President Trump, Vice President Pence and members of the coronavirus task force sit down with Fox News' Bill Hemmer and Harris Faulkner for a virtual town hall to answer all of the most pressing questions.
FAULKNER: Good afternoon, and welcome to our "Fox News Virtual Town Hall" with President Trump and his coronavirus task force. So glad you're with us. I'm Harris Faulkner in New York.
HEMMER: And I'm Bill Hemmer, live in the Rose Garden here at the White House. Over the next two hours, the president, the vice president and the officials tasked with leading our nation's response on the virus pandemic will join us to answer your questions all across America.
This, as the virus continues to spread around the world. At the moment, there are nearly 400,000 cases confirmed, and more than 17,000 have died. Here at home, cases are also on the rise, more than 46,000 confirmed cases, and at least 592 deaths. Just yesterday, American deaths topped 100 in a single day for the first time.
With me now to begin this hour here at the White House, the vice president, Mike Pence, who is leading the task force from Washington.
And thank you for your time today.
PENCE: Good to see you, Bill. Welcome to the White House.
HEMMER: Thank you. It's an honor to be here, and I hope for the people at home, they get some value over the next two hours. We'll try and get them some answers.
Moments ago, New York's governor, Andrew Cuomo, is imploring the construction immediately of up to three -- 30,000 ventilators to be shipped to New York. What would be the holdup on that, sir?
PENCE: Well, let me say, first and foremost, that as the president announced action earlier this week for New York, for Washington State, for California, that from very early in this process, President Trump has forged a seamless partnership with our governors.
The way that we respond to health crises in this country is, as FEMA's mission describes. It's locally executed, the health care workers and at times law enforcement on the ground, community officials that are in the lead. It's state-managed, Bill, and then it's federally supported. And from early on, we've been working that formula, empowering our governors, making sure they have the resources and the support that they need.
And it's one of the reasons why we've been -- we've been surging resources. The president announced that that Javits Center in -- in New York, that we're helping to build out about a thousand beds at a field hospital. The president approved a major disaster declaration, and we're working around the clock on making sure that they have the masks, the medical supplies and the ventilators to meet that need.
HEMMER: Now, you and the president have said consistently that many American companies have come to you, offering the resources that you need. Yet FEMA today says it will make a request for test kits starting today, and it will use the DPA, the Defense Production Act. How close are you to employing that for, let's say, the ventilator requests from New York State?
PENCE: Well, first, let me -- let me just say, if the American people could see what I've seen, both in this president's leadership and in the response of American businesses, they would be inspired every day.
The president did initiate the Defense Production Act. That allows a president of the United States to mandate production of particular items at times of war or national crisis.
The reality is, though, that whether it be masks that tens of millions are being produced with spun-up production of companies like 3M and Honeywell and even Hanes has stepped forward to manufacture masks. Or whether it be ventilators and equipment that our hospital personnel need, what the president and I have witnessed consistently is that every time we've asked American industry to step forward, they've said yes. No one has said no yet.
And -- and we are working now through the structure of FEMA, through managing the supply chain at FEMA to make sure that we're harnessing the full energy of the American government, just as we're harnessing a whole-of-government approach at the federal, state and local level to confront the coronavirus.
HEMMER: So what we have done starting last night is we've reached out to our viewers all over America, asking them to file questions with us.
HEMMER: And many of these questions come by way of video. So I want to get to those right now. And -- and I know in this interactive sense, we want to try and bring the American people to the White House and vice versa. That's -- that's why we're here today.
PENCE: But let me -- let me respond on the ventilator issue, just to be very clear.
The -- the national stockpile, as we indicated, has some 20,000 ventilators and we've been making those available to states. Particularly we have been focusing resources ventilators and masks and gowns on the states most impacted. Those would be Seattle, where the major first outbreak occurred, California, and really what -- what's become the epicenter of the coronavirus threat in this country, in the state of New York and the greater New York City area, including New Jersey.
We'll continue to prioritize those resources. But the American people should understand and be encouraged to know that when it comes to ventilators, which -- those devices when -- when people reach a point with the coronavirus where they have severe respiratory struggles, that there are, by most accounts, more than 150,000 respirators in -- in hospitals and clinics across the country today. It's not merely what's in the national stockpile, Bill.
But also because the president brought together the leaders of all of our medical groups in the country, a week ago we were able to inform governors that -- that anesthesiologists have a piece of equipment that they use for outpatient surgery for administering anesthetics for anyone that's ever been put under. And working quickly with the FDA, we were able to inform governors that those devices can be quickly converted to respirators for coronavirus -- people struggling with the coronavirus. The FDA had to approve the change of a single vent.
So yesterday again, speaking with all of the governors across the country, we're calling on governors in every state to survey all their outpatient clinics and identify what we also know are today tens of thousands of ventilators that are available to meet this need going forward.
We're also pleased to know that General Motors, working with a subsidiary, has already made a commitment to repurpose some of their manufacturing line to create ventilators. We're seeing industry step up.
And I want the American people to know that -- that because of our cooperation with medical professionals around the country, we're identifying all-new resources, all-new equipment that can be converted, that can add to the supply of tens of thousands of ventilators. And we'll continue to meet this moment with creativity and with the resources of the American people.
HEMMER: I just want to give our viewers at home an opportunity to get in on this. And I appreciate the answer on that. We'll come back to that a bit later today.
Carlia (ph) from Merritt Island, Florida, has the first question. Here is Carlia (ph) on that.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: I think a lot of us right now are just wondering what is the potential for a national stay-at-home order? Is this something that America could be seeing in our near future?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: A national stay-at-home order. How much have you considered that?
PENCE: Carlia (ph), I can tell you that at no point has the White House Coronavirus Task Force discussed what some people call a -- a nationwide lockdown, or as you described as a -- a stay-at-home order.
What we've done is publish the president's coronavirus guidelines. I've got them right here and I recommend them to everybody's attention. It's the 15 days to slow the spread.
This is what we believe every American should be doing during what remains of the next week or so, because we think we have the chance to significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus and the threat that it presents to the most vulnerable among us.
