President Trump and the Coronavirus Task Force hold their Friday, April 10 White House briefing.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much everybody, and good afternoon. Today is Good Friday. And this Sunday, millions of Christians celebrate Easter and the resurrection of Jesus Christ. At this holy time, we pray that God will heal the sick and comfort the heartbroken and bless our heroes. As American families look forward to Easter, we’re reminded that our story ends not in despair, but in triumph and renewal. Very appropriate, isn’t it?
I’d like to provide Americans an update on our ongoing efforts in the war against the invisible enemy. Before I do that, I’ll have a couple of notes. The United States, in discussions last night with Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Russia, and –dealing with OPEC nations — we are trying to get Mexico, as the expression goes, “over the barrel.” And Mexico is committing to do 100,000 fewer barrels.
The President and I spoke last night. We have a great relationship, great friendship. They’re helping us very much at the border. They have 27,000 soldiers — Mexican soldiers — on our border right now, stopping people from coming into our country as our wall goes up. We’re up to about 168 miles of wall.
And in speaking with the President, they have a limit. The OPEC nations have agreed to a different limit: a reduction of about 23 percent. So what I thought I would do — and I don’t know that it’s going to be accepted; we’ll find out — the United States will help Mexico along and they’ll reimburse us sometime at a later date when they’re prepared to do so.
And we had a great conversation, but we’ll find out how that all works out. As you know, they’re trying to get rid of the glut of oil. There’s a tremendous glut of oil. And we don’t want anything to hurt our incredible industry. We’re actually the largest producer in the world now, so we don’t want anything to hurt those jobs — those great jobs in Texas and North Dakota, in Oklahoma, and everywhere. We have a tremendous energy — New Mexico — tremendous energy business. And we want to keep those jobs.
So we’re — we’re working on it. I think, eventually, it’s going to work out. It may work out quicker than what most people thought possible. And maybe it won’t, but it’ll work out eventually.
Our experts are monitoring the data from every part of our country having to do with the topic that we’re here to discuss. In the midst of grief and pain, we’re seeing clear signs that our aggressive strategy is saving countless lives. Tremendous progress is being made. Although when you look at some of the numbers — I just spoke with Governor Cuomo; we had a good talk. When you look at those numbers — the numbers of death, people that have died — it’s so horrible.
Now, on the other side, you have the numbers of beds being used, we were just saying, are substantially reduced. That’s usually the sign that it’s heading in the downward curve. So, New York, we know where that is. But in the midst of all this grief and this pain, we’re seeing these signs and we’re seeing them very strongly. And a lot of that has to do with the aggressive strategy in saving so many lives. We’re saving so many lives compared to what it could have been.
So, nobody knows what the number is, but we had a number of 100,000 lives. As many as that is, it’s impossible to even think of it. And that was the low end with a tremendous amount of work and a tremendous amount of — you can call it many different things. Our people had to be extremely strong and brave to be able to put up with what they’ve put up with. But the minimum, if you did this social distancing at every other aspect — and I think I can say 90 percent, maybe even more than that, were able to do it — the minimum number was 100,000 lives, and I think we’ll be substantially under that number.
Hard to believe that if you had 60,000 — you could never be happy, but that’s a lot fewer than we were originally told and thinking. So they said between 100- and 220,000 lives on the minimum side, and then up to 2.2 million lives if we didn’t do anything. But it showed a just tremendous resolve by the people of this country.
So we’ll see what it ends up being, but it looks like we’re headed to a number substantially below the 100,000. That would be the low mark. And I hope that bears out.
The situation in Detroit and New Orleans appears to be stabilizing. Detroit has really started to go up, and now it is stabilizing. And New Orleans is a great place; I have so many friends there. They can’t believe what’s happening, but it’s really stabilized. I spoke with the governor of Louisiana. And, as you know, we’re building them additional beds right now — the Army Corps of Engineers and FEMA — and that is going to be done. And I hope they’re not going to be very well used because I think they’ve really — I don’t think they’re going to need them or certainly not very many of them. We built them a big hospital of 1,000 beds and now we’re — we’re in the midst of doing another 1,000. I don’t think they’re going to be using very many of them, and that’s a good thing.
There was a time, two weeks ago, where we said, “That’s not going to be nearly enough. We’re going to have to build more.” But we wanted to wait to see and I’m glad we waited. It just looks like they’re doing really well. Louisiana and the state of Michigan is doing, really, much better than we thought.
