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White House Now Coronavirus Hot Spot?; President Trump Holds Press Conference. Aired 4-4:30p ET

Aired May 11, 2020 - 16:00   ET



KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: And now this e-mail that they got from the White House Management Office says that they need to be wearing masks when they are entering the West Wing.

They say that, if they are in the West Wing at their desk, they do not have to wear a face covering, as long as they are appropriately social distanced from their colleagues.

But this is notable, given that, just last week, this was not at all the guidance. And, actually, our reporting was that most people inside the West Wing were not wearing masks.

And, of course, this all comes on the heels of two staffers testing positive inside the White House, which has now set off a hunt to try to make sure that outbreak doesn't spread any further.


COLLINS (voice-over): The White House is now scrambling to contain a coronavirus outbreak within its own walls. Two people who work closely with President Trump and Vice President Pence have been infected, sending officials rushing to do contact tracing amid concerns about further exposure inside the West Wing.

KEVIN HASSETT, CHAIRMAN, COUNCIL OF ECONOMIC ADVISERS: It is scary to go to work. You have been in the West Wing. You know it's a small, crowded place.

COLLINS: A Saturday meeting with top military officials at Camp David was called off in part because of the concerns about the outbreak, leading Trump to meet with the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the White House instead.

Though his press secretary was one of the two officials who tested positive last week, Vice President Pence says he won't quarantine and was seen arriving at work today.

However, several officials who did have contact with his press secretary are now quarantining. After testing negative, the FDA commissioner and the CDC director both announced they will quarantine for two weeks, in accordance with CDC guidelines.

Dr. Anthony Fauci began a modified quarantine Sunday, after what he described as low-risk contact with Miller.

And, today, Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds announced that she's also going into a modified quarantine after coming into indirect contact with Miller.

GOV. KIM REYNOLDS (R-IA): As you know, last Wednesday, I was at the White House.

COLLINS: Reynolds later tested negative, but said she's still concerned about possible exposure.

REYNOLDS: Out of an abundance of caution, I will follow a modified quarantine plan.

COLLINS: Vice President Pence visited her state on Friday, where he attended a food supply roundtable. A video of that event shows that the food executives he met with were all wearing masks before he arrived. But then an unidentified staffer there on the administration's behalf signals for them to remove their masks.


COLLINS: Now, Jake, we talked to the White House about this video.

They said that the reason she was indicating they could remove their mask is because they were going to be socially distanced, though she didn't explicitly say that they had to remove them, just if they felt comfortable doing so.

And we should note more changes are happening here at the White House. We saw Dr. Birx, of course, the White House coordinator, arriving earlier today. She is not self-quarantining, but she was wearing a mask as she entered the White House grounds, as you can see in this video that we captured from this morning.

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: All right, Kaitlan Collins, thank you so much.

Joining me now, while we wait for President Trump to come out and begin his press conference, let's bring in CNN chief medical correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

And, Sanjay, the president tweeted today -- quote -- "Coronavirus numbers are looking much better, going down almost everywhere, big progress being made."

So, I want to talk to you about the factualness of this claim. It looks as though numbers are going down in at least 16 states, which, of course, is great news. But the numbers are holding steady or rising in 34 states.

Give us a sense of where you think we are in this current outbreak.

DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Jake, I think we're still in the early days. We're going to see these ups and downs, sort of trends, a bit like this. But there's two things. One is that, overall, I think we have to look

at sort of where we are as a country, where we're headed and take some cues from what's happened in other places around the world.

Also, I keep going back to these gating criteria, Jake. I think we have the map, by the way, of what -- where these places are going up, because it does sort of make a difference in your own state vs. other states.

You can see how the numbers are sort of doing. But, Jake, these gating criteria, we had 14 days where we wanted to see downward trends before you started thinking about reopening, 14 days. That's a significant trend, 14 days of downward trends in new cases, 14 days in downward trends of symptoms that are associated with this.

And we haven't seen that. I mean, it seems like that's just sort of been abandoned here. So, we do see the overall improvement in some states, the plateauing perhaps in other states, the continued increase in other states still.

I think the big question is, when do we as a country start to see the 14-day downward trend and make the case that we can more safely reopen?