You know, it's important to remember that -- that most Americans, even those that contract the coronavirus, will fully recover. But for those who are seniors with a serious underlying health condition or anyone with an immunodeficiency, the coronavirus represents a serious threat to their health.
PENCE: And so the president's calling on every American to avoid groups of more than 10, to not eat in restaurants, use drive-throughs, avoid discretionary travel. We believe this can significantly reduce the spread of the coronavirus.
But that being said, let me say, as -- as states like California and Illinois, and of course, New York and elsewhere have taken strong measures, President Trump and I and our team fully support the decisions by your state and local officials that may be stronger than this. But we believe this is the right prescription across the board to slow the spread, and -- and -- and we recommend it to every single American.
HEMMER: On that charter, 15 days, right now we're around day nine.
HEMMER: So next Monday is officially the 15-day mark.
I want to bring my colleague, Harris Faulkner, who is with us, as well. And Harris, hello again.
FAULKNER: Well, hello, Bill, and good to see you, Mr. Vice President.
PENCE: Thank you, Harris.
FAULKNER: I -- I just have kind of an open question, and then -- absolutely, and then I will get you another viewer question because the -- the power of the people, their voice, is so important today.
I -- I want to follow up, though, on this ventilator hospital surge type of support...
FAULKNER: ... for particularly the three hardest-hit states: Washington, California and New York. And hearing from Governor Cuomo as we have -- and he is wont to update the nation every day -- about the talk. As you say, the administration's not saying no. He's saying that the administration is saying no about that stockpile of ventilators. Those are needed, as you said, Mr. Vice President, when this thing kicks in and it attacks your lungs and it becomes pneumonic.
FAULKNER: It is -- it is powerful stuff, and we need to gear up. So if the spike now is doubling the number of cases in New York every three days, which is what Governor Cuomo said, and we're almost at what we thought would be an apex, and we're not there yet, he calls it a bad combination of how many cases and people who are actually getting sick, and how woefully ill-prepared we are in the numbers of ventilators. Why not just release that stockpile now?
PENCE: Well, what I can tell you and -- and your -- and your viewers, Harris, is that we're doing just that. We're in the process of -- of literally sending the entire national stockpile out. And I want the people of New York to know that we are putting a priority on the state of New York, and of course, on Washington and California, where the outbreak has been the most severe.
You know, since the president signed...
FAULKNER: All right.
PENCE: ... we'll continue to detail that, but I -- I can promise you in our conversations with -- with Governor Cuomo, in our conversation the president and I had with Mayor de Blasio just day before yesterday, we want to assure them that we're going to make those resources available. We're going to identify resources that are in the private marketplace.
But we are calling on our governors to identify those respirators in their outpatient clinics that anesthesiologists and now, the FDA have said can be converted. This literally, Harris, would add tens of thousands of respirators to our health care facilities, and we renewed that call to our governors, and we -- we'll continue to share that message even while we increase production.
FAULKNER: Well, -- well, and -- and you know, what people may be able to appreciate about what you're saying, Mr. Vice President, is perhaps that could be done expeditiously because they're already in the system. I'm just trying to find out on people's behalf what's faster, releasing the stockpile and putting more -- and I don't live in New York. I'm just looking across the river and knowing that the Javits Center, which is across from the ferry and a lot of transportation hubs...
FAULKNER: ... is being turned into a makeshift hospital. So the visuals on this thing are eye-popping. What's faster, going through the system, as you're describing, or the stockpile? Just real quick answer on that, and I'm going to get to a viewer.
PENCE: Harris, we think -- the president says it's an all-of-the-above strategy. We want to use the national stockpile. We want to identify resources that are already in the marketplace, including what the FDA has now approved to be converted to be used as respirators. But we are spinning up industry every single day, and the president's made it clear: He's fully prepared to use the Defense Production Act, the executive order he signed against -- against hoarding and price-gouging yesterday, was based on the Defense Production Act.
But at this point, I -- I can tell you, American industry is stepping forward as never before, and -- and we're going to meet this challenge as Americans together.
FAULKNER: All right. Real quickly, can we go to that viewer question from Corey B.?
QUESTION: What can we start to look for as the new normal? What can we start to expect as far as long-term, lasting changes, to better prepare us for the next health crisis or pandemic facing our country?
PENCE: Well, it's a...
FAULKNER: All right, Mr. Vice President...
FAULKNER: Go right ahead.
PENCE: Well, it's a great question.
And, you know, the president reflected on the fact that there -- there may be some -- some really good changes in practices just in our culture going forward, as we dealt with this unprecedented spread of the coronavirus and an infectious disease.
But what we are working toward in this 15 days is to literally lower the number of Americans that will be exposed to the coronavirus.
I am inspired to see, literally, reports of people all across this country, not just in areas that have seen an outbreak, but in areas where there have been a limited number of cases, they are putting into practice these principles.
And we have every confidence, our health care experts do, that that is slowing the spread.
But make no mistake about it, the president, as he said yesterday, is -- has asked the task force, our health experts, our entire team to bring him recommendations about what's next.
And the president made it clear that...
PENCE: ... while we stay completely focused on the most vulnerable, on people for whom the consequences of contracting the coronavirus can be quite dire, which is seniors with serious underlying health conditions and people with immunodeficiencies, the president said, we want to find a way, as he said, to open America back up, to get American business moving again.
The president has asked our team for recommendations about not how we do one or the other, but how we do both.
PENCE: And over the months ahead, we will focus on our most vulnerable, but putting America back to work will also be a priority, as the president said, in weeks, and not months.
FAULKNER: All right.
HEMMER: Harris, thank you.
FAULKNER: I know that Georgetown, Texas, and Corey B. are excited to hear about the future. Bill, back to you.
HEMMER: You know, Harris, I think Corey's question, really, it -- he puts his finger on what everybody is concerned about.
So, thank you for the question, and thank you for being here.
Our coverage continues in a moment.
We're live in the Rose Garden here at the White House for the next hour and 40 minutes.
In moments, President Trump will join our conversation, our virtual town hall, as well as other members from the task force.
And we will continue to take your questions on the pandemic.
All of that is straight ahead here on Fox News.
HEMMER: Back here at our virtual town hall. Welcome back, everyone. I'm Bill Hemmer, live here in the Rose Garden at the White House.
