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White House Holds Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; Interview With Gov. Andy Beshear (D-KY); CDC Director Tries To, But Doesn't, Walk Back Comments That Virus Could Be As Difficult Next Fall Or Winter. Aired 6-7p ET

Aired April 22, 2020 - 18:00   ET

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


[18:00:08]

ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.

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.

We're standing by for the Coronavirus Task Force briefing over at the White House, as we follow breaking news.

A leading expert on vaccine development says he was removed from his federal post after he questioned an unproven drug praised by President Trump as a potential treatment for coronavirus. The doctor says he's filing a whistle-blower complaint.

Also tonight, as the U.S. death toll now tops 46,000, a key coronavirus model now warns that states are starting to reopen well before it is safe. The model projects for example, that Georgia and 11 other states won't be really ready to reopen at least at least, at least until June 8, even though Georgia is aggressively lifting some of its restrictions starting this Friday.

This as we're also told some members of the Coronavirus Task Force share the concerns of the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who is warning that a potential second wave of the virus of this winter could be even more devastating.

Let's get more on the breaking news right now.

Our Chief White House Correspondent, Jim Acosta, is joining us.

Jim, the doctor who led the federal vaccine agency is now blaming political motives for his abrupt reassignment.

JIM ACOSTA, CNN CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: That's right, Wolf.

And I just talked to a source familiar with this situation, who says all of this happened very suddenly. This leading government official working on vaccine development for the coronavirus, Dr. Rick Bright, says in his statement that he is asking for an inspector general to investigate his removal from his position. Bright is filing a whistle-blower complaint, accusing administration officials of retaliating against him for speaking out against what he characterizes as excessively political recommendations of questionable treatments for the coronavirus, like hydroxychloroquine, that same drug that has been touted repeatedly by President Trump.

Now, Bright says in this scathing statement -- and we can put this up on screen -- it is scathing.

He says: "I believe this transfer was in response to my insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit. I am speaking out because, to combat this deadly virus, science, not politics, or cronyism, has to lead the way."

That's what he says in his statement.

In the meantime, the White House is jumping into cleanup mode, trying to downplay a warning from the director of the CDC that a second wave of the coronavirus could clobber the U.S. later this year.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA (voice-over): As President Trump is giving the green light to states to accelerate their plans to reopen businesses...

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're opening again, Mike. It's starting to move. A lot of states are in great shape, and they're starting to move it along.

ACOSTA: ... the White House is doing damage control, tamping down concerns expressed by the director of the Centers for Disease Control, Dr. Robert Redfield, who told "The Washington Post" that a second wave of the coronavirus combined with the flu outbreak later this year could be costly for the U.S., saying: "There's a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through."

In her first gaggle with reporters as press secretary, Kayleigh McEnany accused the media of taking Redfield out of context.

KAYLEIGH MCENANY, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETARY: The CDC director, I spoke with him just before coming out here. He was very clear in saying, look, we might have flu reemerge in the fall. All Americans need to go out and get their flu shots. That was the thrust of his comments, but leave it to the media to really take those out of context.

ACOSTA: But it's McEnany who has credibility issues on the virus, after once telling FOX, COVID-19 didn't pose a threat to Americans.

MCENANY: Absolutely. This president will put America first. He will always protect American citizens. We will not see diseases like the coronavirus come here. ACOSTA: A source close to the Coronavirus Task Force warns the public

health risks looming later this year are real, telling CNN: "Influenza and COVID simultaneously could completely overwhelm the health care system."

Still, the president is encouraging states like Georgia to continue with plans to reopen businesses in the coming days. Georgia Governor Brian Kemp's proposal to open up gyms, nail salons and other shops starting on Friday has Mr. Trump's support, even though new modeling from public health experts at the University of Washington shows Georgia should wait until mid-June.

GOV. BRIAN KEMP (R-GA): This is just not handing them the keys back to go back to where we were. This is a measured approach with a lot of different requirements and guidance that we're going to be putting out.

ACOSTA: The CDC director also criticized the pro-Trump protesters demonstrating against stay-at-home orders in states across the U.S., saying: "It's not helpful."

[18:05:00]

The president claimed that the demonstrators are practicing social distancing. But that's not true.

TRUMP: It's not a question of helpful or not. People want to get back to work. And I have watched some of the protests, not in great detail, but I have seen that. And they're separated. They're -- a lot of space in between. I mean, they -- they're watching, believe it or not. Social -- they're doing social distancing, if you can believe it.

ACOSTA: With new studies showing the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine, once touted by the president as a game-changer, is not really effective against the coronavirus --

TRUMP: What do you have to lose? It's been out there for a long time, and I hope they use it. I may take it. And I will have to ask my doctors about that.

ACOSTA: -- public health experts are clamoring for more data, so administration officials can make informed recommendations.

DR. ASHISH JHA, DIRECTOR, HARVARD GLOBAL HEALTH INSTITUTE: We're all desperate for therapies that work. I have always been puzzled by why we have made such a big deal of hydroxychloroquine. The data supporting it was really weak and anecdotal.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

ACOSTA: And one of the other big questions coming in to this evening's briefing is, where is Dr. Anthony Fauci, one of the most popular government officials?

He's trusted, polls show, on the coronavirus. I'm told he will be at the briefing later on this evening. Fauci, of course, was at the briefing last Friday. That was the last time he was at one of these coronavirus briefings. We were told the doctor is spending his days at his office working with his vaccine team and other officials battling this pandemic.

Fauci waits on the White House, I'm told, to call him down for these briefings, if his voice is needed. But, of course, Wolf, the other doctor on everybody's mind is Dr. Rick Bright, who was removed from that position leading vaccine research, as these briefings, Wolf, it seems, are less science-based and becoming more reality-challenged -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Jim Acosta, reporting from the White House for us, thanks very much.

