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The Situation Room
White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing; Maryland Nursing Home Reports Spike in Cases and Deaths; U.S. Coronavirus Surpass 250,000; New York Coronavirus Cases Surpass 100,000; 700,000 Plus Jobs Lost in March; Alabama Becomes Latest State To Issue Stay-At Home Order; Trump: CDC Recommends Voluntary Use Of Non-Surgical Masks; Source: In Last-Minute Decision, Fauci Excluded From Briefing. Aired 5-6p ET
Aired April 03, 2020 - 17:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TOM FOREMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: I know these folks is more important of course than any of the thousands of other Americans who have passed but they are big reminders of how the human geography of out nation is changing. Jake?
JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: Tom Foreman, thank you so much.
It has been a week. A reminder, we are going to get through this. I'll see you Sunday morning. Until then, stay healthy, stay strong, stay at home. Our coverage on CNN continues right now.
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 to hear from the Coronavirus Task Force as the United States passes yet another very grim milestone in the pandemic. The virus has now infected more than 250,000 people here in the United States and nearly 7,000 Americans have died. The surging death toll is putting pressure on President Trump to issue a nationwide stay-at-home order. CNN has learned that Dr. Anthony Fauci is among the experts urging the president to take that step.
We have a lot of news going on today. Let's go first to CNN's Erica Hill. She's got more on today's developments. And they are very significant. Erica, update our viewers on the very latest.
ERICA HILL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes, Wolf, as you talk about the push for nationwide efforts, we heard some of that from Andrew Cuomo a short time ago as he announced that in New York there are more than 102,000 cases and he said it's time to start a nationwide effort starting in New York and to roll that planning out across the country as needed.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE) GOV. ANDREW CUOMO (D-NY): Am I willing to deploy the National Guard and inconvenience people for several hundred lives? You're damn right I am.
HILL (voice-over): On the heels of the second highest single day increase in deaths and hospitalizations in New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo announcing an executive order to move desperately needed equipment around his state.
CUOMO: The burn rate is about 300 ventilators per day. If you find 300 excess ventilators, you found another day.
HILL: This as the mayor at the epicenter warns critical supplies may not last through Monday and is calling for a nationwide enlistment of doctors to meet urgent staffing needs.
MAYOR BILL DE BLASIO (D-NY): If there's not action by the president and the military literally in a matter of days to put in motion this vast mobilization, then you're going to see first hundreds and later thousands of Americans die who did not need to die.
HILL: But there are beds. Many of them still unused. The Navy hospital ship "Comfort" has room for a thousand overflow non-COVID-19 patients. As of Friday, just 20 had arrived on board.
CUOMO: The Navy's position is they don't want to put COVID people on the ship because it would be too hard to disinfect the ship afterwards. That's my rough interpretation of what they're saying.
HILL: The sprawling Javits Center, with space for 2,500 beds, will become a COVID-only field hospital starting Monday. Similar changes to facilities in New Orleans and Dallas as the number of infected Americans continues to rise. 93 percent of the country is under a stay-at-home order. Dr. Anthony Fauci making the case for a nationwide mandate.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS DISEASES: If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that. We really should be.
HILL: Yet in Florida, confusing orders from the governor, who says religious services aren't subject to social distancing rules, leaving local officials scrambling.
ANDREW WARREN, HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY STATE ATTORNEY: This is not only undermining our ability to implement social distancing here. It's truly undermining the sacrifices that millions of Floridians have been making across the state for the past couple of weeks. Everyone needs to, right now at this moment, act like you have it and thank God that you don't.
HILL: In California, 71 infections and one death have been linked to a single church, raising new concerns about what's to come this weekend. In cities across the country, Americans now told to cover their faces if they must leave the house. At least 10 states have closed schools for the remainder of the year. And in New Jersey, which has the second highest number of cases in the country, flags being lowered to half- staff in honor of the lives lost to this virus.
GOV. PHIL MURPHY (D-NJ): Since families at this time cannot even hold funerals for their lost loved ones, this is a way, a small way, but I think an important way we can make sure that their loss is not forgotten.
HILL: And Wolf, I just got off the phone a short time ago with Dr. Elliott Tenpenny from Samaritans Purse. That's the organization running the field hospital in Central Park. That is only for coronavirus patients.
They're now at half capacity. They have 34 patients for their 68 beds. Four of them are in the ICU. And the doctors tell me they're seeing all ages. He said it starts with adults. They don't have any children, but all ages. He said it is more severe. The symptoms are more severe, specifically the respiratory symptoms. And that people will need treatment for far longer. He said it could take weeks.
And when I asked him if he noticed any differences between his home in North Carolina and New York City when he got here. He said he did notice a little bit with people out and about and he said you can add his voice to all of them that we've been hearing. Saying people just need to stay home.
BLITZER: Yes. All right, Erica Hill reporting from New York. Erica, thank you very much.
We're awaiting today's Coronavirus Task Force briefing over at the White House. Stand by for that.
But first, let's go to CNN's Jim Acosta. He's tracking all the late breaking developments out of the White House. Jim, there are growing calls right now for the president to finally issue a nationwide stay- at-home order. Is that in the works?