In Washington State, we’ve made enough progress that the governor is now able to return an Army field hospital, so we’re going to take that hospital. We don’t think we need any more hospitals. We built thousands of beds all over the country, and we think we’re probably not going to need that hospital anyway. And if we do, we’re ready to move it to a different location.
In New York, we’re seeing hospital admissions declining very substantially, as I said. And nationwide, the number of new cases per day is flattening substantially, suggesting that we are near the peak and our comprehensive strategy is working.
Over time, our guidelines to slow the spread are decreasing the rate of new cases very substantially and will result in fewer hospital admissions. And we’re seeing that; it’s incredible. I think, with no exceptions, it’s looking like it’s lower. And again, that’s because of the people doing what they had to do. Great people. And working with elected representatives and — and the doctors, the nurses, and everybody — I mean, just everybody. Everybody is so, so — has been so amazing.
I was told this morning again, “Please mention all of those people working in the grocery stores.” And it’s true. The checkouts and the clerks and the people that are really — and a number of those people have become infected. So we want to thank them and a shout-out to them.
With the tireless devotion of American doctors and nurses and all of the medical people, we’ve kept our fatality rate very, very low compared to other countries. My administration is closely monitoring the data on the virus’s impact on our cherished African American communities because they’ve been hit hard. And the Surgeon General will be sharing more of that information right after we’re finished here. He’ll be coming up and saying exactly what’s happening because it’s really — it’s very troublesome, I will tell you that.
I’d also like to provide clarity on the important point for many Americans on elective surgeries. While we’ve asked hospitals to cancel surgeries and procedures that do not take place at this time, just not to do them now — the choice to delay any treatment still remains between the patient and their doctor. We’re not advising Americans to postpone medical treatment that the doctor believes should occur now. So it’s different kinds of surgery, obviously, but we’re really getting to the point where you can start to think about doing that surgery, if necessary, pretty soon, I think. Pretty soon.
Yesterday, I directed Secretary of Agriculture Sonny to — Sonny Perdue to expedite aid to American farmers. And Secretary Perdue will be using all of the tools at his disposal to develop a program — and very quickly — of at least $16 billion to provide relief for farmers, ranchers, and producers impacted by the coronavirus.
In this time of crisis, we must keep our supply chains moving from the beginning — right from beginning to end. And we’re committed to supporting the amazing men and women who produce supply. I did, last night, a statement on social media, and I said I have directed Secretary Sonny Perdue to expedite help to our farmers, especially to the smaller farmers who are very, very badly hurting right now. I expect Secretary Perdue to use all of the funds and authorities at his disposal to make sure that our food supply is stable and safe, and our great farmers are prosperous and continue to be prosperous.
We’re working very hard to make sure our food supply chain is sound and plentiful, but we all know that that begins with our farmers, cattlemen, ranchers, and producers. So we’re going to be working with the small farmers, the big farmers, the cattlemen, the ranchers — all of the producers. We’re going to take care of them. We’re working with them right now. We have a lot of money that was put there through our use of tariffs and other means, and we’re going to help out our farmers.
And I don’t think — I tell you, I’ve been helping our farmers for a couple of years because they were targeted, as you know, by China and others. And I think they’re very grateful to what — for what we’ve done.
On the medical front, the FDA — FDA has issued 47 emergency use authorizations for advancements and testing new ventilator designs, innovations, and personal protective equipment, and experimental medicines. And Dr. Hahn is going to be talking about that. We’ve cut through the red tape to give doctors and patients unprecedented freedom to make their own healthcare decisions, granting access to potential therapies and drugs.
Since Monday, we’ve deployed two major shipments of hydroxychloroquine from our National Stockpile. And it’s going to various cities.
And we are also disposing and getting, as quickly as we can, portions of it to the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Department of Defense. And speaking of the Department of Defense, they’re going to be sending us 10 million N95 masks that they had. And we’re in great shape in every way. We’re in great shape with ventilators. We’re in great shape with protective clothing. We have additional planeloads coming in.
But we’re not getting any calls from governors at this moment. I can speak, I think for — Vice President Pence will be talking in a little while. We’re getting — we’re getting very few calls from governors or anybody else needing anything. They’re in great shape for this surge that’s coming in certain areas in particular, and that’s a good job. You’ve done a great job on that, Mike. Really, a great job. I appreciate it. The whole country appreciates it.
