franklin Graham, the job he's doing on -- I mean, he loves to do it. He -- he has such a passion that's why he's so good at it. He does it with incredible love. And he will tell you -- we're all saying we've got to get our country cured.

I know there are some pastors and ministers and others that want to get together. I would -- and I have great respect for them; two of them, I know. But I would say first, heal -- I'm a Christian. Heal our country. Let's get healed before we do this. And there's time to do that. We'll do it for, hopefully, the rest of our lives.

Please, go ahead (ph). QUESTION: Thank you. The Mercy and the Comfort seem to be underutilized at the...


QUESTION: ... moment in Los Angeles and New York. Is there any consideration either to sending the medical units into the cities to -- to help...


QUESTION: ... the hospitals there or to moving the hospital ships?

TRUMP: So the Mercy and the Comfort were sent when projections were much higher. And I say, Tony backed it up, Deborah made the statement.


They said "you're not going to need these many rooms" but we wanted to be prepared. I mean, you know, we had the ship, they did an incredible job with the -- the Comfort was supposed to be in maintenance for a period of four weeks and they had it done in three and a half, four days and it came up and -- so we had it there.

If there was a -- a -- a disaster from the standpoint of you needed all of the -- now I'll tell you, the Javits Center -- Andrew will tell you, we were ready to go, it's incredible the job they did but they're -- they're using less beds -- this is a good thing, not a bad thing -- they're using less beds.

Now Javits has been pretty busy over the last couple of days and the death numbers are horrific but you go back now and you're finding they're going to start coming down very substantially, just based on the fact that the bed usage -- the number of beds are much, much less -- much, much less.

So the Mercy and the Comfort were there in case they needed them. Los Angeles, where you have the one, and New York, we have the other -- we just don't -- fortunately, we haven't hit numbers where they would have needed -- they would've been used. They're always going to be sort of overflow because they're on the edges -- you know, they're -- they're not as convenient as certain places.

But the -- the people were ready, willing and able -- they were ready to go, they were going to do a great job. But fortunately, we don't need -- just like we didn't need as many ventilators. When they were asking in New York for 40,000 ventilators, I had experts -- these people, I listen to them, they said "you'll never need that many" and they were right.

And New York now has its -- and I dealt really well with Mayor de Blasio. We got him a lot of ventilators, we got Andrew a lot of ventilators but we never felt you needed the numbers that you were talking about and we were right on that.

Now with all of that being said, we have a lot of ventilators ready to go. We have almost 10,000 in the stockpile. That 10,000 can move rapidly. We can be, within 24 hours, almost anywhere. And hopefully we're not going to have to be but it's just -- it's really -- this has been a great military operation.

It hasn't all been military because we're dealing with great companies -- we have companies that are making masks, we're -- and we're all set up on the masks, too. I just told you we have an order coming in soon, 500 million masks -- 500 million.

We have companies -- you know the story with GM -- or 3M -- also GM but 3M is doing a great job. I spoke to the CEO the other day, we settled it out, we had a dispute with them and it's now all settled and I think they're trying to show the country something -- maybe me but the country something.

So we've done -- you know, I think -- and not me -- I'm not talking about -- this country -- our country, the people that are doing it -- Army Corps of Engineers, FEMA, these people sitting right here, people that we have in the back that are watching every word that we're saying, they've done a fantastic job -- they really have done a fantastic job. Please?

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask you a question about testing. You've mentioned the impossibility of testing the entire American public, so has ...

TRUMP: What do we have?

QUESTION: ... the Surgeon General ...

TRUMP: What do we have? 350 million people? You're going to do ...

QUESTION: That's not what I'm getting at. What I'm getting at is priorities. And Dr. Birx has mentioned how there have been priorities in certain regional parts of the country. And I wanted to ask you specifically about one industry in particular and that's food processing plants.

Is there a priority to get testing at food processing plants all across the country?

TRUMP: Well you're asking that because of what happened -- it's a fair question, too -- what happened in Denver, because in Denver -- I've never seen -- I said "what's going on?" We're looking at this graph where everything's looking beautiful and it's coming down and then you got this one spike. It's -- I said "what happened in Denver?"

And many people very quickly -- and the -- by the way, they were on it like so fast, you wouldn't believe it. They knew every aspect. They had people going -- not only testing -- who did you see, where were you, how many people did you meet, were you out to dinner in somebody else's home, where were you, where did -- where did this number of people come from, how did -- they are totally on it.