We're also learning more tonight about the earliest coronavirus deaths here in the United States, where more than 46,000 lives have already been lost because of the pandemic.

Let's go to CNN's Nick Watt, joining us from Los Angeles right now.

Nick, California officials, I understand, are confirming virus-related deaths happened weeks earlier than previously known.

NICK WATT, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That is correct, Wolf.

One of the fundamental facts we thought we knew about the outbreak in this country turns out to be false. We will get to that in just a second.

We have also just heard from the governor of Montana. He is lifting stay-home orders Sunday. He will allow stores to reopen Monday. He will allow restaurants to reopen a week from that and possibly even schools May 7. That is pretty much in line with what those researchers over in Seattle have said about Montana. Their numbers are looking pretty good.

But back to that fact that we thought we knew, and it was wrong.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

WATT (voice-over): We thought the first coronavirus death in the U.S. came the last day in February in Washington state. Not true. Now we know COVID-19 killed someone in the Bay Area more than three weeks earlier.

DR. SARA CODY, SANTA CLARA COUNTY PUBLIC HEALTH DEPARTMENT: The fatality on February 6 was a 57-year-old woman.

JHA: That is a very significant finding. The things we put into place in late January, like the travel ban, the virus was already here by then and probably circulating quite widely.

WATT: Meanwhile, the president plane states are safely coming back, but one model used by the White House now says 12 states, including Georgia, should wait the longest, at least another six weeks, before relaxing social distancing. Georgia's governor forced to defend even on FOX what he calls a

measured step to open gyms, hair salons and the like this Friday.

KEMP: The fitness owners, I have great confidence in them spreading people out when they're doing a workout. It's not saying they have got to screen them. These are best practices. They could do temperature screening.

WATT: While others preach caution.

GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): In talking to many local officials, they feel political pressure to open. I get the pressure, but we can't make a bad decision. Frankly, this is no time to act stupidly.

WATT: Some preach caution to the wind?

MAYOR CAROLYN GOODMAN (I), LAS VEGAS, NV: I want everything back.

WATT: This is the longtime mayor of Las Vegas.

GOODMAN: We have never closed down the United States. We have never closed down Nevada. We have never closed down Las Vegas, because that's our job, an entertainment capital of the world, where everything's clean.

WATT: In Texas, daylight emerging between the Republican governor, who is expected to soon announce business openings, and the Democratic mayor of the state's biggest city.

SYLVESTER TURNER (D), MAYOR OF HOUSTON, TEXAS: When it comes to allowing something like the surgeries, which will start today, I agree with it. But if you go much further than that, if you start opening up everything, like what is taking place in Georgia, then I think you run into a serious problem of creating a resurgence of this virus.

[18:10:01]

WATT: A pork processing plant in Iowa just finally closed after pressure from local Democratic officials and resistance from the Republican governor.

QUENTIN HART (D), MAYOR OF WATERLOO, IOWA: I understand the impact that this has on our national food chain, but, in order to be able to stop the spread, this was the best course of action.

WATT: Meanwhile, we're now told this virus could come back hard in the fall.

DR. STEPHEN HAHN, COMMISSIONER, FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION: To certainly a possibility. And the whole task for a set of doctors is concerned about the second wave.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

WATT: Now, we just heard from the mayor of Las Vegas there calling for the doors to be thrown wide open. We just got a written statement from the Nevada Gaming Control Board

actually laying out the series of steps that any establishment wanting to reopen will have to go through.

And one of them is that, if you want to reopen, you have to submit a plan in writing seven days before you plan to pull that trigger -- Wolf.

BLITZER: All right, thanks very much, Nick Watt, in Los Angeles for us. As usual, appreciate it very much.

Joining us now, the Governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear.

Governor Beshear, thanks so much for spending a few moments with us.

Let me get your reaction to this top official who had been working on finding a coronavirus vaccine, a federal agency -- heading this federal agency, says he was pushed out for urging caution on the drug hydroxychloroquine, the drug that the president has touted as a supposed miracle cure.

How concerned are you that experts like Dr. Bright, for example, are being sidelined by the administration?

GOV. ANDY BESHEAR (D-KY): Well, Wolf, thanks for having me.

And let me start by saying what I say to Kentuckians every day, and that's that we will get through this and we will get through it together.

And the way we get through it is to make sure that we listen to the experts, we follow the science and, now that we are this far into it, we make sure we don't frustrate the sacrifices that so many Kentuckians and Americans have made.

We're at a place in Kentucky where we have flattened this curve. What it looks like right now is that we won't suffer nearly the loss that this virus truly threatened.

And now that we have made that sacrifice, now that we have flattened the curve, yes, we're going to take steps to work on reopening our economy, but we're going to do it in a smart, measured and gradual way, and I hope in every aspect, when we are looking at how we address this coronavirus.

It's OK that we have disagreements at different times. But we ought to certainly be listening to those that are in the public health sphere, that are working on these vaccines. We ought to make sure that we are led with knowledge and with -- and with science.

BLITZER: All right, so, hold on a moment, Governor, because Robert Redfield, the head of the CDC, is speaking.

I want to hear what he has to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS) DR. ROBERT REDFIELD, CDC DIRECTOR: ... as we build the confidence of

the American people.

When I commented yesterday that there was a possibility of the fall- winter -- next fall and winter, it could be more difficult -- difficult, more complicated, when we had two respiratory illnesses circulating at the same time, influenza and the coronavirus-19, but I think it's really important to emphasize what I didn't say.