JIM ACOSTA, CNM CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, I can tell you right now the task force briefing has been delayed until 5:30, so we're waiting for that to start in about half an hour from now.
I'm also told by a White House official that the briefing is expected to delve into new recommendations for Americans to wear masks when they go outside. In the meantime, though, as you were just saying, Wolf, the president is being urged, I'm told, by some officials to issue a nationwide recommendation for people to stay at home. So far, he has been resistant to that idea. But one official pushing that proposal is Dr. Anthony Fauci.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: So the entire world is shut down, trying to get rid of this scourge. ACOSTA (voice-over): With the number of deaths from the coronavirus accelerating quickly, top doctors on the administration's task force are becoming more outspoken that the U.S. is not doing enough. Dr. Anthony Fauci told CNN it's time for every American to be told to stay home.
FAUCI: If you look at what's going on in this country, I just don't understand why we're not doing that. We really should be.
ACOSTA: Dr. Deborah Birx said based on the data she's seeing, too many Americans are simply not following social distancing guidelines.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX: WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: So we're only as strong as every community, every county, every state, every American following the guidelines to a "T." and I can tell by the curve and as it is today, that not every American is following it.
ACOSTA: CNN has learned some officials on the task force are nudging President Trump to consider national stay at home recommendations. But the president is still pointing to states that aren't seeing outbreaks.
TRUMP: But we have many places that are really doing great. And I think that's what Deborah meant. She didn't mean all of them.
ACOSTA: Administration officials have also been debating whether to issue new guidelines urging Americans to wear masks. But such a move could deprive doctors and nurses of masks.
TRUMP: If people wanted to wear them, they can. And in many cases the scarf is better, it's thicker.
ACOSTA: On the shortage of medical supplies, the president is trying to shift the blame. Saying, states should have been better prepared.
TRUMP: What they should do is they should have long before this pandemic arrived they should have been on the open market just buying, there was no competition, you could have made a great price. The states have to stock up. It's like one of those things. They waited.
ACOSTA: Mr. Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser Jared Kushner appeared to say the national stockpile of that equipment wasn't really meant for the states.
JARED KUSHNER, WHITE HOUSE SENIOR ADVISER: You have instances where in cities, they're running out, but the state still has a stockpile. And the notion of the federal stockpile was it's supposed to be our stockpile, it's not supposed to be the states' stockpile that then they use.
ACOSTA: Since Kushner's comments, the website for the National Stockpile has been changed from saying it is the nation's largest supply of life-saving pharmaceuticals and medical supplies to the stockpile can be used as a short-term stopgap buffer.
CUOMO: In truth, I don't believe the federal stockpile has enough to help all the states because you can't buy the material at this point. We're still trying to buy from China.
ACOSTA: The White House is also scrambling to activate portions of the stimulus bill. Economic Adviser Larry Kudlow telling Fox a recovery is on the horizon.
LARRY KUDLOW, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL ECONOMIC COUNCIL: That we will see a very strong economic recovery when this has played itself out.
ACOSTA: But Kudlow has been wrong about the virus too.
KUDLOW: We have contained this. I won't say airtight, but pretty close to airtight.
ACOSTA: Despite the president calling the coronavirus an unforeseen problem, some administration officials have been keenly aware of the potential for a costly pandemic, including HHS Secretary Alex Azar who said as much nearly one year ago.
ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: And of course, the thing that people has asked what keeps you most up at night in the biodefense world. Pandemic flu, of course, I think for everyone in this room probably shares that concern.
ACOSTA: Now, White House officials say they're leaning on companies like 3M to step up their shipments of products like masks to the U.S. One of the problems for the U.S. in the last several weeks as we're all keenly aware, Wolf, is that these companies have been shipping a lot of these critical products overseas. So, we'll see if that has resolved somewhat during this briefing.
Another thing we should flag for you, Wolf. Earlier today, the White House said out of an abundance of caution for the president and the vice president, they are now going to conduct coronavirus tests on people who are within close proximity, they say, close proximity of the president and the vice president. We don't believe that applies to the press at this point. But take for example, the president had this roundtable with energy sectors CEOs earlier this afternoon. We're told those executives were administered the test. Wolf?
BLITZER: And they got the results within 15 minutes, the new tests that are out there, is that right?
ACOSTA: That's what they're telling us. And from here on forward anybody who is you know within close proximity, we assume that to be about six feet or so of the president, of the vice president, they will be administered those tests.
We should point out, here in the briefing room, the lectern is some distance away from the press, so that might be part of the reason why reporters are not going to be given the tests like other guests at the White House and other employees of the White House. Wolf? BLITZER: All right. They were just taking temperatures, now they're taking the full coronavirus test. Jim Acosta, thank you very much for that.
The commander of the U.S. aircraft carrier struck by a coronavirus outbreak received a rousing sendoff from sailors as he departed his ship for the final time. Watch this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
(CHANTING "Captain Crozier")
(END VIDEO CLIP)
BLITZER: Let's go Crozier. Captain Brett Crozier was relieved of his duties yesterday after raising alarms about the crisis aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt. The acting Navy secretary said Crozier used, quote, "extremely poor judgment" by widely distributing a memo detailing his very, very deep concerns. More on that story coming up.
In the meantime, let's bring in former NYPD Commissioner James O'Neill. He's the newly appointed medical supply coordinator for New York City. He's got a huge job right now.