Now this just happened. I just saw it this morning. I'm looking at everything smooth, going down, topping out, then you have this one spike in Denver, it's like where did this come from? So we'll be looking at that and -- and we don't want cases like that happening.

This was -- but this -- this is the kind of thing -- can happen. This is very complex. This is a very brilliant enemy -- you know, it's a brilliant enemy. They develop drugs like the antibiotics -- you see it, antibiotics used to solve every problem.


Now one of the biggest problems the world has is the germ has gotten so brilliant that the antibiotic can't keep up with it and they're constantly trying to come up with a new -- people go to a hospital and they catch -- they go for a heart operation, that's no problem, but they end up dying from -- from problems -- you know the problems I'm talking about.

There's a whole genius to it. We're fighting -- not only is it hidden but it's very smart, OK? It's invisible and it's hidden but it's -- it's very smart and you see that in a case like a -- Denver but I -- I -- you know, I think we're doing well and -- and they're on Denver like you wouldn't believe.

I came in this morning, it was a flurry. I said "what's going on?" They said "Denver." I said "what happened in Denver?" Cause Denver was doing pretty well. And they've got that under control. But yeah, that would be a case where you do some very big testing. Peter (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, we learned that more than 16 million Americans filed for unemployment over the last three weeks. It's Good Friday, it's payday, we are seeing troubling, paralyzing lines at food banks around the country.

What do you say to those Americans in need right this moment?

TRUMP: Number one, I love them. Number two, we're working really hard. It wasn't their fault what happened. Sometimes they don't do a good job and they lose their job, that's one thing. This is a case where we take the strongest economy in the history of the world, which is what we had -- more people working in the United States, Peter (ph), than ever before -- almost -- I mean, look at the numbers. 160 million people -- almost, just short of 160 -- excuse me.

So we have the greatest economy we've ever had. By the way, black unemployment, Hispanic unemployment, Asian unemployment, the best numbers we've ever had in virtually every way and then you get hit like this and it's traumatic.

People that had great jobs, that went out to dinner and they didn't have any problems, they take their family -- they were making good salaries, all of a sudden -- you know, you use a term "cold turkey," it's cold turkey. They go from that to having no money and waiting for their checks, which are being processed very rapidly, but they still -- they have to go out and look for money.

It -- it's a terrible thing. All I say is we love them, we're working so hard and they're going to be back and I hope they're going to be back even stronger than before. QUESTION: But let me ask you about that if I can, just to follow up then. You -- you chose not to do a national stay at home order, now that you say you want to reopen parts of the economy. What authority do you have to do that? Isn't it ultimately up to the states to do that?

TRUMP: Yeah, no, it's really -- the states can do things if they want, I can override it if I want but the national stay at home, just so you understand, 95 percent of the country is stay at home. Like -- as an example, I was speaking with the great governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, the other day. He has a stay at home -- a lot of people didn't even know it -- but he had a stay at home. Some people reported Texas wasn't. He had a very strong -- actually a very strong stay at home.

95 to 96 percent -- South Carolina, as you know, has it, which at one point a week ago they didn't have -- South Carolina, another great governor, McMaster. No, 95 percent of the country is covered. Now, the states that aren't -- and again, constitutionally, from a federal standpoint, if I thought there was a problem, if I saw a state with a problem, I would absolutely demand it.

But they're doing great and the states that aren't are states that have not had a big problem.

QUESTION: But what authority do you have to reopen right now? The same way that it's up to the states to shut it down, it's up to them to reopen. What authority do you have?

TRUMP: I have -- I have great authority if I want to use it. I would rather have the states use it, I would rather -- and this is so shocking for me. A lot of people are saying "wow, he's really very reasoned, isn't he?" A lot of people are shocked, they think I do it -- I have absolute authority to use it.

But so far, our relationship with governors and the job they're doing, I haven't had to do it. Would I do it, if I saw a state that was out of control and they didn't have the stay at home policy? I would do it in a heartbeat. Jeff (ph)?

QUESTION: Mr. President, there's obviously a lot of interest in how you're going to make that decision. What -- what ...

TRUMP: That's a very big decision.

QUESTION: ... what ...

TRUMP: I don't know that I've had a bigger decision than that, when you think, right?