And moments from now, President Trump will join our virtual town hall, so he'll be up here in minutes. And a couple members of his task force will be here, Dr. Deborah Birx will join us, the surgeon general. So we will get their input as to where we are now.
What the vice president was describing a moment ago, this 15-day Slow the spread plan that started, really, about nine days ago, so we're well into that now, and we'll get a sense as to -- from the experts, what they are feeling and what they are hearing. And based on the data numbers, not just here at home but around the world.
In the meantime, chief White House correspondent John Roberts, live here from the North Lawn, other side of the House here, so to speak. John, good afternoon to you.
ROBERTS: Bill, we could almost hear you from the White House driveway here. You know, one of the big topics of conversation here -- and we saw that last hour, with Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York , and we saw it with the president yesterday, I'm sure you'll talk about it today, the vice president mentioned it -- is, how do you start to reopen parts of the American economy?
You've got two tracks here. You've got the health part of this, and the White House and many of the states believe they're making good progress on that in terms of ramping up testing, getting medical supplies in the pipeline, though there are still shortages. But then there's the economic track as well.
And even with the coming fiscal stimulus package that we expect from Congress soon, how long can you keep large sectors of the American economy closed down before the whole thing starts to crater, which is why, on the state level and the federal level, officials are now looking at a plan where they could reopen sectors of the economy and get people back to work. Here's what the president said about it at the coronavirus briefing last evening.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself. We're not going to let the cure be worse than the problem. At the end of the 15-day period, we'll make a decision as to which way we want to go, where we want to go, the timing. And essentially, we're referring to the timing of the opening -- essentially the opening of our country.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: Now, the president has gotten a lot of criticism, well, how can you send people back to work when they're just going to help spread the virus? The president's saying and Governor Cuomo echoing that today, that we have learned about transmission and which populations are vulnerable. And if you can isolate vulnerable populations, then perhaps you can let younger people go back to work.
Clearly, the medical community and the president's medical advisors will play a big role in this. When asked about it, and what guidance he would get from the medical community and his advisors, and whether he would take it, this is what the president said.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
TRUMP: If it were up to the doctors, they may say, let's keep it shut down. Let's shut down the entire world because again, you're up to almost 150 countries. So let's shut down the entire world. And when we shut it down, that would be wonderful. And let's keep it shut for a couple of years. You know, can't do that. And you can't do that with a country, especially the number one economy anywhere in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBERTS: You know, one of the things that is going to be key, Bill, into whether or not this -- this could actually happen is the development of what are called serology tests. The current test that we have for coronavirus right now tells you if you have an active infection, but it doesn't tell you if you used to be infected.
They're hoping to develop, very soon, a pinprick blood test -- and Dr. Deborah Birx was talking about this yesterday -- that would tell if you have antibodies to a previous coronavirus disease that you have recovered from. And there's an idea that if you get a widespread serology test, people can get tested to see if they did have the virus. And if they did, they recovered, they're no longer infected. Those are the first people that could potentially go back to work.
We'll see how this all goes. A lot to talk about with the president, coming up.
HEMMER: Yeah, Dr. Birx may help answer that as well. They talked yesterday about this swab, self-test. John, thank you for that.
Back with the vice president here, and specifically about the economy and this whole idea about the cure, not -- making sure that it's not worse than the problem itself. If day 15 is Monday, and the president's clearly sent a signal that he's going to re-evaluate the stop (ph), my guess is you're evaluating it on an hourly basis. Clearly on a daily basis. But what would be the trigger mechanism to tell certain parts of the country, it's OK now, you've got the green light?
PENCE: Well, let's begin with the fact that the -- the 15 Days to Slow the spread was a recommendation that the president embraced, that we believed in -- that when you think about this curve of the epidemic, that we were at the early point in the curve, and that, if Americans were willing to step up and embrace these practices, that we could literally -- we could lessen the impact of the coronavirus and ultimately save lives.
The great news is, millions of Americans are doing this. And what the president tasked our team to do at the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and with our top health experts, is now to evaluate the progress that we have made, and bring the president recommendations for how we could begin to open America up in the weeks ahead.
But the most important thing for your viewers is to understand, as people are wondering, what can I do, what difference can I make, is, literally, by avoid -- you know, avoiding groups of more than 10, not eating in bars and restaurants right now, avoiding unnecessary travel, that these are all the kind of practices that will prevent the inadvertent spread and ultimately lower the amount of Americans that will be exposed to this, which puts at risk that group of people that are truly vulnerable to serious consequences.
You know, the truth is, the risk to the average American from the coronavirus, the risk of serious illness, remains low. But because it's three times more contagious than the flu, and because, as we study numbers from what we know of China, study numbers from South Korea, Italy, and Europe, it is particularly seniors, seniors with serious underlying health conditions, that we have got to be particularly careful about.
And that's why the 15 days to slow the spread was put into effect. But, as the president looks forward now, he -- as he said, he's looking for recommendations about how we can responsibly reopen America, while taking care of our most vulnerable.
HEMMER: It's interesting you said weeks, too. We can come back to that also.
But, in the meantime, Harris has one of our excellent viewer questions -- back to Harris for that now.
FAULKNER: It is so true. And they have their pulse on the economy right now.
Mr. Vice President, you are right on time with that.
Let's watch George from Los Angeles, who submitted a question. And then we will get to it. This was on Facebook.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: We employ eight people who have been loyal. We have promised to take care of them for another 15 to 30 days.
Beyond that, it's going to be very difficult for us to survive. What are you prepared to do for small businesses like ours?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
FAULKNER: Mr. Vice President?
PENCE: Well, thank you, George, for the question.
And let me say that, right after seeing to the health and safety of the American public, this president has been working from early on to make sure that the American people have access to free coronavirus testing.
We have worked with insurance companies, we have worked with the Congress to provide support. And, right now, the Congress is negotiating a bill that would provide direct support to American families. The average family of four would receive a payment of $3,000.
But speaking about those great employees that I can tell you really love and cherish, like any small business owner does, Congress also has a provision that would provide direct payroll support to companies like yours to keep people on the payroll, even if the business is closed, for a period of the next few months.