Commissioner O'Neill, thanks so much for joining us. Thanks so much for what you're doing. As you know, Mayor de Blasio says New York City could run out of ventilators this weekend and that the city needs millions of masks by Sunday as well. How concerned should residents of New York be tonight? Will those needs be met over the next two days?
JAMES O'NEILL, NYC COVID-19 SENIOR ADVISER: Hey, Wolf, good to be on your show again. I just -- first and foremost I want to thank the mayor for giving me the opportunity to come back and do what I can for the city that I love. Also, I want to thank Al Kelly, the CEO of Visa, for giving me time off from my full-time job to help with the city. I still continue with my Visa duties still.
New York City is a resilient place, as you know, Wolf. We've been through so many difficult times in the past. This is hour by hour, day by day. We have great people working on this. The mayor asked me to come in and oversee the supply chain to make sure that we get this emergency medical equipment to the people that are facing danger each and every day, our health care workers, and do it as efficiently and effectively as possible.
I'm assembling a team, there's a team in place right now that we're going to supplement. New Yorkers should have confidence that we're going to do our best to make sure the health care workers have what they need to keep them safe. And to - most importantly, to help keep people alive.
BLITZER: Well, will there be enough ventilators and masks by this Sunday? O'NEILL: Wolf, I think you know me, I don't speculate. This is something that we're working on every minute, every hour, every day to make sure that we fulfill the needs of the health care workers.
BLITZER: We just learned, by the way, Commissioner, that Alabama now is the latest state to just issue a stay-at-home order following the example of a lot of other states. But there's still no national order along those lines. Do you have any strong views whether there should be a national order?
O'NEILL: I just - so, I don't know if you know it, I was out in California. I've been out there for about four months. San Francisco and its surrounding counties did that I think about three or four weeks ago. New York did it. And New Yorkers are doing their part. Everybody's got a part to play in this. I'm not going to talk about the nation. I came back to help the city. I'm going to focus on New York City.
BLITZER: Your Governor Andrew Cuomo says he's going to use his authority to seize unused ventilators and protective gear from private hospitals and other institutions that he says that they don't need that equipment right now and he's going to redeploy them to hospitals that do desperately need that equipment. How much could that change the calculus for New York City's needs?
O'NEILL: That's what we're looking at, Wolf. Anything we can do to expedite the process, to get this equipment to the people that need it, I am in favor of. So, if this is going to help us with that mission, definitely in favor of it.
BLITZER: Mayor de Blasio also calling for a national enlistment of health care workers organized by the U.S. military. Do you think that's what you need to adequately address this crisis? Will that help?
O'NEILL: I'm going to leave that decision up to Mayor de Blasio. But if you just take a look at what our health care workers in New York City are experiencing right now, any support that they could have I'm sure will be greatly appreciated. They are all working 16, 17 hours a day, probably seven days a week, under very extenuating circumstances. So, any support that we could get them definitely be in favor of that also.
BLITZER: Yes. I understand completely. The mayor said today that until recently, in his words, there was not much evidence that asymptomatic people could actually spread coronavirus. But as you know, most of our viewers know, health officials have been warning since January that people who do not have symptoms had transmitted the virus and that's very, very dangerous. Do you think New York City has been operating at least until now under bad information?
O'NEILL: I'm not going to delve into that. I'm not looking behind, Wolf. I'm looking forward. This is my second day on the job. I've been given a mandate. I'm going to do my best to fulfill that mandate. BLITZER: And I'm sure you will. You've got an excellent track record. And we're all grateful Commissioner O'Neill for what you're doing. Thank you so much for taking leave from your full-time job to come back to New York City and get busy with this enormous challenge. Thank you so much for joining us.
O'NEILL: OK, thanks, Wolf.
BLITZER: All right. And to our viewers, we're waiting once again to hear from today's White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing. You're looking at live pictures coming in from the White House Briefing Room.
Also, ahead, a Maryland nursing home is seeing a dramatic spike in coronavirus cases and death. The situation is being compared to the Washington State nursing home that was an early harbinger of what was coming. We'll have details.
BLITZER: We're awaiting the start of today's briefing by members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
At the same time, Washington, D.C.'s mayor now says the latest modeling shows peak cases and hospitalizations here in the nation's capital may not come until late June or even early July. One nursing home about 50 miles outside the city already is reporting a dramatic spike in infections and deaths.
CNN's Brian Todd went to investigate.
BRIAN TODD, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Wolf, just a little over a week ago they had their first confirmed case of coronavirus here at the Pleasant View Nursing Home in Maryland. Tonight, more than 90 residents and staffers have tested positive. Some have died and some are still in danger.
TODD (voice-over): A deadly and fast-moving outbreak at a Maryland nursing home. Most of the residents, 77 out of 95, infected with coronavirus at Pleasant View in Mt. Airy. So far, at least five fatalities, one of the deadliest at a nursing home since the outbreak at the Life Care Center near Seattle that first raised nationwide alarm over coronavirus.
STEVE WANTZ, PRESIDENT, CARROLL COUNTY BOARD OF COMMISSIONERS: The timeline was just crazy.