I mean, think of that decision. Somebody said it's totally up to the President -- I saw it this morning, it's totally up -- and it is. I don't know that I've had a bigger decision but I'm going to surround myself with the greatest minds -- not only the greatest minds but the greatest minds in numerous different businesses, including the business of politics and reason, and we're going to make a decision and hopefully it's going to be the right decision.

I will say this, I want to get it open as soon as we can. We have to get our country open, Jeff (ph).

QUESTION: ... say, sir, what metrics you will use to make that decision?

TRUMP: Ah, the metrics right here. That's my metrics. That's all I can do. I can listen to 35 people. At the end, I've got to make a decision. And I didn't think of it until yesterday. I said, you know this is a big decision. But I want to be guided. I'm going to be guided by them. I'm going to be guided by our vice president. I'm going to make a decision based on a lot of different opinions; some will maybe disagree and some -- I'd love to see it where they don't disagree.


Will there be risks? It's always going to be a risk that something can flare up. There's always gonna -- look, look at what's happening where countries are trying to get open and there's a flare up and they'll go -- but I'd like the flare up to be very localized so that we can control it from a local standpoint without having to close. There's always a risk. This is genius that we're fighting.

You know, we're fighting this hidden enemy which is genius, okay, it's genius. The way it's attacked so many countries at so many different angles and I mean, you take a look at what's going on. And the greatest doctors in the world -- I think they're close, by the way, but they haven't figured it out yet. Look what it's done to some people.

I mean, some people it's grabbed and it's a horrible, it's a horrible way to go. You want to know the truth; it's a horrible way -- and then other people it hardly has an impact on. We talked about it. It's sniffles. It's less; they don't even know they had anything. And some people -- I looked at New York this morning and I look at what's happening and the amount of the people that are dying and dying, violently dying. It's a very tough adversary.

But we're going to win and we're going to win it, we're going to win it very decisively. I'm going to have to make a decision and I only hope to God that it's the right decision. But I would say without question, it's the biggest decision I've ever had to make.

QUESTION: Quick follow up for the doctor, if I may, for Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx? The models, as I understand them, are based on social distancing continuing through May. Is that correct? And if you were to open the economy on May 1st or sometime during that month, would that impact the models, in terms of the deaths that you expect?

TRUMP: Want to answer that?

DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOISE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Are we taking turns today? Good. Good. Um. So the model, the IHME model does state that. It's through May. Every (inaudible) we've had these model discussions, haven't we? For weeks now. So the models are informed by the data and you can see how much that model has shifted on the amazing work of the American people.

So I think that's what we're evaluating right now. Remember when I talked yesterday -- I've been in public health a long time. I have never, except for EBOLA, where we worked very closely with the communities about specific issues, we've never taken a country-wide or a global-wide approach to mitigation. This is unprecedented.

I will tell you there is nothing in the literature about specifically what to expect and I think that's why the models continue to modify themselves, based on what actually has happened with social distancing and hand washing and all of the pieces that the American people are doing; they're decreasing the closing of the bars, the closing of the restaurants -- no communal eating. That was thought to be a very big issue in many of the other cultures that went through this virus.

So the models continue to evolve based on the impact. And so therefore it makes it very difficult to interpret each component of social distancing and which ones are absolutely critical. Now there's a way to do that in a multivariate analysis potentially and I want everyone to understand -- there are states that are (ph) testic. There are states that are doing contact tracing. So I mean I think sometimes we get, you know we look at what New York is doing and Detroit; we forget that there's a Utah and a New Mexico and a North and South Dakota and a whole series of states that have been doing testing and contact tracing -- and they've been testing at rates higher than that per capita rate that we all have discussed.

So we're looking at that. What did they do? Where are the most vulnerabilities? Where are the outbreaks most likely to occur? And that's why I've been talking about nursing homes, because we do believe that there's a relationship between age and seriousness of disease; not to say that there can't be young people with serious disease, but proportionally, it's a smaller piece with serious disease. And so when you have that kind of spectrum where the older and the more complicated the higher the severity, you get the impression that there may be more asymptomatic in younger age groups, and that's where the antibody test comes in.

So when you put all these pieces together, you're trying to understand, where would be the first signals? So we have surveillance out there right now with the CDC's influenza-like illness. I hope you're all tracking that. It is showing these small changes; I think we can believe in that as a surveillance tool.