It's -- it is an effort for us to make the resources available, so businesses across the country can weather the storm.
We're going to also have facilities, lending facilities, that make it possible for our vital industries, like -- like hotels and airlines, and we have talked our cruise industries.
PENCE: Those that have been so impacted have access to capital.
But for small businesses, companies with less than 500 employees, there will be that payroll support, which -- which is all designed to make sure that we can weather the storm.
And Congress is working on it right now. I think the president said again last night that we remain hopeful that Congress will come together, maybe...
PENCE: ... even before the end of the day, to pass the CARE Act.
But it's absolutely essential for our workers, for businesses just like George's, that Congress come together and pass legislation that will help American families and American workers.
I know, as the president of the Senate, I am curious to know when you might go over and shake them up on Capitol Hill, because they have been fighting like cats, and they need to get something done. The American people are waiting.
PENCE: Well, Harris, I can tell you what's been encouraging so far is the first two bills that the president requested, there really has been strong bipartisan support. Now, issues have arisen over the last two days but our team on Capitol Hill tells us that we're really getting down to the fine print.
We're hoping for a vote in the Senate today. I spoke to a member of House Democrat leadership last night and said this is just a time, what the president wants to see is for the Congress to come together as they did on those earlier two bills and provide support for workers, for businesses, for families in America.
And we're going to continue to drive toward that and we continue to remain hopeful that that'll happen and it'll happen soon.
HEMMER: OK. We have many more questions teed up. So stand by here. We're in the Rose Garden at the White House and many more questions in a moment. The president will join our conversation as well. He'll answer them in our virtual Town Hall.
It's never been done this way before but this is a moment in our nation's history where we all get a little inventive and we shall throughout the afternoon. Live back at the White House as our coverage continues on this special edition on the Fox News Channel.
HEMMER: Welcome back to our Fox News Virtual Town Hall. President Trump will join us in moments. We'll continue to take your questions, and we'll get some answers for you as we all try and figure out what America's facing and really what the world's facing.
I'm Bill Hemmer here in the Rose Garden of the White House. My colleague, Harris Faulkner joins us as well. And we'll get back to Harris momentarily here but the vice president continues to be with me here. Nice to see you again.
PENCE: Thank you, Bill.
HEMMER: I -- every morning when I wake, I go to the Johns Hopkins global map, and I'm studying data and numbers from various countries -- not just ours, but South Korea...
PENCE: So are we.
HEMMER: ... and China and Italy and Spain, over the weekend, too.
What is the first bit of data that you look for the moment you wake up in the morning?
PENCE: Well, it really is how we begin every meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force.
Dr. Deborah Birx is probably the leading expert on infectious diseases in the world, and the day the president tapped me to lead this task force, I picked up the phone and told her she needed to come to the White House. And she's been my right arm every step of the way.
HEMMER: So would -- would she be the person who brings you the first...
PENCE: She does.
HEMMER: ... piece of information on a daily basis?
PENCE: Yeah, what Dr. Birx said yesterday at the podium, at the briefing, is -- is our entire approach. We -- we -- we want every decision that we bring to the president to make to be informed by the data, informed by the experience.
From what we know of China -- and we've had -- had -- we did have people on the ground in February that looked at their raw data. But we've been carefully studying South Korea, carefully studying what's happening in Italy. We've been trying to apply those lessons learned here.
For instance, in Italy at this point, the average age of death is 80, and it heavily skews to people that have serious underlying health conditions.
HEMMER: What Dr. Birx said is that among the majority of those who died in Italy, they had at least three pre-existing conditions.
PENCE: She's -- she's spoken about that.
HEMMER: Is that a fact?
PENCE: It's -- it's what we see. The average age of contracting the disease in Italy is 60. And at this point, no one -- no one under the age of 30 -- no one under the age of 30 has -- has died from the disease.
HEMMER: And, of course, their death rate has been much higher than any other country...
HEMMER: ... at more than 9 percent. Ours has been relatively low, right about 1.3 percent, which is where South Korea was -- or is, at the moment, too.
PENCE: But can I just also say that you know, our hearts go out to every family that's lost a loved one to the coronavirus?
And it's one of the reasons why the president early on -- we -- we -- we changed all the guidelines for every nursing home in America. We've raised the standards. We deployed all 8,000 of our nursing home inspectors across the country to enforce guidelines on the spread of infectious disease. We -- and -- and that's why we essentially said no visitors to nursing homes anymore, except in cases of hospice care we don't want to deny families being together.
HEMMER: That can be tough, too. You know, a lot of strain on -- on many people because of it...
PENCE: We -- we know at this point who's the most vulnerable, Bill. And whatever decision the president makes about reopening America, as he said, in weeks, not months, we are going to continue to focus the attention and the compassion of the American people and our health care providers on people that are most vulnerable...
PENCE: ... in that senior with a serious underlying condition.
HEMMER: That brings us to our next question for the vice president on coronavirus. Here is what Brett wants to know about America and U.S. testing.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: My question for you is how long do you think it'll be before all the United States could get testing for the coronavirus?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HEMMER: Yeah. We're doing better, but is there an answer today?
PENCE: Brett, it's a great question.
And what I can tell you is that literally testing is expanding all across the country by the tens of thousands every day. You might be encouraged to know that as of last Monday we had tested roughly 50,000 people in this country who'd gotten the results.
But because President Trump brought together the top commercial labs in America the better part of a month ago and brought them into this system and asked them to harness the immense ability of our commercial labs to process testing, literally the report that I received yesterday was that in one short week we'd done more than a quarter of a million tests around the country.
And -- and we will soon be at a place where not just testing is available in the areas where we've seen outbreaks, but testing is going to be broadly available all across the country.
We're getting there.
The FDA actually just approved a swab test that can be self-administered, and you can contact your doctor about -- about how to -- how to use that test yourself. We're developing new methodologies.
But the most important thing to say is that while the testing is important, and we especially were telling every commercial lab, every state governor we want to prioritize tests for people that have been hospitalized -- we've issued that guidance from HHS -- the reality is every American can make a difference by putting into practice the 15 days to slow the spread.