TAPPER: And let's talk about the procedures that they're going through at the White House itself.

Vice President Pence, we're told he's not self-quarantining, even though his own press secretary, Katie Miller, has tested positive. Do you think he should be?

GUPTA: Well, it's funny.

I have talked to my sources at the White House today and -- about Vice President Pence and Ambassador Birx.


And one thing I will say is that you have the top infectious disease doctor in the country who is self-quarantining. You have the head of the CDC who is self-quarantining. You have the head of the FDA that is self-quarantining.

So that should send a message to people about what the right thing to do in this situation is. What my sources inside the White House tell me is that ,when it comes to Vice President Pence, Ambassador Birx, I mean, the balance is that they are running the Coronavirus Task Force.

Ambassador Birx is essentially in charge of that. Tony Fauci, for example, is considered an adviser to that. And they're drawing a distinction there, saying she still needs to be in the White House doing these types of meetings and things like that.

If they were to follow the guidelines -- and the guidelines are not equivocal on this -- they should be self-quarantining. But I think these are the sorts of decision -- decision matrix that's probably going to happen places like the White House and, frankly, in other places all over the country.

TAPPER: Although I -- just to point out, I think Dr. Fauci is at the White House today. And he did tell me when he described the self- quarantining that he would be willing to go to the White House, if they wanted him to go there, and he would be willing to go to NIH because his offices are basically empty anyway.

So, you and I have both been to the White House. I worked there when I covered Obama. The spaces are very cramped. People work on top of each other, not just in the press area, all over the entire building, with the exception of the Oval Office.


TAPPER: Do you expect more people will likely test positive in the White House?

GUPTA: Unfortunately, yes, Jake.

I mean, the virus is in the White House now. We know that. People have been diagnosed there. As you do more testing or if people develop symptoms, you're probably going to see more cases. I mean, that's the concern.

It is a tough place to maintain physical distance, as you point out, and even up until recently, people not wearing masks really up until today, I guess, people still very close to each other. We have watched a lot of have these press briefings where people are close to each other.

And when I'm looking at that, I'm -- people can't imagine a little virus sort of moving around person to person, but that's what I see. That's what a lot of infectious disease doctors see in their minds when they see that.

So, the -- I guess the good news is, the majority of people still, Jake, who contract this virus may not have much in the way of symptoms. So that's the good news. But the idea that more people will test positive, I think, is inevitable at this point.

TAPPER: The White House just announced that every staffer who comes in needs to wear a mask. They have said that people who are around President Trump are wearing masks.

Is that enough protection?

GUPTA: It's -- it's a good step. It's the best, I think, that people can really do at this point, besides maintaining the physical distance and quarantining themselves if they have had a known exposure.

Jake, last week, we were talking about this, and we said it's going to seem like an obvious decision that people should wear masks around the president, around the vice president, around all the principals. It's almost like you think about the Secret Service.

And it just struck me. And we will look back on this time over the last few months and say, we knew things way ahead of when they were implemented when it comes to the White House, when it comes to a lot of things in this country.

We know where this is headed. We knew that people were going to have to physically distance, that people were going to have to stay at home. We knew that far before it actually got implemented. We knew people in settings where you could not physically distance would need to wear masks in order to prevent the spread.

Like, when you see those images of Ambassador Birx going in with a mask on, the primary reason that she's wearing that mask is to limit her spreading the virus, if she has it.

TAPPER: Right. Right.

GUPTA: So, that's the important thing, and so that you're decreasing the amount of virus in the environment.

TAPPER: And we're seeing, Sanjay, a case study. I mean, the White House engages in surveillance testing, which is just random testing of individuals at the White House.

That's how they found out that some of the people had it. They're engaging in contact tracing, figuring out who that people -- the people who have tested positive have come in contact with.

There is this robust testing program inside the White House. But the president keeps downplaying the need for a nationwide testing program like that, so that your children or my children or people who want to go to work are able to also keep hold of who has the virus.

Take a listen to White House senior adviser Kevin Hassett yesterday on "STATE OF THE UNION."


TAPPER: Why not? Why not implement a nationwide aggressive testing and contact tracing system? What's the downside?

HASSETT: No, there is no downside.