I didn't say that this was going to be worse. I said it was going to be more complicated -- or more difficult and potentially complicated, because we will have flu and coronavirus circulating at the same time.

I want to emphasize that we continue to build the nation's public health infrastructure to ensure that we have the capacity to stay in the containment mode. Those of you who've heard me talk before, I have told you that, in January and February, up to February 27, 28, this nation had 14 cases.

We were in the containment mode. And then, unfortunately, the virus overwhelmed, where we got into extreme mitigation. We are building that public health capacity now to make sure that we stay in the containment mode for the upcoming fall and winter season, so we will not need to resort to the kind of mitigation that we had to this spring.

I have confidence that our public health response of really case recognition that we have talked about, isolation and contact tracing, combined with our plans for increased surveillance, particularly for the most vulnerable, will be an effective public health strategy, so our nation will be able to maintain itself in the containment mode.

Again, that will be supported by the American public's continued cooperation, obviously, in the areas of personal hygiene, and the types of social distancing strategies that may be appropriate.

The key to my comments and the reason that I really wanted to stress them was to appeal to the American public to embrace the flu vaccine with confidence.

One of the greatest tools we have, as we go through the fall-winter season that we're into, is to get the American public to embrace the influenza vaccine and thereby minimize the impact of flu to be the co- respiratory disease that we confront.

[18:15:15]

Thank you very much.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Could I just ask a follow-up on that, Dr. Redfield, please?

(CROSSTALK)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I don't know what is to follow up.

BLITZER: All right, I just want to be precise in what exactly the CDC Director, Dr. Robert Redfield, told "The Washington Post" yesterday.

These are his words in quotes in "The Washington Post."

He said this: "There is a possibility that the assault of the virus on our nation next winter will actually be even more difficult than the one we just went through."

And then he added: "And when I have said this to others, they kind of put their head back. They don't understand what I mean."

He then said: "Having two simultaneous respiratory outbreaks," referring to coronavirus potentially, as well as the regular flu that is that is so deadly, 'would put unimaginable strain on the health care system."

I understand Dr. Redfield is answering some questions now. Let's listen in.

QUESTION: ... "than the one we just went through. And when I have said this to others, they have kind of put their head back. They don't understand what I mean. We're going to have the flu epidemic and the coronavirus epidemic at the same time."

Is that what you said to "The Washington Post?"

REDFIELD: Yes, that's what I was trying to say to you just a minute ago, that the issue that I was talking about, about being more difficult is that we're going to have two viruses circulating at the same time.

This spring that we just went through, February, we had a benefit of having the flu season ended, so we could use all our flu surveillance systems to say, whoops, this is coronavirus, we need to focus.

Next fall and -- and winter, we're going to have two viruses circulating. And we're going have to distinguish between which is flu and which is the coronavirus.

And so the comment that I made, it's more difficult. Doesn't mean it's going to be more impossible. Doesn't mean it's going to be more, as some people have said, worse. It just means it's going to be more difficult, because we have to distinguish between the two.

And what I was wanting to do and what I want to do again here is appeal to the American public to recognize they can really help, like they did with mitigation, which they really helped.

I need them to help now to best prepare us by getting the flu vaccine and taking flu out of the picture.

QUESTION: But that quote -- but that quote -- but -- but -- but excuse me...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: We may not even have corona coming back, just so you understand.

Doctor, would you to...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: No, but I'm sorry, but that quote that I just read was accurate, right, sir? That's the quote from "The Washington Post." You were accurately quoted, correct?

REDFIELD: I'm accurately quoted in "The Washington Post," as difficult.

But the headline was inappropriate.

TRUMP: What does the headline say? What does the headline say? Give me the headline.

QUESTION: The headline says: "CDC director warns second wave of coronavirus is likely to be even more devastating."

And isn't that...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: That's not what he says. That's not what he said.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: But if you have the two things happening...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: The headline doesn't...

(CROSSTALK)

REDFIELD: No, I actually think it's actually going to be -- I think the American public is going to heed the requests to relook at their vaccine hesitancy, the vaccine, with confidence for flu.

And I'm confident that the public health infrastructure that we're putting together now across this country, so that we can early-case diagnose, isolate and contact trace, as I say, block and tackle, block and tackle, that system is going to be there. And we're going to be able to contain this virus.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Why did you retweet the article if it was inaccurate?

Doctor, why did you retweet it?

TRUMP: You weren't called. DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So, I

just -- we talked about this yesterday, when you asked me this question.

And someone, I think, used the word devastating. And I want to really, again, emphasize to the American public that, when we first interacted with this virus for the first time in the February and March time frame, we didn't have an understanding of its transmissibility, all of its symptoms.

We do now. And I think what we are building together in that -- when we talk about the public health infrastructure, it is very much working on the surveillance piece.

But I think we also know the strength of the American people and their ability to immediately understand how to protect themselves, with not touching their face, making sure that they're washing their hands.

But the other piece I wanted to talk about, and we mentioned yesterday, also, that we have the summer, while we have flu -- flu surveillance that we can utilize and syndromic management that we can utilize, we have all of that time to prepare clearly the testing algorithm that you would need in a flu, potentially, if COVID came back, potentially.

And so we are preparing for that potential right now. And I think we spoke to you all about that and talked about how we're not only preparing for today and tomorrow, but we're preparing for six months from now, three months from now, and making sure that all of these pieces are -- are in place.

[18:20:02]

I think what Dr. Redfield clearly was asking for, just like we asked for every American to follow the guidelines, he's saying, please add to that -- guidelines getting your flu shot and making sure you're protected.

TRUMP: And, Doctor, wouldn't you say there's a good chance that COVID will not come back?

BIRX: We don't know.