TODD: All visitors to nursing homes are barred. So, where did the infection come from? The governor telling C-Span his hypothesis.
GOV. LARRY HOGAN (R-MD): One of the health care workers who are being screened and tested and checked to make sure that they don't have temperatures, one of them somehow who was asymptomatic apparently came into the facility and brought the virus in and infected the population. It went like wildfire through this.
TODD: At least 18 staff members at Pleasant View have tested positive and more have called in sick, leaving the center hard-pressed to care for the residents.
ED SINGER, CARROLL COUNTY HEALTH OFFICER: I'm certain that some people are afraid.
TODD: Staff reinforcements are now helping to care for those on site who have not been transferred to hospitals.
SINGER: This is extremely stressful for the staff that are onsite, trying to provide care with this number of sick individuals. It's a lot more work for them.
TODD: The nursing home's administrator, Rebecca Travels, whom CNN was not able to reach, telling "The Baltimore Sun" that before any resident had symptoms, she was unable to get testing kits from the state and even once cases were confirmed, she says, she was told by a state official that staff with symptoms should just self-isolate. She also says, 27 test kits were given to them and then taken away. We reached out but did not get a response from state and county health officials to Travels' accusations. But a county board commissioner did acknowledge an initial shortage in testing.
WANTZ: Until something was determined that was way off the charts, no, there was not testing available.
TODD: A string of nursing home outbreaks from Washington to Connecticut to Louisiana shows how vulnerable they are to a virus that targets the elderly and the infirm.
In New Jersey, for example, almost a third of nursing homes have reported cases. Rhode Island now has two nursing homes with at least 60 cases.
DR. JEANNE MARRAZZO, DIRECTOR, DIVISION OF INFECTIOUS DISEASES, UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA AT BIRMINGHAM: Nursing homes provide an incubator situation. So, you have a lot of people in a relatively small area, with a limited degree of air circulation.
TODD: But with over a million Americans in nursing homes, their loved ones face a tough question. Is it riskier to keep residents in nursing homes with professional staff or expose them by moving them into private homes?
JOE DEMATTOS, PRESIDENT, HEALTH FACILITIES ASSOCIATION OF MARYLAND: People that can be cared for in skilled nursing rehab centers, clinically appropriate, they should stay there and get that care.
TODD: County officials tell us they're doing contact tracing, trying to frantically to find out who patient zero here was. But in the meantime, some dire information from one top county official who told me they do expect more fatalities here. Wolf? BLITZER: Brian Todd with that report. Brian, thank you very much.
As we stand by for today's White House coronavirus briefing, we're joined by epidemiologist and Columbia University Professor Jeffrey Shaman.
Dr. Shaman, thank you so much for joining us. As you know, the White House cited your models on the trajectory of this virus, but you don't know how the administration actually reached its estimate on the possible death toll. So, when people hear numbers like 100,000 to 240,000 people could die even if all the guidelines are implemented. What's your word of caution on that?
DR. JEFFREY SHAMAN, EPIDEMIOLOGIST: My word of caution is that we're in a very fluid and uncertain situation. There's a lot that we don't know about the transmission of the virus, how it's being transmitted. We only have a very limited window of understanding of what's going on in the here and now because the confirmed cases that we hear about today really represent infections that were acquired a couple of days ago - not a couple of days ago, excuse me, a couple of weeks ago. So as a consequence --
BLITZER: Dr. Shammen, I want to continue this conversation, but the White House briefing with the president is starting right now. I want to see if they make some news right off the top.
TRUMP: You take a look at the bump and how they are doing out there. So, I congratulate everybody out there. But I thought I'd have Kevin say a few words. So, Kevin, please.
REP. KEVIN MCCARTHY (R-CA): Well, thank you, Mr. President. I would like to thank you on base of California Governor Newsom says the work that you are doing together is working very closely, it's been effective even California as well, the vice president and the president.
You know, today, Mr. President, I want to thank you especially for the work that Secretary Mnuchin has done especially for small businesses. Just today alone I saw Bank of America had more than 10,000 loans in two hours.
And for anybody who is in the small business, I was first in a small business when I was 20 years old. You don't have income coming in right now, you get a loan, but for your rent, paying your employees, and paying your utilities is a grant. That's part of the CARES Act.
And I think you are going to find that a lot of small businesses is going to hire people back keep them afloat for the next two months and get this economy moving again as we get through this virus. So, I just want to thank you for all that work.
TRUMP: Thank you. It's a great job you're doing. Thank you.
MCCARTHY: Thank you. TRUMP: Sure. You go ahead. I'll talk to you later.
MCCARTHY; All right.
TRUMP: OK, thank you very much, everybody. I want to start by saying that our hearts go out to the people of New York as they bear the brunt of the coronavirus pandemic in America that seems to be the hotspot right now.
But you have some others, as you know, that are very bad. Very bad. Louisiana is getting hit very hard. Parts of Michigan are getting hit very, very hard. New Jersey is surprisingly it's much greater than anybody would've thought. They are doing a really good job. The governor is doing a really good job out there.
New York's first responders, the EMTs, doctors, nurses are showing incredible courage under pressure. They are the best in the world. We will take every action and we'll spare no resource, financial, medical, scientific, we will not spare anything. We'll get back into shape.