And for anyone who has a vulnerable senior in your home, I love what Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx said not long ago. And that is, to keep them safe, you should just conduct yourself -- if you have someone in your home who's a senior with a serious underlying health condition, just act like you have the coronavirus. That is, wash your hands a lot...
HEMMER: So many...
PENCE: ... social distancing, clean surfaces on a regular basis. That's how we protect our most vulnerable.
HEMMER: So many tens of millions of us have changed our behavior in that short period of time, and it was jarring in the beginning.
You've got your experts, we've got some good ones too. So I'll introduce the next panel right now, a panel of doctors who have been with us from the beginning, and they've got questions now for the vice president.
Dr. Mehmet Oz, host of "The Dr. Oz Show;" and Dr. Marc Siegel, professor of medicine, NYU-Langone Medical Center, also a Fox News contributor; Dr. Nicole Saphier, New York City physician, also a Fox News contributor.
And as I say hello to you all in various places, Dr. Oz, why don't you start with your question now for the vice president?
DR. MEHMET OZ, HOST, “THE DR. OZ SHOW”: Mr. Vice President, the French physician who conducted the small pilot study showing that a malaria drug -- it's called hydroxychloroquine, which is basically a malaria pill, and Z-Pak, which is azithromycin, stops the coronavirus infection -- told me on my show that denying these medications -- I'm going to quote him -- is unethical.
Now, the FDA appropriately desires randomized clinical trials for proof to guide the medical community. How can we accelerate these clinical trials while also satisfying the demand from physicians, front-line docs, who want these pills for their patients and themselves? Countries like China and France are already using them more widely.
And, sir, a very personal question, would you take these pills if you fell ill today?
PENCE: Well, first, Dr. Oz, let me thank you for -- for your encouraging words to the American people throughout the coronavirus. And frankly, that would go to every one of the doctors on this panel on Fox. We're grateful to each of you.
The good news is, is the -- the chloroquine medication, we actually deployed in the state of New York, resources to be administered to people. But I'm pleased to report to you, Doctor, that the FDA is approving off-label use for -- for the hydrochloroquine (sic) right now. Doctors can prescribe that medication, which as you know, is a perfectly legal and approved malaria medication. But doctors can now -- can now prescribe chloroquine for that off-label purpose of dealing with the symptoms of -- of coronavirus. We're making that clear across the country.
As you know -- and I'm sure the president will say this when he joins us in a bit -- the president's very optimistic, he's very hopeful that some of these anecdotal results that we've seen around the country will prove out to be true. But I want to assure you, there's no barrier to access to chloroquine in this country. We're working to add to that supply even as we speak, we're working with companies like Bayer that produce vast amounts of chloroquine.
But at the same time, to your point, we are engaging in a clinical trial while we make this broadly available for off-label use because we do want to take the opportunity -- we're doing that in New York state -- to study the results of this so that we can -- we can better understand the impact, going forward.
HEMMER: Have you been able to answer his question about whether or not you would take it if you felt you needed it, Mr. Vice President?
PENCE: I would follow the advice of my physician. And -- and I would recommend that approach to every single American.
HEMMER: OK. Harris has a follow-up now.
Harris, go ahead.
FAULKNER: Yes. Thank you, Bill.
Just a couple of things for the vice president and Mr. -- or Dr. Oz.
Dr. Oz, I want to start with you. The hydroxychloroquine, I'm curious, do we know where that's manufactured? Because China is slow to get back online, so many of our pharmaceuticals are made there. So can -- you just heard the vice president saying they're going to have more of it. Do we have a stockpile? What can you tell me?
OZ: Well, I know from the task force that there is some drug that's available and that's coming online relatively rapidly. But you need about 20 pills for a therapeutic dose, to take it over the seven to 10-day period. So I don't think we have enough for all Americans.
But I do believe, just for folks watching, that it could make a meaningful difference in how contagious the virus is, and also how sick you get with it. We don't know that for sure because, as the vice president said, we haven't had the clinical trials.
But I'd love to hear what the vice president has heard from the task force on the topic of availability of enough supplies, if we use it not just to treat COVID-19 patients, but also prophylaxis for people who are near those patients. For example, spouses and also doctors and nurses on the front lines who, sometimes, can't protect themselves in emergencies.
HARRIS: Mr. Vice President?
PENCE: Well it's a great question. I -- yeah, I spoke to Dr. Steve Hahn at FDA just yesterday about the availability of -- of chloroquine in the American marketplace and -- and he said that there is a significant amount of chloroquine available for prescription by doctors.
The important thing was that we had the FDA approve off-label use. It's a -- it's a malaria medication, doctors can prescribe it, but now doctors can prescribe it for dealing with the symptoms of coronavirus.
But to Dr. Oz's point, we've also been working with manufacturers overseas. I've personally spoken, as the president has, to the CEO of Bayer that produces chloroquine. They've been working with us to bring back literally millions of doses from overseas, manufacturing facilities. That is happening as we speak.
We'll focus those on -- on -- on areas where we have outbreak, where we have people that are struggling with coronavirus now, but -- but to -- to Dr. Oz's point, we're -- we're also going to work to continue to spin up manufacturing so that, on an increasing basis, it's available for any American whose doctor might think that it would be helpful.
HEMMER: OK. Some of it's being tested in New York City as of today.
PENCE: That's where we're -- Bill, that's where we're doing the clinical test. It began this morning, we distributed thousands of doses across New York, and it is a -- it is a -- the priority the president has placed on -- on our response has been to those communities -- Washington state, California...
HEMMER: And New York.
PENCE: ... New York that have seen significant outbreak but -- but whether it be testing, whether it be supplies, we're going to work to continue to make testing supplies and medicines more broadly available for every American.
HEMMER: Dr. Marc Siegel joins our conversation now with a question. Dr. Siegel?
DR. MARC SIEGEL, FOX CONTRIBUTOR: Mr. Vice President, our health care workers are hurting and they're fearful and they're worried and they're on the front line and they're heroes. I want to talk to you about vaccines. Dr. Fauci has told me he's got a lot of confidence in some of these vaccine candidates. Moderna, as you know, has one that's going into clinical trials, Germany has one, Baylor has one, NOVA has one. There are several of them that are possibilities. He feels confident that in a year or more, we're going to get something that will work.