TRUMP: And if it comes back, it's in a very small, confined area that we put out, like fire?

BIRX: Well, the great thing is, we will be able to find it earlier this time.

And I think that's what we're talking about. We will find those cases earlier. So, what Dr. Redfield said, we would be able to stay in containment phase.

And what we're also hoping -- and we talked about this about four or five weeks ago -- that we're hoping that the flu infections also go down, because people are much more aware of respiratory illnesses and how to protect themselves.

Want you to get your vaccine, but we also want to also protect individuals from getting the flu, because of the vulnerability we know in certain populations to flu and the -- and the devastating outcomes to flu. We could prevent and decrease both of those things.

So, I think we are assured that the CDC is putting in place today what we are going to need in the fall, so that we can stay in containment if, potentially, the virus comes back.

TRUMP: And if it comes back, though, it won't be coming back in the form that it was. It will be coming back in smaller doses that we can contain.

But what the doctor was saying -- and I spoke to him at great length -- he was saying if it should come back together, now you have the flu and you have the embers of corona.

But, in my opinion, from everything I have seen, it can never be like anything that we have witnessed right now. Would you say that is a correct statement?

REDFIELD: Absolutely.

TRUMP: It's nothing like what we have talked -- what we have just gone through, we will not go through.

You could have some embers of corona, and you could have a big flu system. And if they combine, if they come together, if they come together, it's not great. But we will not go through what we went through for the last two months.

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: Mr. President, I...

TRUMP: Is that a correct statement?

REDFIELD: Correct.

QUESTION: I understand that the United States will certainly be more prepared in the fall, but how can you say that you know it won't come back in the same level that it has today?

TRUMP: What -- it is estimated it might not come back at all, Jeff (ph). It may not come back at all.

He's talking about a worst-case scenario, where you have a big flu and you have some corona. And if it does come back, it's not going to come back -- and I have spoken to 10 different people -- not going to be like it was.

Also, we have much better containment now. Before, nobody knew about it. Nobody knew anything about it. We understand it. Now, if we have pockets, a little pocket here or there, we're going to have put it out. It goes out, and it's going to go out fast. We're going to be watching for it. But it's all possible -- it's also

possible it doesn't come back at all.

QUESTION: I understand the containment, but I don't understand how you know it won't come back on a big scale.

TRUMP: I didn't say it's not.

I said, if it does, it's not going to come back on anything near what we went through. But you could have a mess, where they come at the same time.

And if they come at the same time, the flu is not the greatest thing in the world, Jeff. It's not the greatest thing either. If they come at the same time, you will have on both.

But if we have embers of corona, coupled with the flu, that's not going to be pleasant. But it's not going to be what we have gone through in any way shape or form.

Yes.

QUESTION: If you don't think that it's going to come back in -- at the same severity as right now, why are you still directing that taxpayer dollars be spent on emergency procurement of ventilators, tens of thousands of...

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: Because we have to have them for other reasons. Something else could come.

I mean, we didn't know about corona. Now we know about corona. But look at what happened. And, now, we did have the H1N1 swine flu. We had that. We have other things that have happened. We had various forms of flu, but nothing like what we have had here, nothing at all like what we have had here with the virus.

But something could happen. I think that the stockpiles -- we're making hundreds of thousands of ventilators right now. Nobody writes about that.

You know, at one time, all they talked about ventilators, right, because you didn't think it was possible for me to solve that problem. And I solved it. And nobody can believe it.

I just spoke to world leaders today who desperately need ventilators. They said, the job you have done -- and we're sending 500 to Mexico, then another 500 to France. We're sending some to Spain. We're sending some to Italy.

We have them. They're being made by the thousands. And world leaders -- I spoke to prime minister -- I went through a lot of different calls today. I won't even tell you. But I went through -- I can give you a list if you want. But I went through a lot of calls to a lot of leaders, spoke with Pakistan. They would like to have some ventilators. We're going to get them some ventilators.

But they all said to me one thing. It was incredible that you solved the ventilator problem, because that was a big problem.

[18:25:00]

The testing problem, we have done more than any other nation in the world. Go a step further. If you added up the testing of every nation in the world, put them together, we have done substantially more than that. You people aren't satisfied.

So, let's say we had 350 million people in the United States, right? Let's say. And if we gave every one of those people a test 10 times, so we gave 350 people a test 10 times, the fake news media would say, where's the 11th time? He didn't do his job. Trump didn't do his job, because you have a lot of bad reporting out there. It's very sad.

And it's so bad...

QUESTION: Mr. President...

(CROSSTALK)

QUESTION: That's not true.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: But you're one of the leaders of the bad reporting.

QUESTION: No, but it's not true.

TRUMP: OK. Let's -- let's get on to another subject.

(CROSSTALK)

TRUMP: I wanted that to be -- I wanted that to be cleared up.

If you want, we can get onto it later, but I want the vice president to speak.

But you ought to get the news accurately. You ought to write it. If you -- if you take a look at what you wrote about the ventilators -- and when we became the king of ventilators, we're making -- different factories all over, ventilators, by the thousands.

In fact, Mike got back from Wisconsin. First thing he did, he called up. I said, how's it going? He said, you're not going to believe it. He just saw a plant, a factory, where they're making ventilators.

I think I can say the words were unbelievable. He said, it was unbelievable, when he saw the quality of the equipment, the professionalism, a tremendous number of -- how many workers would you say were there? MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Over -- over 550.

They doubled production and are about to triple production.

TRUMP: Nobody thought this could be done. The fake news was very unhappy that it was done.

But you guys don't ask me about ventilators anymore

QUESTION: Who's unhappy -- who's unhappy that ventilators are being made, Mr. President?