In fact, we should use every single test that we can generate. And that's something that we're working overtime, on ramping up testing.


TAPPER: But, Sanjay, there's no downside, Mr. Hassett says, but they're not doing it. They're not invoking the Defense Production Act to get all the reagents and the swabs and the -- I mean, it's just one of the most bizarre things about this entire pandemic.

GUPTA: Yes, it really is, Jake.


I mean, it was a good interview. I watched that interview. And he -- I think he was being honest.

I mean, look, you see what's happening inside the White House. They're testing. Some people are being tested every day. They recognize the value of testing in terms of trying to contain this at the White House, trying to contact trace, do all the things to contain this.

That's a microcosm of larger institutions, a microcosm of cities and states and even the whole country.

I mean, that's what needs to be done. And, yes, why -- why haven't we solved this problem so many months into it? We're one of the greatest countries on the planet. We solve really, really hard problems.

And yet swabs? Why didn't we 3-D print swabs? Why didn't we create more of these reagents? I realize that everybody on the planet wanted the same things. But this was -- there's going to be big problems that we have to solve, like major sort of societal issues around this. Who gets the vaccine? When do they get the vaccine? How do you pay for it? How long are people going to need to -- how many times are they going to need to receive the shot?

Swabs and reagents in order to get the country reopened, that's a solvable problem. And we're seeing it at the White House in a sort of small -- small picture. That's what needs to be applied to the country. Everybody knows this. It's been talked about for months now.

TAPPER: And what we're hearing from the White House essentially is, testing for me, but not for thee.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thank you so much. Appreciate it.

Be sure to listen to Sanjay's daily podcast, "Coronavirus: Fact vs. Fiction," on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen to your podcast.

We're still waiting for President Trump to come out to the Rose Garden to begin a press conference. We're going to bring that to you live coming up.

Also, more images of crowded spots in the U.S., as the nation begins to try to reopen amidst this economic devastation -- the shocking scenes ahead.

Stay with us.


TAPPER: President Trump is in the White House Rose Garden.

Let's listen in.

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We're here today to provide an update on the unprecedented testing capacity developed by the United States, the most advanced and robust testing system anywhere in the world, by far.

[16:15:06] This afternoon, I'll also announce new steps that we're taking to make tests even more widely available. To battle a virus, my administration marshaled every resource at our nation's disposal -- public, private, military, economic, scientific, and industrial, all at your disposal.

We launched the largest manufacturing ramp-up since the Second World War. There's been nothing like it since.

At the center of this industrial and scientific mobilization was the development of our coronavirus testing capabilities. In the span of just a few short months, we've developed a testing capacity unmatched and unrivalled anywhere in the world and it's not even close.

This is a core element of our plan to safely and gradually reopen America and we're opening and we're starting and there's enthusiasm like I haven't seen in a long time. Every American should be proud of the amazing array of talent, skill, and enterprise our nation has brought to this challenge.

In three months, the FDA has authorized more than 92 different tests and over 9 million have been performed here in the United States. Three weeks ago, we were conducting roughly 150,000 tests per day. Now we're doing approximately 300,000 tests per day, a 100 percent increase, and it will go up substantially from that number.

This week, the United States will pass 10 million tests conducted, nearly double the number of any other country. We're testing more people per capita than South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Sweden, Finland, and many other countries and in some cases combined. On Friday, the FDA authorized coronavirus antigen test, an alternative testing technology that can be much more readily manufactured.

Quidel Corporation, which makes these newly authorized point-of-care tests, estimates that it will be able to manufacture 150,000 tests per day, immediately increasing to 300,000 tests per day within just a few weeks.

To further expand our nation's testing capabilities, this afternoon, I am announcing that my administration -- and we got this all approved, it's all done -- is sending $1 billion to America's states, territories, and tribes.

So this has all been approved. We've gotten it done, completed. The money is going out.

This major investment will ensure that America continues to conduct more tests than any country on earth by far.