The Empire State, the governor is doing an excellent job. They're all working very hard together. At the request of the governor as you know the Javits Center. We have 2,500 beds and we are going to allow that to be a system where this horrible disease can be looked after, the patients can be looked after.
That was going to be for regular medical problems such as accidents and you know, it's very interesting, the governors tell me we don't have too many accidents. There are very few people driving.
So, we are going to put that facility into play, which is a big facility. The ship will be staying the way it is. But we are putting that facility into play to help them.
And today also, the CDC is announcing additional steps Americans can take to defend against the transmission of the virus. From recent studies, we know that the transmission from individuals without symptoms is playing a more significant role in the spread of the virus than previously understood.
So, you don't seem to have symptoms and it still gets transferred. In light of the studies, the CDC is advising the use of nonmedical cloth face covering as an additional voluntary public health measure. So, it's voluntary. You don't have to do it. They suggest it for a period of time.
But this is voluntary. I don't think I'm going to be doing it. But you have a lot of ways you can look at it as follows. The CDC is recommending that Americans wear a basic cloth or fabric mask that can be purchased online or simply made at home, probably material that you'd have at home.
These face coverings can be easily washed or reused. I want to emphasize that the CDC is not recommending the use of medical grade or surgical grade masks. And we want that to be used for our great medical people that are working so hard and doing some job. Medical protective gear must be reserved for the frontline health care workers who are performing those vital services. The new mask guidelines also do not replace CDC's guidance on social distancing, including staying in your home when possible, standing at least 6 feet apart for a period of time. Again, we're going to all come back together here. We're going to all come back together and practicing hand hygiene, which we should do anyway.
A lot of things I think are going to spill over. Shaking hands, maybe we'll stay with our country for a long time beyond this. One of the -- one of our great doctors was telling me that as you know we have flus every year and the number of people killed by the flu is very substantial, said that if they didn't shake hands, that number would be substantially lower. So maybe it'll stay. Maybe some of these things long term will be good.
But those guidelines are still the best and the safest way to avoid the infection. So with the masks, it's going to be really a voluntary thing. You can do it you, don't have to do it. I'm choosing not to do it, but some people may want to do it and that's OK. It may be good. Probably will that make it a recommendation. It's only recommendations voluntary.
We're also taking action to ensure the cost of no barrier to any American seeking, testing or treatment of the coronavirus. The largest insurer nationwide. The Blue Cross Blue Shield system has now announced that it will not require any copays, which is really something. That's a tremendous statement from patients of the virus treatment for the next 60 days similar to the commitments of Cigna, Humana, Anthem. Those are great companies and they're all doing the same thing. So copays for them to do that is a big statement. We appreciate it.
Today, I can so proudly announce that hospitals and health care providers treating uninsured coronavirus patients will be reimbursed by the federal government using funds from the economic relief package Congress passed last month. That was as per the question yesterday, and actually the day before yesterday, this should alleviate any concern uninsured Americans may have about seeking the coronavirus treatment. So that's, I think answers the question pretty well, and very much in the favor of our great people.
I'm also signing a directive invoking the Defense Production Act to prohibit export of scarce health and medical supplies by unscrupulous actors and profiteers, the security and secretary. The Secretary of Homeland Security will work with FEMA to prevent the export of N95 respirators, surgical mask, gloves and other personal protective equipment. We need these items immediately. For domestic use, we have to have them but we've done really well with the purchase of items and you'll be hearing about that shortly.
We've already leveraged the DPA to stop the hoarding and price gouging of crucial supplies under that authority. This week, the Department of Health and Human Services working with the Department of Justice took custody of nearly 200,000 N95 respirators, 130,000 surgical masks, 600,000 gloves, as well as bottles, many, many, many bottles and disinfectant sprays that were being hoarded. All of this material is now being given to health care workers, most of us already been given out. And we've given a lot to New York, a lot in New Jersey, a lot to other places.
In addition to ensure that health care workers in New York have the protective equipment they need, the federal government, in the name of the Department of Defense is providing about 8.1 million N95 respirators, Department of Defense. And we've already given 200,000 of them to New York City. Mayor de Blasio needed them very badly, so we got them to Mayor de Blasio in New York City. They were very grateful. 8.1 million, and we're going to be increasing that number from 8.1 million to more. That's a lot of N95 respirators.
Today my team spoke with the CEO of Ochsner Health and the CEO of LCMC, the two largest health system in New Orleans. They said they feel that they currently have enough ventilators. I think a lot of people are going to have enough ventilators and masks and appreciate what we did and all of the things we've been doing with them, working with them.
The CEO of Ochsner, Warner Thomas, who's really been fantastic, I have to say, indicated a need for 230,000 surgical gowns. And I instructed FEMA to deliver them tomorrow. So they'll have the 230,000. That's Louisiana, New Orleans. Two hundred and thirty thousand surgical gowns, they'll have them by tomorrow.
We're expanding the role of the Armed Forces in our response effort because no one is better prepared to win a war than the United States military. And we are in a war. The invisible enemy, remember.
Over 9,000 retired Army medical personnel have answered their nation's call and are now supporting field hospitals and medical facilities all across the country, like what I just told you, that Governor Cuomo requested we do something in Javits, where we take it over. And we're going to have that manned by the military, because it's very tough to get people, more people in the New York area. So we're going to have it manned by the military, Javits Center.