TRUMP: Everybody. Everybody, because you never mention it. You never mention it.

There's no stories what a great job we've done with ventilators. We're now supplying ventilators all over the world, because no other country could have done what we did. And you should say, that's a great story.

Instead, you say Trump was slow or -- slow? We were so fast. Plus, we put the ban on so much earlier, when Nancy Pelosi, as an example -- you don't say this. When she's having her rally in San Francisco, in Chinatown in San Francisco, nobody wants to say that.

If we didn't -- and Dr. Fauci said this. If we didn't close our country to China, we would have been so infected, like nobody's ever seen.

When you saw the chart, and we were at the top of the list in terms of success, nobody wrote it. I said, where -- is anybody going to use that chart? Nobody wrote it, in terms of mortality. You saw that. Nobody wrote it, Germany and our country, the most successful in terms of mortality.

Nobody wrote it. It would be great if you wrote the truth.

But let's get on with it, because I want Mike to speak. And then I will take some more questions, on the assumption you would like to, and I think you probably will.

It's been encouraging to watch states begin to open up, as -- and it really has been. It's a beautiful thing to see. As restrictions are lifted, we must maintain vigilance and continue practicing social distancing.

I encourage governors to follow a careful, phased approach. And I want to remind all Americans to adhere to our guidelines, very important. The governors are going to adhere, hopefully, or they're going to do what they think is best. I want them to do what they think is best, but, ideally, they will adhere.

Wash your hands, avoid close physical contact as much as possible, and wear a face covering when distancing is impractical. There are cases. We have flattened the curve and really made tremendous progress, but we must guard against a dangerous rebound.

We don't want a rebound. That's so important. This is what we were just talking about. We don't want a rebound. The doctor doesn't want a rebound. These people definitely don't want a rebound.

I don't think you want one, do you, huh? You especially. We don't want rebounds, after all this death, death that we have suffered, not work. I don't view it work. I view it death that was unnecessary. It should have never happened. Should have never left that little area where it started.

You know it, and I know it, and they know it.

In our all-out war against the virus, we continue to make great strides on testing, famous testing. Doing more than anybody else anywhere in the world.

Nothing funny about that, Jon.

Most of the governors have never faced a situation like this before, but we're helping them find unused testing capacity within their states, tremendous testing capacity that the governors in many cases didn't know they had.

And additional capabilities are coming online every day. We're coming up with new equipment, like the Abbott Laboratories equipment, on site, five minutes, great success. Everybody wants it. But you can only make so many of those machines.

So, we have many other forms of testing. We have many other machines that do it very quickly, and by the millions, by the millions.

[18:30:00]

Our task force issued its reopening guidelines earlier than April 30 to give governors the time that they needed to develop testing capability and capacity and customize plans for their states, which many of them did. We have had some governors do a fantastic job on testing and a lot of other things.

I spoke -- as you know, Governor Cuomo was here. We had a great conversation on testing yesterday, and they're doing a really good job in New York. We're working very closely with each of the states to help them succeed.

I spoke earlier today with Governor Newsom, California. And that was all about testing, that conversation. He has been scaling up really well, really good job. And I agree to help him get some of the critical supplies that California needs to make use of the tremendous capacity that they found. This is a tremendous testing capacity, and I'm going to do it very quickly. He needs certain things. We're going to get that to him very quickly.

Now, could he get it himself, yes. But I can get it faster, he understands that and he's done a great job. And we're going to have to him, and we're going to have a lot to him over the next few days and beef it up the following week, get them a lot of additional. He's done a really terrific job in California. Some of the governors have done a fantastic job working with us. I told the Governor of Georgia, Brian Kemp that I disagree strongly with his decision to open certain facilities, which are in violation of the phase one guidelines for the incredible people of Georgia. They're incredible people. I love those people. They are great. They've been strong, resolute. But at the same time he must do what he thinks is right. I want him to do what he thinks is right, but I disagree with him on what he's doing.

But I want to let the governors do -- now, if I see something totally egregious, out of line I'll do. But I think spas and beauty salons and tattoo parlors and barber shops in phase one, we're going to have phase two very soon. It's just too soon. I think it's too soon. And I love the people.

I love those people that use all of those things, the spas and the beauty parlors and barbershops, tattoo parlors. I love them. But they can wait a little bit longer, just a little bit. Not much because safety has to predominate. We have to have that. So I told the governor very simply that I disagree with his decision, but he has to do what he thinks is right.

I'm excited to announce that in the coming weeks, the Air Force Thunderbirds are incredible, and the Navy Blue Angels, equally incredible, will be performing air shows over America's major cities and some of the cities that aren't major cities. They're going to be doing a lot of work, a lot of very dangerous flying. It's dangerous you know the odds when you start going at massive speeds and you're 18 inches away from each other. That's dangerous work.

Your son is a great pilot, and I don't know if he could be. Could he be a Thunderbird? I think he probably could from what I hear. I don't know if he wanted to be because it is it's, it's incredible what they're able to do and sacrifice our front line. What we're doing is we're paying tribute to our frontline healthcare workers confronting COVID, and it's really a signal to all Americans to remain vigilant during the outbreak.

This is a tribute to them, to our warriors. Because they are equal warriors to those incredible pilots and all of the fighters we have for the more traditional fights that we win. And we want to win, we always win. Sometimes we don't want to win, so we just go to a standstill. But that's always that's what the way this country works.

Operation America Strong was the idea of our great military men and women, the Thunderbirds and Blue Angels crews that wanted to show support to the American medical workers who just like military members in a time of war are fiercely running toward the fight. It's going to be great. I want to see those shows. I've seen them many times and I can't get enough of them.