My question to you is can you see a scenario where we would offer it way earlier than that to our health care workers who are at -- who are at great risk?
PENCE: Well it's -- it's a great question and -- and what I would tell you is this is another example of how President Trump brought together the private sector, Marc. It would be weeks ago the president brought in all of the pharmaceutical companies, not just the largest in the country but the largest in the world, and -- and he said I want you to go straight to work, I want you to go to work on vaccines, I want you to go to work on what's called therapeutics, which are medicines that will bring relief.
And -- and thanks to the incredible efforts of these pharmaceutical companies and the FDA, as you know, we got to clinical trials in -- in 62 days. That was a new American record. But that's just phase one of the trial. Dr. Fauci's told me again and again that to make sure these medications are safe, that that -- the vaccine itself could be as much as a year and a half away.
We'll -- we'll follow the science on that. But the good news is that the therapeutics we expect a little bit later this spring to have some breakthrough therapeutics that will be available, that will bring relief to Americans that are struggling with the coronavirus.
And -- and also in the bill the Senate is considering right now, there's a provision that's been championed by Senator Steve Daines, a great senator, and -- and championed by others like Dr. Scott Gottlieb that will actually create resources to allow the manufacturer of different therapies and different approaches so that we're ready with the supply once we determine which one is most effective.
It's another reason why we need to get that bill in the Senate passed, not just for American workers, American businesses, small and large, but also because it's going to continue to fuel that innovation in the development of therapies and vaccines.
HEMMER: Thank you, Dr. Siegel. Dr. Nicole Saphier now with your question. Doctor, go ahead.
DR. NICOLE SAPHIER, FOX NEWS CONTRIBUTOR: Hi, thank you so much, Vice President Pence, for taking our questions and the transparency. It's very important to the American people.
You know, I have a quick comment regarding Dr. Oz's question. You know, it does seem right now that doctors Fauci and Birx, who I agree are incredible in this process and I'm so glad they're involved, they seem to be taking a much more traditional approach to some of these experimental medications, as, per se, we saw in the past with HIV.
Although we are encouraging fast track and compassionate use, you know, I wonder why we are not using parallel track, because, right now, our hospital systems are being overrun.
And if we are able to get some of these medications for not only prophylaxis, but treating the severity of the symptoms, we wouldn't necessarily need as many respirators. But that is just food for thought.
My actual question for you, though, is -- and it's from health care workers all over right now, especially those small ones -- to handle the increased volume right now, we are shifting resources from the elective to emergent care, which is obviously leading to a large shift in health care dollars.
Is there a plan to help the small medical practices and those servicing rural and underserved areas who routinely provide necessary elective care to maintain smaller practices, despite this massive shift in resources?
PENCE: Well, it's really a terrific question, Doctor.
And, in the Senate bill that is being debated now, there's -- the last time I checked, there's about $100 billion for hospitals that would recognize that we -- we are asking Americans, we are asking hospitals to postpone elective surgery.
And, frankly, millions of Americans are. That's freeing up a tremendous amount of supplies, masks, especially -- especially those critical ventilators.
And -- and -- but the impact on the hospitals is very real. That's why it's in the Senate bill.
Let me speak, though -- I want to be very clear. What I hear from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx is actually that we are on a dual track. Whether it be the hydrochloroquine (sic) or some other hopeful medications, we are working with the FDA to allow these already legal medications to be used for off-label prescriptions by doctors, that they can be used for coronavirus.
But we are also -- at the same time, we're going to do a clinical test, so that we can be straight with the American people about what we know is happening.
But I want all the viewers to understand that it's a dual track. This is a president that it is all of the above. He wants -- he wants all the resources to be brought to bear, federal, state, local.
And one last word, if I -- if I might, Bill, that our health care workers have just done an incredible job...
PENCE: In Washington state, New York City, California, all across the country, men and women that are -- that are coming in, that are -- that are providing compassionate care to people that are struggling with the symptoms.
I mean, it -- it's -- and doing so oftentimes -- oftentimes with long hours and great difficulties.
And I just want -- I want our health care workers to know that, other than the patients who have contracted this disease, especially the most vulnerable, at the same level of priority, this president has placed our health care workers.
It's one of the reasons, in the last bill, we insisted that they change the law, so that industrial masks, the N95 masks, could now be sold to hospitals. It's freed up tens of millions of masks that are now being distributed all across the country, sold to hospital systems, states, being distributed through FEMA.
PENCE: And, lastly, Doctor, you mentioned the ventilators.
I just received word -- I know we started our conversation this hour on the subject of ventilators and the challenges that the state of New York faces.
And I was so pleased to confirm that, earlier today, FEMA, from the national stockpile, shipped 2,000 ventilators to the state of New York. And, tomorrow, there will be another 2,000 ventilators shipped from the national stockpile.
We have a ways to go yet. It's the reason why we're -- we're marshaling all the resources, not just from the national stockpile, but from our existing supply in hospitals, and that equipment that can be converted.
HEMMER: And a lot of this...
PENCE: But I want to know -- let the -- the people in New York know that, earlier today, 2,000 -- 2,000 ventilators were shipped directly to New York.
New York is truly the epicenter of the coronavirus now in our country.
PENCE: Two thousand more will be arriving tomorrow.
HEMMER: And, when you talk about protective gear, and just...
HEMMER: We started this hour on ventilators, and you're concluding this hour, literally, with some breaking news for New York. And that will be some relief, but we’ve got a ways to go.
On the protective gear, even yesterday, the governor of Michigan was saying: We have got enough to get us through the next shift. We don't have enough to get us through the next day.
Just -- can you address her concerns, Gretchen Whitmer? She voiced that yesterday.
PENCE: Well, what I can say is that we are -- we are spinning up American industry whether it be companies like 3M or Honeywell that make this -- these protective masks. They're called N95 masks.
But what the president in asking Congress in a bipartisan way to change the law to extend liability protection has now made it possible for tens of millions of masks that are used on construction sites –
HEMMER: Can you meet the need?
PENCE: -- to be used in hospitals.
I believe that the combination of more production that's happening from companies around the country from our national stock pile but also the need is also being met -- I mean it's extraordinary, Bill.