More than 2 million coronavirus tests have now been completed, and we’re conducting approximately 100,000 more every day. We’re also working to bring blood-based serology tests to the market as quickly as possible so that Americans can determine whether or not they have already had the virus and potentially have immunity.
They have immunity if they’ve had the virus. A lot of them don’t even know if they’ve had it. Sometimes it’s brutal. You see the Prime Minister seems to be doing well now, I hope. He had a rough go of it, and still is, but he’s doing better. And then some people don’t even know they had it. It could be sniffles. It could be they don’t feel perfect, but they’ve had it. And they’re the lucky ones.
The NIH, CDC, and FDA are currently validating these antibody tests to ensure that they are accurate, and they’re doing that at breakneck speed. I think we can say that, Doctor. And we’re going to get them approved very quickly — Dr. Hahn.
When validated, we’re confident that the production will scale up to tens of millions of tests very quickly. We’re leading the world now in testing, by far, and we’re going to keep it that way. Other countries are coming to us, and they’re wanting to know about our tests and can they buy the tests, and can they do whatever they have to do to get the tests. And we’re going to make that — very soon, we’ll be in a position to make that possible because it’s important for them to have it.
And we’re going to have an announcement on the World Health Organization sometime next week. As you know, we give them approximately $500 million a year, and we’re going to be talking about that subject next week. We’ll have a lot to say about it. We’ll hold it.
Every American should be proud of what our country has achieved in just a short period of time. The U.S. military has deployed thousands of personnel to build 23 temporary hospitals with more than 16,000 beds. And we have the potential to build many more if we needed them, but we’re all ready to go. But I don’t think we’re going to need them, which is great — great news.
And we built those hospitals in 12 states and the District of Columbia using the Defense Production Act. And we used it like a hammer. A lot of the media said: Oh, we weren’t using it. We used it like a hammer to a point where all we had to do was say the words and everybody gave us max. And they’ve done a good job. They really have done a good job, with few exceptions.
And we’ve harnessed the full power of American industry to produce ventilators and other essential supplies. Right now, we’re making thousands of ventilators, many of which we won’t need, but we’ll use them in our stockpile. And we’ll build that up. We’ll also help build up the stockpiles, which they should have had in the states. And so we’re working with governors on that, and we’ll also help other countries or countries that are calling us for help, if they need ventilators and they’re in no no position to build ventilators. We are. We have Ford and General Motors, and many, many companies are building ventilators.
So we’re going to be helping — at a not-too-distant point, we’re going to be helping quite a few of the countries.
Now, we’ve launched Project Airbridge to deliver nearly 300 million pieces of personal protective equipment from and around the globe. We’re also shipping out 60 sterilization systems to 10 different cities that can each sterilize up to 80,000 masks each day, and I’m even hearing it can go up to 120,000 masks a day — certain equipment with certain additions. It’s a company in Ohio that makes it. It’s a great company. Great — I hear it’s a great product. It works very well.
I asked that question; I said, “How come we have to buy so many masks? Why can’t we sterilize the masks that are being used?” And the answer was, “You can.” In this case, they say, up to 20 times. So we can take a mask — certain types of masks — the N95s in particular — and we can sterilize them, make them very clean, up to 20 times. That’s a great thing.
In addition, we passed the largest emergency economic relief package in American history to save the U.S. economy and protect the American worker. As you know, this past week, which was four active days on the stock market — Good Friday today is not — is not included; the markets are closed. In four days, we had the biggest market increase — stock market increase that we’ve had in 50 years. That tells you that there’s a pent-up demand. That tells you they want to get back. There’s something good going to happen. I really believe that. There’s something very good going to happen. We have to get back.
So think of it: In this horrible period, this horrible, dark period where this — this monster came and worked its horrible, horrible spell over the world — 184 countries as of this morning. A hundred and eighty-four countries.
We’ve done well, and I guess the market thinks we’ve done well, because we hit the biggest stock market increase without one day — we’re talking four days instead of five — that we’ve had in 50 years. Fifty years. Think of that. More than 50 years, actually.
In short, the American people have launched the greatest mobilization of our society since World War Two, deploying every scientific, governmental, medical, and military resource to defeat the virus.