And on July 4th, we'll be doing what we had at the wall as you know. We're going to be doing it. Last year was a tremendous success, and I would imagine we'll do it hopefully I can use the term forever, as a great success as you remember. Even though it was pouring, it was raining so hard. It was raining -- that was about as hard as I've seen in a while, but it was an amazing success. It didn't bother the pilots, it didn't bother the military, it didn't bother the crews we had there.

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So we're going to be doing that again on July 4th.

Our great military is operating at 100 percent during this crisis, and thousands of troops have deployed alongside civilians, and the COVID hot spots as you know, you see them all over, when I spoke with Governor Cuomo and when I spoke to Gavin Newsom and many of the other governors, they wanted to know if we can have some military help with the medical, and we gave it to them and in every case they said fantastic, I mean, just fantastic.

New York City, Mayor De Blasio called me to say it was inspiring to watch. He was there when the military came in. He said it gave everybody spirit when he saw the professionalism and spirit that they had. They walked in and they helped a lot of people, doctors, nurses, respiratory technicians and professionals. It was an incredible thing. But they all -- everybody that saw them going to work said that was something special.

So we're going to have some tremendous air shows all throughout our country, and that's in honor of what we're all going through together and the people helping us so much and, unfortunately, the people who have passed away from something that should never have been allowed to happen.

Following around the clock negotiations yesterday the Senate answered my call to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program so that millions of additional American workers can keep getting a paycheck. We just increased it by $310 billion. I urge the House to pass the bill without delay. In our first round of funding, we provided nearly $350 billion, and it went at record speed to American workers and small businesses, and it's really been an incredible success.

I want to thank the banks, with the big banks, the little banks, the commercial banks of all kinds. We had the community banks who were fantastic, by the way, community banks.

And as you know and this was an interesting story in recent days I've called for Harvard, that's Harvard University, which has a $40 billion endowment fund to return the money that it was allocated under the CARES Act, and I'm pleased to announce that Harvard has announced today that they will not accept the funds nor will Stanford University or many of the others that were involved both on a university level and also on a company level. Some of the companies were bigger than people had represented or bigger than people had thought and strong enough they didn't need to the money, so there's a certain amount of money that we are not sending.

Well, as soon as I heard it, I said stop funds, and for the most part, I guess they stopped it, Mike, right? They stopped, but we're not -- they're not accepting the money and that's great.

And so I want to thank Harvard, I want to thank Stanford and I want to thank the other companies. In cases, it's broken differently between colleges and companies, but I want to thank the companies and the other great universities, and there're some great ones.

So legislation passed by the senate yesterday also reserves $30 billion in loans for small financial institutions that serve minority and distressed communities. It's very important. We're determined to protect our African-American, Hispanic-American and minority workers who have been hit so hard by this hidden enemy.

My administration is pursuing a comprehensive strategy to address the full spectrum of needs in these communities supporting both health and economic revitalization. First, my administration is committed to providing the testing that is needed to fight the virus in distressed communities. In the last month alone, we have already sent over $1.4 billion to our nation's 13,000 community healthcare centers -- think of that, 13,000 -- to increase testing and treatment in the underserved areas.

We're also expanding access to telehealth. Telehealth has become a big deal. I've been reading about it for years and all of a sudden because of this it's become a big thing. People can't leave their houses. They didn't want to leave their houses for various reasons, including they wanted to follow the guidelines. The legislation passed by the Senate yesterday, and I want to thank everybody, a great vote, great. It's -- as you know it was a unanimous vote. How often do you see that?

But the legislation passed by the Senate yesterday includes an additional $25 billion to further expand testing and provides even more funding for community health centers and various forms of epidemics and pandemics.

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And we'll be working on that because, you know, as per a couple of your statements and questions before, we want to work on that for the future. We hope this doesn't happen again for, again, ever. But last time was of this magnitude, 1917, and that's a long time ago. So we want to be prepared. And we are prepared.

And as I told you we're building up hospitals, not only our stockpile, which is being built up greatly, but also hospital stockpiles. We're getting them what they need. We're working out cost arrangements with them and we're getting them a lot of the ventilators, which are the hardest thing for them to get both from a cost standpoint and a technical standpoint.

At the same time, we're also supporting the establishment of new testing sites focused on these communities. 40 sites have launched so far and there are plans to launch dozens more in the next three weeks. We're coming with testing apparatus and testing plans that are incredible, when you look at the numbers.

And some people are very very big on testing, big on testing, but some people are much less big than I am, I will tell you, and they're professionals. But we want to have it so that nobody can talk about gee whiz, I wish we had more testing. Nobody has done it like we've done it and nobody will, and we're getting very much stronger. We have incredible professionals doing it, so many different tests have now evolved. People are finding it even hard to believe.

My administration is working closely with governors to ensure they have the testing infrastructure in place to reduce further spread of the virus if they're so inclined to use the testing apparatus, including strategies for older individuals, low income Americans, minorities and Native Americans.

As part of the effort the White House task force headed up by Mike, who's done incredible. I say it every time, I'll say it to anybody who wants to listen, Mike Pence has done an incredible job, really an incredible job. Thank you. He's providing technical assistance to all 50 states through one-on-one phone calls as they develop and implement their plans.

In addition, my administration is committed to restoring black and Hispanic communities to full economic health. They want to be healthy economically and physically, and that's what we're doing. To that end today, I'm directing the White House opportunity and revitalization counsel led by Secretary Ben Carson, to focus its effort on supporting underserved communities impacted by the coronavirus.

And so Ben Carson is working on that with Mike and myself and a lot of other people. I'm going to ask Tim Scott, who was so helpful with the opportunity zones. It's an economic answer to a lot of problems, and Tim Scott was fantastic. And so I'm going to ask him to get involved with you and sure he'll be willing to do it from South Carolina.