Married with their (ph) syndromic piece; giving us the insight about where to test and then where to proactively test. And at nursing homes and other vulnerable groups, because that has been the signal in a series of the states that have very, very low, prevalence and incidents of disease.

So that's the kind of factors we're putting altogether, to really define the best way forward -- and we have superb roadmaps. I hope you all have seen them. There's been about six different roadmaps to opening that people have put online. And again, there's no literature that you can cite and said, well, we did this 20 years ago and what really worked. There isn't that. There's brilliant public health people giving us their insights.

QUESTION: (inaudible) the question is, because those are the models you've been using, if you do go with opening up, starting to open up the economy again on May 1st, doesn't that lead to more deaths?

BIRX: Well, look at how much it changed with mitigation. And now we're looking at those state-by-state and there's some states in there that are still in contact tracing; so we're looking at the impact of that model, what that model predicted, based on the type of contact tracing, less mitigation, more contact tracing. Are you getting what I'm talking about?


BIRX: Okay. So there are states that didn't stay at home orders, but were doing contact tracing, from outbreak. So we're looking at them. And how they have done. And we're looking at certainly what's happen in the big metro areas. And we're integrating all of that data together to make a plan going forward. So I can't tell you, because look at how much the model has changed in just a week.

Remember just a week ago it was 80,000. Now it's 60,000. So and the curves -- I'm sure you're all watching it, the curves are getting much broader confidence intervals. There is still the dotted line but the confidence intervals around the dotted line are getting bigger. When you see that, you know the model has a bit of an instability.

And so that's why Tony and I base a lot of our decision and discussion on cases and what physically is happening in that county, in that state -- at the same time not ignoring the models, but integrating the models as one piece of our thought process. Do you want to come up here and say what you think about models? Okay.

QUESTION: Dr. Birx, can you update --


TRUMP: I just want to say that, you know, you talked about, couldn't it lead to death? Meaning you open up, could lead to death and you're right. But you know what? Staying at home leads to death also. And. It's very traumatic for this country. But staying at home, if you look at numbers -- that leads to a different kind of death, perhaps; but it leads to death also. So it's a very big decision. As I said, it's the biggest decision I'll ever make. All right, we'll do a couple of more, we'll go. Thank you.

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Before you came out here and you said one of the last people that you talked to was Governor Cuomo.


QUESTION: And at his news conference today he said that he was asking you to use the Defense Production Act to require companies to make more tests, to streamline testing. Is that something that you would consider? Because you've considered it with ventilators and --


TRUMP: Well you know, the other side seems to keep using that and I have used it. You know, I've enacted that. You do know. And I've used it. Some people thought viciously. Just ask a couple of companies; if you want you can just look up the names.

And I'm surprised that he would have said that. We actually have great tests. We have others under development. You don't need full testing as the doctors have been talking about ad nauseum. So I would be surprised that he would have said that, meaning it that way. If he did I'd have a much different type answer. Go ahead.

QUESTION: Well, did you talk about it over the phone?

TRUMP: We talked about testing, yeah, we did talk about testing and one of the things I did was I put the two doctors in charge of that call. I said, you know what, Andrew; I have two very talented people standing here. We're getting ready to go on. Let me put them and let me have them talk to you and they talked to him really at length and I think by the time they finished he understood what he was, what we were saying; he understood it very clearly. Okay?

QUESTION: One more question, please. You've talked a lot this week about holding the World Health Organization responsible for --


-- its response to the Coronavirus. I'm curious if you've given any more thought to holding China financially responsible for the part that it played and the economic --


-- toll that it's taking on the American people.

TRUMP: Yeah, I understand the question very well. Nobody has done to China or treated China as strongly as I have; use the word "strongly".


As you know, you've reported on it, billions and billions of dollars is flowing into our treasury because of what I've done with China. I think it's a very sad thing that happened. And I think if people knew, including the World Health Organization, and I do believe they knew, but they didn't want to tell the world -- and we're going to get to the bottom of it. And we'll have reports on all of this and we are not happy about it.

But I wanted to leave the World Health war later and I can tell you that we're constantly in touch with China. We're talking to China. And we've expressed how we felt. We're not happy about it. We're not happy about it at all, Kristen. Okay, one or two more. Yeah? Jim. QUESTION: Mr. President, we hear from a lot of people who see these briefings as sort of happy talk briefings and --


TRUMP: No happy talk today.