I mean companies like Apple just announced that they're donating six million of these industrial masks to FEMA.
HEMMER: Let's keep it coming.
PENCE: And three million to our states. It's inspiring the way businesses are donating these supplies to our hospitals.
HEMMER: I'm grateful for you time.
PENCE: And we need them to keep it coming.
HEMMER: And we're about to bring in the president. President Trump is heading over now. He'll answer your questions as well for the next hour. Our Virtual Town Hall continues with the vice president and now President Trump, next.
HEMMER: Welcome back to our Fox News Virtual Town Hall with President Trump and members of his Coronavirus Task Force. I'm Bill Hemmer at the Rose Garden here at the White House.
FAULKNER: And I'm Harris Faulkner in New York.
The administration's 15-day plan -- you saw that vice president holding that up several times. The plan is to curb the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, and it's set to expire in less than a week from today. Now President Trump and his task force are plotting the way forward for all the nation.
HEMMER: In the next hour, joining us to talk about all that, President Trump, and still with us, Vice President Mike Pence, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, Dr. Deborah Birx, and the surgeon general, Dr. Jerome Adams, and welcome, and thank you all for being here.
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you, Bill.
HEMMER: Unusual circumstances where we're -- you're trying to communicate with the American people, and we're trying to maybe bring the American people a little closer to you and get some answers.
TRUMP: Well, that's true.
HEMMER: To -- to you, Mr. President, when was the moment that you thought, we've got to move on this?
TRUMP: Well, I think when I started seeing and reading about China and seeing what was going on in China, Wuhan, specifically -- it seemed to come mostly out of there, that area, the province. And when I saw that and I saw the kind of death they were, you know, talking about on television, on -- in the papers and I -- I started reading a lot about it.
And really, when I had to make a decision, do I stop people from China, and specifically that area, but from China to come into the country? And everybody was against it. Almost everybody, I would say, was just absolutely against it. We've never done it before. We never made a decision like that.
HEMMER: Did -- did somebody come to you with a bit of information, a piece of data? Was it a world leader? Was it a member of your own team? What was it?
TRUMP: No, no. It was instinct, no. We had a -- a large group of people right behind me in the Oval Office. And I made a -- I consulted with Mike, but we made a decision. I made a decision to close off to China. That was weeks early, and honestly, I took a lot of heat. Sleepy Joe Biden said, "It's xenophobic." I don't know if he knows what that means, but that's OK. He said, "It's racist", what I did.
Thousands and thousands of more people, probably of tens of thousands would be dead right now if I didn't make that decision. And I must say, doctors -- nobody wanted to make that decision at the time. It was very, very early.
Call it luck or call it talent, it doesn't matter. We made a great decision. I took a lot of heat from China. They weren't happy with it. Now they understand it, and they've really, you know, we're doing just fine. But they were not happy with it.
HEMMER: Bring – bringing it to...
TRUMP: I took -- I took a lot of heat from a lot of people.
HEMMER: Bring the conversation to present day. In the past day and a half you got a lot of attention for this, a tweet that I think went out late at night. You said, the cure -- we cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.
TRUMP: I really didn't get -- yeah.
HEMMER: And so you started to look at this 15-day period...
TRUMP: Yeah, sure.
HEMMER: ... which will come to us. Day 15 is next Monday. Today, arguably, day nine.
HEMMER: What are you trying to gauge as to how you can open the country back up again?
TRUMP: Yeah. When you say I took a lot of heat for that, essentially, I really didn't. I mean, a lot of people agree with me. Our country's not supposed to be -- you know, it's not -- it's not built to shut down.
Our people are full of vim and vigor and energy. They don't want to be locked into a -- a house or an apartment or some space. They -- it's not for our country. We're not -- we're not built that way.
And I said, you know, I don't want the cure to be worse than the problem itself, the problem being, obviously, the problem. And you know, you can destroy a country this way, by closing it down, where it literally goes from being the most prosperous -- I mean, we -- we had the best economy in the history of our country three weeks ago.
And then all of a sudden, we're supposed to shut it down, and then we're supposed to pay people not to go to work. We never had that. We used to pay people to go to work when we had --
HEMMER: Right, but this is a government order to go ahead and stay home. It's tricky, though, when you try and turn the faucet back on.
TRUMP: Always (ph) very tricky.
HEMMER: It -- New York could be different from...
TRUMP: It is, it is.
HEMMER: ... Utah, Louisiana.
TRUMP: It is.
HEMMER: It could be different from Arizona.
HEMMER: So how do you go about making that decision here?
TRUMP: Well, you have to make the decision. Look, we lose thousands -- I brought some numbers here. We lose thousands and thousands of people a year to the flu. We don't turn the country off. I mean, every year.
Now, when I heard the number -- you know, we average 37,000 people a year. Can you believe that? And actually, this year we're having a bad flu season. But we lose thousands of people a year to the flu.
We never turn the country off. We lose much more than that to automobile accidents. We didn't call up the automobile companies and say, stop making cars. We don't want any cars anymore. We have to get back to work.
Now, with all of that being said, it's incredible, what the American people have done, and -- and honestly, the American people have learned -- we've all learned together, between the shaking of the hands and the washing of the hands.
Well, I used to wash my hands, and I always wash my hands a lot. I never was a big believer in shaking hands. Once I'd become a politician, you shake hands and you get a little bit used to it. Like, immediately, when I see you, I -- I sort of apologize that I'm not shaking your hand, if you don't mind.
HEMMER: Well, we -- we exchange air elbows, which is -- seems to be...
TRUMP: Yeah, I don't even like to...
HEMMER: ... the things ..
TRUMP: I never liked to see that actually. But...
HEMMER: Right now, on Capitol Hill, you've got members of the Senate debating a $2 trillion bill.
TRUMP: Yes, more than that.
HEMMER: I mean, did you think that -- it -- it blows away the ability for us to imagine that they could pass legislation in excess of $2 trillion.
HEMMER: Now, who knows what's behind the curtain there. Who knows what is stacked into $2 trillion.
TRUMP: You're right (ph)...
HEMMER: How much concern do you have...
TRUMP: Well, we canceled the deal last night.