I also ask the council to identify what additional funding will be required from Congress beyond what has already been provided. We're really building ourselves a strong base, and we're building ourselves a wall that's very different from the kind of walls that you've been hearing me talk about, but it's nevertheless, in many ways, performed the same function, and hopefully it's going to perform equally as well.

Furthermore, the council will seek input from the private sector and community leaders on how we can best support minority in distressed communities. As president, I'm absolutely determine to deliver a great future for Americans of every race, religion, color and creed.

Before our nation was attack by this horrible enemy, our African- American, Hispanic-American citizens we're prospering like never before, best employment numbers ever, not only African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, every American. We were breaking records at every level with almost 160 million people employed. We were never even close to that number.

And we were also breaking it economically, highest stock market numbers, highest numbers of every kind, and I think we're going to be back there, and I think it's going to be much sooner rather than later and I think we'll surpass those numbers, including our unemployment numbers.

But I will not rest until that prosperity has been fully restored and, again, I really believe that we're going to lift those numbers higher than ever before. It won't be as long as people might think. A lot of very smart people are looking at that and they're betting. You just have to look what's going on with the stock market.

In order to protect our great American workers, I've just signed an executive order temporarily suspending immigration into the United States.

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This will ensure that unemployed Americans of all backgrounds will be first in line for jobs as our economy reopens.

Crucially, it will also preserve our health care resources for American patients. We have to take care of our patients, we have to take care of our great American workers and that's what we're doing.

So I just signed it just before coming into the room, and very important. Very important. And as to amending it or extending it, that we can do at the appropriate time. It's now signed.

Earlier today, the first lady and I planted a tree on the South Lawn of the White House in recognition of the 50th Annual Earth Day.

I was glad to announce we will begin to reopen our national parks and public lands. We want Americans to be able to satisfy and be really safe. We want them to satisfy their family, but safety is going to happen and it will happen, and maybe even at a level like never before. We've learned so much.

But we want them to enjoy these great national treasures as we continue to take reasonable precautions. And hopefully, it'll be just reasonable.

My administration has directed more than $7 billion in federal funding to support the development of treatments, diagnostics and therapies. And that's something, doctors, I hope you can really work on. It's something so powerful and so important.

The FDA, the NIH, and industry leaders are establishing master clinical trial protocols to test multiple processing new drugs at the same time. And they're doing a lot of -- we're doing a lot of testing right now.

More than 1,600 locations across the country have signed up to administer convalescent plasma to patients, infusing them with antibodies of those who have recovered. And when they recover -- I've said it last time -- practically, the first thing they say is, I want to give my blood so that I can help other people.

They want to give their blood, it's incredible. They're laying in bed. They're still in pretty weakened conditions, and they say, I want to give my blood, and that's happening all the time, isn't it?

If you recovered from the coronavirus, I ask you to consider contacting your local blood or plasma donation center to arrange a donation that could potentially save many lives.

With love for our nation and loyalty for our fellow citizens, we will safeguard our families, care for our neighbors, heal the sick, protect our workers and build the future for a country that is the greatest country anywhere in the world, and we're only going to get greater.

Thank you very much.

Mike Pence, please.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President.

The White House Coronavirus Task Force met today, and despite the fact there have been more than 843,000 Americans who have contracted the coronavirus, and we grieve the loss of more than 47,000 of our countrymen, according to Dr. Birx and her team, we continue to see encouraging signs because the American people have been putting into practice the guidance that's been issued by the president and this task force and they've been taken to heart, and the guidance of state and local officials.

And, Mr. President, as we learned today, we are continuing to see declines in all the major metro areas around the country that have been most impacted. Numbers remain low and steady on the West Coast in Washington state and in California. But the New York metro area, New Jersey, Connecticut, all appear to be past their peak.

And as our scientists may reflect in a few moments, we also are seeing the positive rate going down, which is actually even as encouraging as the declining cases. The Detroit metro area appears to be past its peak. Seattle metro area, as I mentioned, remains stable. New Orleans metro area is the most stable of all the large metro outbreaks.

We also are continuing to see stabilization and declines in Houston and Atlanta and Nashville and Baltimore and Indianapolis and elsewhere.

This is a tribute to the American people, to the fact the American people have take ton heart the guidelines -- the social distancing, the personal hygiene, the recommendation that you use the drive through at a restaurant rather than going in a restaurant and avoiding groups of more than ten.

On the president's behalf and on entire of our task force, we just want to urge all the American people to continue onward.

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We all want to reopen America. And we want to reopen our states and our communities as soon as it is safe and responsible to do so, but I want to say to my countrymen, the fastest way to reopen America is to continue to do what you've been doing.

That's the fastest way, as President Trump has said many times, to get our country working again is to put the coronavirus in the past. And we are on our way to doing just that.

You know, for early on, the president called forth not only the full power of the federal government but he called forth the full weight of the American economy. And I had the privilege yesterday to travel to Madison, Wisconsin, and see American industry and American workers at their very best.

And I want to thank the GE Healthcare team in Wisconsin as well as the union machinists that I spent time with all day yesterday. It was extraordinary.

Mr. President, in earlier this month, you used the Defense Production Act to ensure that supplies could flow to GE and General Motors and Ford and other companies that were prepared to repurpose manufacturing lines and hire new workers to construct ventilators. And at this particular plant, they literally have -- the union sat down, the machinist union sat down and in less than one week negotiated a new contract with GE Healthcare that allowed them to begin to bring in workers from around the country.

They doubled -- they doubled their work line in one week. They're about to triple it. They've been going 24 hours a day three shifts seven days a week.