National Guard members have been activated to help states build new treatment centers and assist in the seamless distribution of medical supplies. That includes National Guard. The National Guard is assisting very strongly because the states were, in many cases, unable to have the delivery capability from warehouses and other places that we put the supplies. So I've given approval to use the National Guards, the various National Guards in the different states. And they're doing a fantastic job of not only protecting people but delivering material.
The Army Corps of Engineers has assessed more than 100 facilities in all 50 states and is rapidly building temporary hospitals and alternative care sites in many states, in New York, New Jersey, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Illinois, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, Ohio. They're doing a lot of work in just those states, plus additionals, that are being -- will be announced probably tomorrow. But they're doing some job. The Army Corps of Engineers, what a job they're doing. And FEMA, what a job they're doing.
As we deploy the power of our military, we're also deploying the skill of our doctors, scientists, and medical researchers. We continue to study the effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine and other therapies, and the treatment and prevention of the virus. And we will keep the American people fully informed on our findings. Hydroxychloroquine -- I don't know, it's looking like it's having some good results. I hope that that would be a phenomenal thing.
But we have it right now in -- approximately now, it's increased to 1,500 people. I spoke with Dr. Zucker in New York -- terrific guy, by the way. He's -- we're doing a good job. And I spoke to Governor Cuomo last evening and this morning about it. So it's been there for about three and a half days, but I think -- and many other places it's being tested too. And we have a tremendous supply of it. We've ordered it in the case that it works. And it's -- it could have some pretty big impacts, so we'll see what happens.
My administration is also working to get relief to American workers and businesses. In day one of the Paycheck Protection Program, as Kevin said, more than $3.5 billion in guaranteed loans have been processed to help small businesses keep their workers employed during the unprecedented time, this unprecedented time.
And Bank of America has been incredible. Of the big banks, Bank of America has really stepped forward and done a great job. And then you have the community banks, your smaller banks. And we're already at $3.5 billion going out to incredible people. But that's way ahead of schedule.
The SBA and the Treasury are working around the clock, and our banking partners are really incredible. And they're ensuring that the money gets to small businesses as quickly as possible, and then the small business, in turn, take care of employees that they would have had to let go, and now they'll keep them. And that's good. And then they're going to open for business and they're going to have their employees. And we'll try and get back to where we were. Eventually, we're going to supersede where we were.
The energy industry has been especially hard hit in the crisis. This afternoon, I met with Greg Garland of Phillips 66, Dave Hager of Devon Energy, Harold Hamm of Continental Resources, Jeff Hildebrand of Hilcorp Energy, Vicki Hollub of Occidental Petroleum, Mike Sommers of the American Petroleum Institute, Kelcy Warren of Energy Transfer Partners, Mike Wirth of Chevron, and Darren Woods of Exxon Mobil.
I informed them that we will be making space available in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to let American producers store surplus oil that can be sold at a later time. There's a tremendous abundance of oil, primarily because of the virus. The virus has just stopped demand of everything, including oil. So we're working with our great energy companies. These are great companies. They employ tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands of people. And they've kept America really going for a long time. And no big price hikes, no big anything. I mean, they've just kept it going. And now they got hit. But with all the jobs and all of the good that they do, we're going to make sure that they stay in good shape.
America is engaged in a historic battle to safeguard the lives of our citizens, our future society. Our greatest weapon is the discipline and determination of every citizen to stay at home and stay healthy for a long time. And we want them to stay healthy for a long time. So stay at home. This is ending. This will end. You'll see some bad things and then you're going to see some really good things. And it's not going to be too long.
We will heal our citizens and we will care for our neighbors, and we will unleash the full might of the United States of America to vanquish the virus.
And with that, I'd like to ask Mike Pence to come up, Vice President, and say a few words. And we'll have a couple of other quick talks on a couple of subjects, and we'll take questions. And it's a beautiful Friday in Washington, D.C., and our country is a great place, and we're getting better. We're getting better very quickly.
This was artificially induced. We just said -- they said, close it down. You have to close it down. We closed it down and we're healing. We're going to get it better fast.
So, Mike, if you could come up, say a few words. Please.
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Mr. President. The President just outlined a number of the decisions that he made today on the unanimous recommendation to the White House Coronavirus Task Force. In addition, some good news, Dr. Deborah Birx will reflect on in a moment. And some of the areas across America where we see evidence that the mitigation efforts -- the American people putting into practice the President's coronavirus guidelines -- are having a positive effect.
In fact, today, California and Washington State, where the coronavirus first emerged in our country, remain -- the cases remain at a steady but low rate. And we know, as Governor Newsom said yesterday, that they're not out of the woods yet. We continue to flow resources.
But we want to commend people in those states and all across the country who are putting into practice the social distancing and all the measures that state and local leaders are advising and that -- and that the President has been advising in the coronavirus guidelines for America. We're also continuing to track significant outbreaks in New York State, New Orleans, Detroit, Chicago, and Boston. And as the President indicated, we're prioritizing resources to support healthcare workers and to support those that are dealing with the coronavirus in those communities. On the subject of testing, now more than 1.4 million tests have been performed across the country. And as you all are aware, some 266,000 Americans have tested positive for the coronavirus.