QUESTION: And some of the officials paint a rosy picture of what is happening around the country. If you look at some of these questions; do we have enough masks? No. Do we have enough tests? No. Do we have enough PPE? No.

TRUMP: Why would you say (inaudible) --


The answer is yes. I think the answer is yes. Who said no to that?

QUESTION: I'm saying (inaudible) --


TRUMP: No-no, you're saying no.


But who said (inaudible) --


But you asked me, do we have enough masks? Yes.


QUESTION: We hear from doctors, we hear from health experts.


TRUMP: No-no-no, you didn't say that. You said, do we have enough masks? Yes.


QUESTION: Does the country (inaudible) --


TRUMP: Do we have enough tests? Yes. Plus we're developing new tests.


Do we have enough, do we have enough ventilators? Yes. Do we have enough hospital beds? Yes. We've built 20,000 hospital beds. We have enough hospital beds. Go ahead, Jim, let's go. QUESTION: Well, what do you say to -- I mean, you watch the coverage --


TRUMP: You know what I see.


QUESTION: You've been watching a lot of the coverage.

TRUMP: Well, a lot of it's fake news.


QUESTION: The doctors, no-no-no.

TRUMP: A lot of it's fake news. A lot of it's fake news. Let me just tell you --


QUESTION: When the doctors and the medical experts come on our air --


TRUMP: The governors reported --


QUESTION: (inaudible) -- we don't have enough tests, we don't have enough masks.


TRUMP: The governors, yeah, depending on your air they always say that, because otherwise you're not going to put them on. Let me just say something. The governors have said -- last night they had a group of governors, 14 governors, they were together someplace -- and they said, it's been unbelievable, what's happened. We've been totally responsive. The ventilators, everyone has the ventilators they need, to a point where we're getting calls from foreign countries saying you have all the ventilators; can we get some? And we're going to try and help some of these countries.

These people have done an incredible job. This is not happy talk. Maybe it's happy talk to you. It's not happy talk for me. We're talking about death. We're talking about the greatest economy in the world; one day I have to close it off. And we did the right thing, because maybe it would have been two million died, instead of whatever that final number will be, which could be 60, could be 70, could be 75, could be 55 -- thousands of people have died. There's nothing happy about it, Jim. This is sad talk. This is the saddest --

(CROSSTALK) These are the saddest, these are the saddest news conferences that

I've ever had. I don't like doing them. You know why? Because I'm talking about death. I'm talking about taking the greatest economy ever created; we have the greatest numbers we've ever had in almost every aspect of economics -- from employment to companies do- -- look at the airlines; they were having the best year. Now all of the sudden we have to save them. Okay?

There's no happy talk, Jim. This is the real deal. And I've got to make the biggest decision of my life. And I've only started thinking about that. I mean, you know I've made a lot of big decisions all my life; you understand that. This is by far the biggest decision of my life because I have to say, okay, let's go.


This is what we're going to do.

QUESTION: (inaudible) Will you have doctors? Will you have hospital administrators?

TRUMP: Sure. When you have many doctors that say, unbelievable job. I watched this morning and I watched a certain network and it wasn't Fox and you had doctors saying that we've done an incredible job. You just read off these no-no-no. Well, we have ventilators. We have equipment. We have beds. How about beds? I mean, Governor Cuomo just told me a little while ago, he's got plenty of beds. In fact, I have a hard time filling Javitz Center. We built them 2,900 beds. So that's not a fair question. Jim, look --


QUESTION: (inaudible) When you're (inaudible) masks and you're talking about reusing --


TRUMP: Jim. Jim.


QUESTION: -- PPE, obviously you don't have enough of --


TRUMP: Excuse me. We have masks. We have everything. And we were trying to get ready for the surge. And a lot of people said it will never happen. Deborah said it; you'll never need that many beds. They said we needed 40,000 ventilators, 40,000, it's like building a car; 40,000 ventilators -- people said, I felt it, too; you'll never need that many. Guess what? We have tremendous, we have, we're the envy of the world, in terms of ventilators. Germany would like some. France would like some. We're going to help countries out. Spain needs them desperately. Italy needs them desperately. Mexico needs them desperately. He asked me last night, would it be possible to get 10,000 ventilators. Within a short period of time, I'll be able to help out Mexico. No Jim, just the opposite of your question, it's not no, no, no, it's yes, yes, yes.