And the president promised that by harnessing the power of the American economy, we would have 100,000 ventilators in 100 days. Thanks to the ingenuity and hard working Americans that I was with yesterday and other companies. We're actually going to have 110,000 ventilators in 100 days.

They were all wearing T-shirts, Mr. President -- I brought one back for you -- that simply read: Union machinists save lives.

And to that great team at GE Healthcare, I want to just say, all of America is proud of you and grateful for you.

We're also grateful to our healthcare workers at every level and all the work they're doing, and we're proud that our National Guard and our American military are at their side. As our task force learned today, more than 31,000 National Guard have stood up around the country, and the president in the last day extended what's called Title 32 authorizations for all National Guard personnel through May 31.

So, we're going to continue to partner with states as the National Guard plays a vital role in testing and in cleaning nursing homes and in standing up states response.

Military personnel, Mr. President, we have more than 5,500 active duty military personnel, including, as of yesterday, 964 medical professionals in the uniform of the United States working in 17 hospitals in seven states around the country.

We're also very proud of our team at the V.A. Now, the V.A. has addressed its capacity issues. It's not seeing cases among the veterans in its facilities increase. So, they're deploying teams to focus on nursing homes.

In Massachusetts, the V.A. personnel disinfected two different nursing homes. In New Jersey, they literally taken over two state nursing homes and deployed 90 doctors and nurses. And in Florida, we're sending 16 teams to assist in nursing home operations.

As the president also mentioned, in addition to what I saw yesterday in Madison, Wisconsin, we are continue to -- we continue to build our strategic national stockpile. It's growing again with ventilators, nearly 11,000 in supply, 901 new ventilators will be added transitioned in the near term, and every American, I think, can -- can be confident that should the need arise for your family member, facing serious consequences from the coronavirus to need that equipment to help them breathe, that equipment will be there.

As we said yesterday in Wisconsin and you said, Mr. President, I think it should be a great source of comfort to every American that no American who has required a ventilator in the United States has been denied a ventilator. And that's a testament to our health care workers, a testament to every American putting mitigation principles into practice and a testament to these great companies.

Speaking of great companies, American businesses are stepping up. It was on April 1st that I travelled to a Walmart distribution center. And the president reached out to the president and CEO of Walmart, to ask Walmart to get in the gowns business.

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And, Mr. President, I'm glad to report to you that we heard today at the task force that Walmart is producing 8.4 million gowns and they will be delivered into our commercial supply to health care facilities around the country by the end of June.

They're hardly alone. Honda is producing 500,000 face shields. New Balance is making 100,000 masks a week. In a very real sense, the American people have stepped up to make the sacrifices and endure the hardship that social distancing has required, but American businesses at every size and every means have come together to respond to the president's call.

It really has been a whole of America approach. And our message from the president's White House Coronavirus Task Force is to tell the American people it's working. We're getting there. We can see light at the end of the tunnel.

We can see the day that we can reopen and put America back to work. But it's going to take all of us continuing to make the sacrifices necessary to practice those disciplines, to get us to a place where we can reopen safely and confidently.

With that, Mr. President, I'll call Dr. Fauci up for his reflections and we'll move on.

DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASE: Thank you very much, Mr. Vice President.

So, I'm going to just take off from where I was at this podium a few days ago to kind of reiterate some of the things the vice president said, but to kind of connect the dots from where we were, where we are now, and where I think we're going to be.

So, you remember, a couple weeks ago when we talked about the fact that we were going to have a really bad week because the deaths particularly driven by the situation in New York were going to get worse and worse. But yet, as that was happening, we were starting to see some turnaround, some flattening and some coming down.

As you've heard from Dr. Birx and will likely hear more, that is continuing.

So what has happened is that the mitigation that we put in with the first 15 days and then the 30-day mitigation program of physical distancing worked. So it got us to where we are today. It is a successful formula.

It is the basis for our being able to say that we can now think seriously about reopening America. And for that reason, we put together a carefully thought out and I believe well-delineated and described program for opening up America again. And you know what it is. It's the guidelines that we announced a few days ago.

Those very guidelines are based on a version of the successful formula that got us to where we are.

So what I'm trying to say is that the program is not one that is going to be turn the lights on in America, we're finished. We're not. We have to proceed in a very careful, measured way.

And if you look at the guidelines, they are careful, and they are measured. There are certain checkpoints before you can even think about going into a phase one. And then things relax a little as you go into phase two. And relax a little, and you go into phase three.

Now, we live in a big country, and it's heterogeneous, and there are different dynamics of outbreaks in different parts of the country. So, the speed with which one can go from one to another, at the point at which you can even begin to think about the phase is going to differ.

So, the one thing that I know, the urge we all have, to get out there and get it over with, let's get back to normal -- for a lot of good reasons, because there's a lot of suffering, economic and otherwise in this country because of that.

But again, as I've pleaded early on weeks ago, I plead with the American public, with the governors, with the mayors, with the people of responsibility, although I know one has that need to leapfrog over things, don't do that. Do it in a measured way. This is a successful formula.

The problem is if we don't do that, there is a likelihood that we'll have a rebound. And the one way not to reopen the economy is to have a rebound that we can't take care of. So please, again, let me just close by pleading with the American public in general, and those who are responsible leaders to carefully consider how we get back to normal.

Thank you.

REPORTER: Dr. Fauci, could you talk about your expectations for the fall? We heard from Dr. Redfield and Dr. Birx. What do you see for the fall? Is it going to be embers or possibly no return of the virus at all?

FAUCI: You know, as I said before here, when you look at an outbreak, it's two dynamic forces opposing each other. If you leave the virus to its own devices --