HEMMER: ... that you could be facing criticism that President Obama faced in 2009, about...
TRUMP: Well, we canceled...
HEMMER: ... sweetheart deals for certain companies...
HEMMER: ... as Democrats would argue?
TRUMP: I canceled the deal last night. I said I'm not going to sign that deal because Nancy Pelosi came in and put a lot of things in the deal that had nothing to do with the workers. That had to do with an agenda that they've been trying to get passed for 10 years.
And I came in, I told Mike, I told a lot of people, there's no way I'm signing that deal. I was getting calls from John Kennedy, from Ben Sasse, from many, many people -- Lindsey. I was getting calls from a lot of different people, saying, this deal -- Tom Cotton -- this deal is terrible, what they've done.
They took a deal -- you know, we almost had a deal the day before. And it was between Schumer and Mitch and it was really a good solid deal.
All of a sudden, they start throwing all of the little Green New Deal stuff in, right -- and the boardrooms, what they look like. And we want green energy, we want all this stuff. Let's stop drilling oil.
They had things in there that were terrible. Windmills all over the place and all sorts of credits for windmills, they kill the birds and ruin the real estate, right.
A lot of problems, I mean a lot of problems. And I said I'm not signing this deal...
HEMMER: Well, but $2 trillion, it's hard...
TRUMP: Now they've renegotiated it.
HEMMER: ... to avoid some of those trapdoors...
TRUMP: Oh, you'll always have...
HEMMER: ... you could argue.
TRUMP: Yes, but we have great things for not only companies, forget the companies. The companies are nothing other than they are an employer of thousands and thousands of people, and they pay them very well.
We want to protect our workers. I want to protect our workers, workers first.
But you have to protect companies like Boeing. They had a real bad year, let's face it, with the problems. And they were in trouble before this and then, all of a sudden, this happened. We can't lose a Boeing.
And we can't lose some of these companies. And companies, frankly, Bill, that were solid as -- like, AAA companies -- because of what's happened over the last couple of weeks, they'd go from AAA to being -- like, they could use a hand.
HEMMER: Tough times.
TRUMP: We can't...
TRUMP: Right. We can't lose those companies. If we lose those companies, we're talking about hundreds of thousands of jobs, millions of jobs. The faster we go back, the better it's going to be.
We have a pent-up energy that's going to be unbelievable. We're going to bring it back fast. I really believe that.
HEMMER: I've got a lot more questions...
HEMMER: ... and my -- so does my colleague Harris Faulkner.
HEMMER: I'll allow her to rejoin the conversation...
TRUMP: She's great.
HEMMER: ... now. Harris?
TRUMP: Do I have an earplug here? I don't have...
HEMMER: I'll help you out.
TRUMP: If I could do that.
HEMMER: Go ahead, Harris.
FAULKNER: Hello, Mr. President...
HEMMER: I'll -- I'll relay and translate.
FAULKNER: Hello, Mr. President. So good to see you today. This will be a little bit to relay.
I understand you guys are going back and forth on the economy and employers. But more than 66 percent of people are employed by small businesses, the V.P. talked a little bit about this. We hear you dropping big companies' names. The question here is how do you shore up both as you look forward?
HEMMER: Yes, the question is a good one and it's pointed. You're talking about Boeing, and yet you've got, what, two-thirds of American businesses are small businesses.
HEMMER: And you think about what they're trying to do in terms of adjusting to this new reality that's been thrown on them. What will you do for small business?
TRUMP: OK. Well, first of all, I have to say that Harris is one of my favorite people. And I didn't hear a word she said, and I was hoping it wasn't too devastating a question. But she is a fantastic person. I have to say that, OK?
Now that I've said it -- because I can't hear Harris -- but no, the bill is very much focused on the small businessperson...
HEMMER: It is (ph).
TRUMP: It's very much focused on small companies, including restaurants and all sorts of small companies. And what people don't realize -- you know, you're talking about these massive -- we have the greatest companies in the world. You talk -- you add them all up, and the small businesses are just about equal in size to these massive companies, of which we have many also. It's the engine of our country, small business.
This bill is absolutely aimed at the small business and the worker, and the workers of those small businesses -- and the owners. The owners are going to need help. They're going to need some loans. They're going to need things and we're going to be able to take care of them, because we don't want those small businesses to go out of business, nor do we want the big businesses to go out of business.
HEMMER: When they said, Mr. President, we've got to shut this down, how hard did you push back?
TRUMP: Well, I'll tell you, I never heard of such a thing. We've had flus where we lose 36,000. We've lost as many, I guess, as 78,000 people in one year. And they came in, and they said to me, sir, we are going to have to close the country.
I said, what are you talking about? Well, we have a virus. It's coming in.
And I knew that. And I made the early decision to with China. So, I ready -- already closed it off to China. And that was a long time before they came in.
But they came in, experts, and they said, we are going to have to close the country.
I said, we have never closed the country before. This has never happened before. You're going -- you're saying -- I said, are you -- are you serious about this? We are going to take this country that's fully employed, where we have 160 million people working, and you're telling me we have to close it? And people are going to go out of business, and they are going to go bankrupt, and they're not going to have jobs? What are we talking about here?
Don't forget, this has never been done. We have had flus before. We have had viruses before. So, this is something new. And this is why I say we have to -- I gave it two weeks. And I guess, by Monday or Tuesday, it's about two weeks.
And we will assess at that time, and we will give it some more time, if we need a little more time. But we have to open this country up.
HEMMER: But when they came to you and had that conversation with you, how long did it take you to accept that new reality?
TRUMP: Well, I -- look, I accept things. I understand things very quickly.
I mean, I understood exactly what they were saying. But we can socially distance ourselves and go to work. And you will have to work a little bit harder. And you can clean your hands five times more than you used to. You don't have to shake hands anymore with people.
That might be something good coming out of this, although, I must tell you, as a politician, it's a lot warmer when you walk into a crowd and you're shaking a lot of people's hands. You love those people.
HEMMER: I would agree with you on that, yes.
TRUMP: They love me, and I love them. But it is a little bit colder.
But -- but you won't be shaking hands for at least a while. And things will happen. But we have to put the country to work.
Look, you're going to lose a