Abbott instruments, which now can perform a 15-minute test across the country, have literally 18,000 of their machines across the nation today. But at the President's direction, FEMA is acquiring over 1,200 more machines to distribute to every state public health lab in America and also to our Indian Healthcare Service.
And the big news, of course, over the last few days was that the FDA -- once again, in near record time -- has approved an antibody test developed by Cellex. And we're continuing on the White House Coronavirus Task Force to examine ways that we can scale up these rapid tests and these innovative new tests not just to meet this moment, but to lay a foundation for testing across the nation in the months ahead.
As the President mentioned, he met with energy executives today and continues to engage with leaders of businesses all across the nation. We also have held a teleconference today with commercial retailers. On the President's behalf, we thanked them for the way that people that operate malls and shopping centers around the country have embraced and enacted the coronavirus guidelines for America. It's had enormous impact on their businesses and their industries. But I heard from them their patriotic commitment to put the health of their associates and their customers first, and it was deeply inspiring.
On the subject of supplies, the President detailed our work in that space. It continues to this day. Part of our air bridge, we had a flight arrive from China today to Columbus, Ohio. We continue to work each and every day, watching the data about cases, to ensure that, in particular, not just the personal protective equipment is available for the healthcare workers that are on the frontlines, but also that ventilators are available as the -- as this epidemic makes its way through regions and communities. We are literally working hour by hour, day by day to make sure that patients, families, and healthcare providers have the equipment and the support that they need.
As the President mentioned, we've seen over a $1.5 in loans go out through the Paycheck Protection Program today. We have available for questions the head of the CDC today to speak about the new guidance on cloth face coverings. And Secretary Azar, in a few moments, will explain just how the President's decision to make sure that no American will ever have to worry about paying for testing or for coronavirus treatment.
I'm pleased to report, at the President's direction, Medicaid and Medicare already expanded to coronavirus treatment and testing early on. And of course, the President just indicated how major insurance companies across the country are not just waiving co-pays on testing, but they're now waiving co-pays for at least 60 days on any coronavirus treatment. But now, as Secretary Azar will enumerate, now we'll make sure that any American, even those that have no insurance, will be able to receive treatment in a hospital and never have to worry about the bill.
I'll just give a general reminder to every American: There is evidence across the country that you're putting into practice the coronavirus guidelines for America. Every American has a role to play. And I want to thank you on behalf of the President and all of the American people for the way that you're stepping forward, you're engaging in the social distancing, and doing the things that will slow the spread.
We encourage you to keep on keeping on. And we will get through this, America. We will get through the coronavirus to that day of renewed health and renewed prosperity that the President always describes. But we'll get through there sooner and we'll get through there when we work together.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you Mr. Vice President, Mr. President. Thank you for your words of discipline and determination. I guess that really describes what we're asking every American to really be disciplined about these guidelines and really determined to stay in that space of execution.
You know we are just in week three on -- of this full guidance measure. We really do appreciate the work of the citizens of California and Washington State, because we do see that their curve is different. Their curve is different from New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. And we really believe that the work that every citizen is doing in those states is making a difference and it will make a difference for the frontline healthcare providers. We also are deeply grateful that despite the way their curve looks today, they continue to get ready for a different potential, so that they can ensure that patients, if they do get sick, have options and availability.
To all the frontline healthcare workers in the -- what we have referred to as hot zones -- areas where the number of cases are quite significant, the New Orleans; the New York City metro area, including New Jersey and Connecticut, the incredible work that the frontline healthcare workers are providing. We're really working now at a much more granular level, talking directly to hospitals to ensure that they have the supplies that they need in coordination with state and local governments.
And to work -- I think we discussed it yesterday, but I think it was quite clear also -- and reiterated by Governor Cuomo today, that we have to support one another as each of these different metro areas, and other areas, move through their peak of new infections. When we talked about it at the beginning of this week, we talked about this week and next week being incredibly difficult. And we want to recognize the number of Americans who have lost their lives to this virus, and recognize the sacrifice that healthcare providers are making both in their care, but I think I'm very uplifted by hearing their messages to families and their compassion for others to provide that kind of support to the individuals in the hospital. We continue to watch, in addition, the Chicago area, the Detroit area, and have some developing concerns around Colorado, the District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania. So as you can see, each of these will follow their own curves. We'll be getting more and more of those case, over time, information in a very granular way to each and every one of you so that we can follow these epidemiologic curves as each of these states, counties, and communities move through this together in solidarity. And really ensuring that we can move supplies creatively around the country to meet the needs of both the frontline healthcare providers but also every American who needs our support right now.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
ALEX AZAR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES SECRETARY: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your continued leadership as we battle the coronavirus. First, I want to thank all of the members of the HHS team and the frontline healthcare workers across America, including those who -- those service workers who serve in our hospitals, at our healthcare facilities, those who clean, those who deliver, those who stock the shelves, all those who are going into battle every day against the virus. Your country has asked you to serve as never before, and you have responded heroically.
I'm going to provide a brief update on the administration's plans to cover the testing and treatment for the uninsured. Getting the uninsured access to the care they need is a top priority for President Trump. We are already rolling out the $1 billion in funding from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to cover providers' expenses for testing and diagnosing the uninsured.