I said from the beginning that the federal government would back up the states and help them build their testing capability and capacities and that's exactly what's happened. This partnership has truly flourished. We have really had a very good relationship with the states and the governors and other representatives within the states, a relationship like I think I can honestly say has not been seen in this country for many, many years. The governors and us are working together very closely, not only on

testing, but on ventilators, where we have a capacity that's at this point virtually unlimited. And we're sending ventilators, as you probably heard, from other countries. We're sending many, many thousands of ventilators to other countries because they're in tremendous need, and I think building up a lot of goodwill but much more importantly than that, we're saving a lot of lives.

Most states are now doing a great job. My administration located 5,000 machines in 700 labs across all 50 states and governors have learned how to maximize these testing resources. The federal government is also supporting states with vital supplies, quick approvals of new tests, and one-on-one coaching from the team here at the White House on how to increase capacity and increase it very quickly.

In recent weeks, we've held multiple conference calls with every state as well as with D.C. and Puerto Rico. We jointly developed testing projections and goals for each state for the month of May, all together totaling 12.9 million tests, think of that, 12.9 million tests.

Today, I'm announcing that my administration will provide the collection supplies to help states meet their targets and meet them rapidly.

During the month of May, FEMA and HHS will be delivering 12.9 million swabs to states nationwide. We already have them. The delivery will be very quick.

We're prepared to provide millions of additional swabs if any state is on a pace to surpass its goal and their goals are very high. We've set them very high. We've told them to set them very high.

My administration will also provide approximately 9 million transport media which are used to transfer swabs to the lab processing -- a complicated process but we've made it simple.


As a result of these actions, every single state will be able to test more people per capita in May alone than South Korea has tested in four months since the outbreak began.

This major commitment is possible because of the massive mobilization of American industry, including Puritan Medical Products, U.S. Cotton, Abbott Labs, and Thermo Fisher. Some of these incredible companies produced and produced rapidly for us and their products are here with us this afternoon.

These are all different products that were literally just developed, and if you can imagine that, these are the best machines and the best equipment anywhere in the world, and other countries are calling us and we're trying to work as much as we can, not only on ventilators but also with testing.

My administration also continues our tireless effort to expand testing in the most underserved communities. Through our partnership with the private sector, leading pharmacies and retailers are now operating over 240 testing sites across the country and that's in addition to all the other sites that we have working. Seventy percent of these sites are located in communities with unique vulnerabilities.

There will be more than 300 sites by the end of this week and retailers are making plans to open up hundreds and hundreds more locations within the next 30 days. These additional sites are helping us ensure access to testing in every community. My administration is fighting relentlessly to protect all citizens of every color and creed from this terrible virus, the invisible enemy.

In addition to vast amounts of testing supplies, my administration has partnered with the private sector to coordinate the delivery of more than 90 million N95 masks and these are of the highest quality. Many are made right here in the United States, a capacity we didn't have at all at the beginning.

One hundred twenty-six million surgical masks. Likewise, many are made here. Nine million face shields. Twenty-one million surgical gowns. Nine hundred ninety-three million gloves, and 10,690 ventilators.

We're building thousands of ventilators in numerous plants all across our country. It's incredible, actually.

This global pandemic has inflicted great pain and hardship on our people. It should have never been allowed to happen. It should have been stopped at the source.

We mourn for every life the virus has claimed. And we share the grief of all of you who have lost a loved one, and that goes worldwide too. Many, many countries, 184 countries at least.

Thanks to the courage of our citizens and our aggressive strategy, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved. And we have saved, and if you look at on a per 100,000 basis, we're at the best part of the pack, right on the bottom. Germany and us are leading the world. Germany and the United States are leading the world, lives saved per 100,000.

In every generation, through every challenge and hardship and danger, America has risen to the task. We have met the moment. And we have prevailed.

Americans do whatever it takes to find solutions, pioneer breakthroughs, and harness the energies we need to achieve a total victory. Day after day, we're making tremendous strides with the dedication of our doctors and nurses. These are incredible people. These are brave people. These are warriors.

With the devotion of our manufacturing workers, food suppliers and lab technicians, and with the profound patriotism of the American people, we will defeat this horrible enemy. We will revive our economy. And we will transition into greatness.

That's a phrase you're going to hear a lot because that's what's going to happen. We're going into the third quarter. And we're going to do well.