The CARES Act, signed by the President, includes another $100 billion for healthcare providers. Under the President's direction, we will use a portion of that funding to cover providers' costs of delivering COVID-19 care for the uninsured, sending the money to providers through the same mechanism used for testing. As a condition of receiving funds under this program, providers will be forbidden from balance billing the uninsured for the cost of their care. Providers will be reimbursed at Medicare rates.
We will soon have more specifics on how the rest of the $100 billion will go to providers. We're working to ensure that this funding is distributed in a way that is fast, fair, simple, and transparent.
I'd also like to remind people that if you've lost employer insurance coverage, you have insurance options that you should look into. You'd be eligible for a special enrolment period on the healthcare exchanges, and depending on your state, you may be eligible for Medicaid.
Just as President Trump is working to ensure that COVID-19 treatment is paid for, he's working to support new treatment options for patients. Thanks to the President's leadership, many providers are trying different experimental therapies, and we need as much data as we can collect as quickly as possible on how these treatments are working.
Today, Oracle has developed and is donating to the government and the American people a web portal and platform to gather crowd-sourced, real-time information from providers about how patients respond to potential therapeutics. While this doesn't replace the important work of clinical trials, it gives us data rapidly. If you are a doctor or a healthcare provider and you would like to help us, you can sign up today to begin reporting on your work. There's a special registration page for providers at covid19.oracle.com.
Thank you very much.
TRUMP: Thank you very much.
OK, let's go. Steve (ph)?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: If we could draw you out a little bit more on the advice on face masks. What do -- what would people gain from wearing a mask? And why are you opposed to wearing one yourself?
TRUMP: Well, I just don't want to wear one myself. It's a recommendation; they recommend it. I'm feeling good. I just don't want to be doing -- I don't know, somehow sitting in the Oval Office behind that beautiful Resolute Desk, the great Resolute Desk -- I think wearing a face mask as I greet presidents, prime ministers, dictators, kings, queens, I don't know. Somehow, I don't see it for myself. I just don't. Maybe I'll change my mind, but this will pass and hopefully it'll pass very quickly.
Now, with that being said, if somebody wants to -- I mean, most people can just make something out of a certain material. So it's very well designated, it's very simple to do. I won't be doing it personally. It's a recommendation. OK?
And would you like to say something about that?
DR. JEROME ADAMS, SURGEON GENERAL: Sure. Absolutely.
TRUMP: Surgeon General, please.
ADAMS: Well, thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Mr. Secretary, and CDC Director Redfield. I especially want to thank the folks at the CDC. And it's a great question that you ask, it's a fair question that you ask. I want to unpack the evolution of our guidance on masks because it has been confusing to the American people.
First of all, I want people to understand that the CDC, the World Health Organization, my office, and most public health and health organizations and professionals originally recommended against the general public wearing masks, because based on the best evidence available at the time, it was not deemed that that would have a significant impact on whether or not a healthy person wearing a mask would contract COVID-19. We have always recommended that symptomatic people wear a mask, because if you're coughing, if you have a fever, if you're symptomatic, you could transmit disease to other people.
What has changed in our recommendation? Well, it's important to know that we now know from recent studies that a significant portion of individuals with coronavirus lack symptoms. They're what we call asymptomatic. And that even those who eventually become pre- symptomatic, meaning that they will develop symptoms in the future, can transmit the virus to others before they show symptoms. This means that the virus can spread between people interacting in close proximity, for example, coughing, speaking, or sneezing, even if those people were not exhibiting symptoms.
In light of this new evidence, CDC recommends and the task force recommends wearing cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures are difficult to maintain. These include places like grocery stores and pharmacies. We especially recommend this in areas of significant community-based transmission. It is critical. And the President mentioned this, the Vice President mentioned this, it's critical to emphasize that maintaining 6 feet of social distancing remains key to slowing the spread of the virus.
But CDC is additionally advising the use of simple cloth coverings to slow the spread of the virus and to help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by the current CDC guidance.
As the President also mentioned, cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional voluntary public health measure. This recommendation complements and does not replace the President's Coronavirus Guidelines for America, 30 Days to Slow the Spread, which remains the cornerstone of our national effort to slow the spread of the virus.
CDC is always, always looking at the data. We told you that from the beginning -- Dr. Birx says it every single press conference -- we're looking at the data, we're evolving our recommendations, and new recommendations will come as the evidence dictates.
So, I want to say if you do choose to wear a face mask, very important, wash your hands first because you don't want to put on a face covering with a dirty hand. Do not touch your face while you are wearing the face covering because, again, you could take materials from the surface, germs from the surface and bring it to your face. If you choose to wear a face covering, please, please leave the N95 mask, the medical supplies for the medical professionals, healthcare workers, and frontline workers.
Know that this is not a substitute for social distancing. And remember, this is all about me protecting you, and you protecting me. This is about us coming together as communities. And if people voluntarily choose to wear a face covering, they're wearing it to protect their neighbors from getting the coronavirus, because, again, they could have asymptomatic spread. So, Mr. President, thank you very much for that. Appreciate the opportunity to update everyone.
TRUMP: Great job. Thank you. OK.