In the fourth quarter, we're going to do very good. And next year, I think we'll have one of the best years we've ever had because there is a tremendous pent-up demand. It's a demand, and I'm feeling it, I've felt things a lot over my life, and I've made a lot of good calls.

It's a demand like I don't think I've ever seen. It is a pent-up demand. There is the spirit in this country like few have seen. And I think you can say and we've helped a lot of the countries a lot, really a lot. There's a tremendous spirit all over the world to beat this terrible, terrible thing.

But we're transitioning to greatness and the greatness is going to be in the fourth quarter but it's really going to be next year. And it's going to a year like we've never had before. I really believe that.

As good as we've done, and we've done great, we had the best economy in the history of the world.


Not just here, but anywhere in the world. You can talk China. You can talk any other country. We had the best economy anywhere in the world.

And we were going for numbers, whether it was unemployment numbers, where we had our best numbers, employment also numbers. A little different, where we had our best numbers, almost 160 million people. All of that, we had the greatest stock market numbers ever. I think we had 142 days where we set records.

In a short period of time, 152 days, we set records in the stock market. We rebuilt our military. All built in the United States. All of our equipment built, $1.5 trillion plus.

On the southern border, the wall is being built. It's being built rapidly.

And now, you don't hear the opponents talking too much about the border. They don't like to talk about it because it seemed we were right on a lot of things.

One of the things we were right about, one of the many things, was the border. We have a very powerful border.

Now, we had one of the best weeks in the history of our border between the United States and Mexico, our southern border. We had very few people coming in, very, very few. Almost record low numbers.

And the wall is being built. It's up to 181 miles already. It's being built, it's being built rapidly. People don't talk about it anymore because it's very successful.

And the area where the wall has built, that is a lot still, but we want to be up to 450 by a very short period of time, early next year, we should be up to 450. And very shortly after that, over 500 miles will be completed. But it's had a tremendous impact. But again, we've had the best numbers. The last thing we want now with

this pandemic is for people to come across our southern border, and, again, we're doing record numbers, meaning record low numbers.

So I just want to thank everybody, and I want to introduce Admiral Giroir, if you could, please come up.

And, Brad, if you would, Brad Smith.

And they're going to do a little explaining as to what we've done with regard to testing and how successful it's been. And then we'll take some questions after that.

Thank you very much.

DR. BRETT GIROIR, HHS ASSISTANT SECRETARY: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership and for your high expectations that really made this all come together, and for the uniform support of everyone in the White House and the administration.

And thank you, Secretary Azar, for providing his leadership at HHS and allowing both Brad and I the opportunity to work on this project.

I think it's clear that America does lead the world in testing. I'll go through some of the charts that show that we lead quantitatively. I will also suggest that we lead in the diversity of tests which are very important to establish the testing ecosystem to keep America safe. And clearly, as we've said multiple times, no one beats America when it comes to quality.

So let's start potentially with the next slide.

This may be hard to see, but if you look at the line on top, that's the total numbers of tests done by the United States. No other country in the world comes close to the total numbers. Again, as the president has said, today, we will top over 9 million tests.

And if you look at per capita, everyone talks about South Korea being the standard. Today, we will have done more than twice the per capita rate of testing that was accomplished in South Korea.

No matter how you look at it, America is leading the world in testing and how did we get there?

Let's look at the next slide. Next slide, please.

A very important component of how we came to this point was the authorization by the FDA under the leadership of our secretary of many different diagnostic tests, of diagnostic devices, and now of serology tests.

So, you've heard a lot about the different testing. You see some of the machines up here. Most of the diagnostic tests, all but one, rely on the amplification of the viral RNA, the viral genetic material. And we've talked to you about the diversity of tests. They're very high throughput tests that are done at big reference labs like LabCorp and Quest.

But very importantly, they're also tests, and you've heard us talk about Cepheid, delivering over 2 million tests, vitally important to rural Americas and places that do not have large infrastructure.

You've also seen Abbott tests. We talked about -- there it is on the left of the president, delivering about 1.4 million tests as a point- of-care test. You get the result within 5 to 15 minutes. And we have deployed over 235,000 of these tests to the state public health laboratories in every state of this country to make sure that that point-of-care testing capability is there to research outbreaks like in nursing homes --