So I want to just start then with — we’re going to answer questions later. We’ll have time. I think we have a lot of time today. A lot of people are off, as they should be. Good Friday.
But — so I’ll stick around, and we’ll answer questions later. I want to start with Deborah Birx, please. Dr. Birx. And you can go over some of the numbers we just looked at, and that’d be great.
Thank you very much, Deborah.
DR. BIRX: Thank you, Mr. President, and thank you for outlining how well we are doing in a series of metro areas. What also has been encouraging, for those of you who are watching epidemic curves every day — and I’m sure you are, and lot — watching them in log phase, because that’s how epidemiologists like to look at their curves — you can see for the first time that, in the United States, we’re starting to level on the logarithmic phase, like Italy did about a week ago. And so this gives us great heart on that — not only in specific places, but we’re starting to see that change.
Obviously, a lot of that is driven by the improvement in New York City. Remember, for a long time, they were over 50 percent of our cases and 50 percent of our new cases. That has dramatically changed because of the impact of what the citizens of New York and New Jersey and across Connecticut, and now Rhode Island, are doing to really change the course of this pandemic and really change the trajectory of new cases.
We’re seeing that what many states and metro areas were — experienced as twofold and fourfold — fourfold increases that went to twofold — that now those are going to eight days between the doubling rate. Watching this every day gives us hope across these metro areas, from New York and New Jersey and all through Denver, and of course, through New Orleans.
We still see cases occurring in the Boston area and in Chicago, but their rate of increase seems to be stabilizing. And we really want to call out the work of the mayors of Baltimore and the District and Philadelphia who have really brought all of their health — health experts together and, working with their communities, are starting to really change the curves in those areas.
What we’re seeing is we’re united in social distancing, and that’s been very encouraging to all of us, and it should be encouraging to the healthcare providers that are on the frontline, many of which are serving our Americans with such dignity and respect and ensuring that everybody gets optimal care.
And as the President noted, our mortality in the United States is significantly less than many of the other countries when you correct them for our population. And that is really solely the work of our health — our frontline healthcare providers.
And so working with — you can really — hopefully you get the theme today that we are incredibly proud of our public health leaders at the city level, at the state level, at the federal level who are working together to really change the course of this pandemic, working with their citizens in their communities to make these changes, and the American public who has really taken all of this to heart and stayed home.
I know, last week, we really asked a lot of people in the Washington and Baltimore area to consolidate, not go out frequently to grocery stores or pharmacies. You can really see that that’s having a huge impact.
So it’s really about the encouraging signs that we see. But as encouraging as they are, we have not reached the peak. And so, every day, we need to continue to do what we did yesterday and the week before and the week before that, because that’s what, in the end, is going to take us up across the peak and down the other side.
We continue to really applaud the work of California and Washington State and Oregon. We’re learning from all three of those states, from their public health officials, about how they were able to keep the virus from ever becoming logarithmic. And I think that’s an important lesson for all of us on how they did that, what the timing was, in case we ever have to face this issue in the future.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Deborah.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Tony?
THE PRESIDENT: Doctor, please.
DR. FAUCI: Thank you very much, Mr. President. So again, just keeping on the theme that Dr. Birx had mentioned, this is the end of the week — that famous week that we spoke about last weekend — in which we — what actually was predicted to happen, happened. We’re starting to see the leveling off and the coming down that Dr. Birx had mentioned.
But it’s important to remember that this is not the time to feel that since we have made such important advance in the sense of success of the mitigation, that we need to be pulling back at all. I was actually hearkened [sic] by the fact that we’ve been talking about the New York, New Jersey, New Orleans, and other areas where they have really big spikes, but there’s other parts of the country, in the middle parts of the country, where they’re concerned to make sure they don’t get those spikes.
And I really want to salute the governors of states throughout the entire United States, but particularly in the central part of the country because the governors after they see us in these press conferences. And I’ve had calls over the last several days from several of the governors — you know, from Nebraska, Iowa, South Dakota, Utah. Just about an hour and a half ago, I spoke with the governors of Arkansas and Wyoming, who are really committed to make sure that they don’t get into the situation where they’re going to have spikes in their state. And they’re doing the kinds of things that they don’t get recognized, because people don’t talk about them much.
But we have a big country. We have 50 states. And it’s not only the big cities. So if we’re going to pull out of this, we’re going to pull out of it in the big cities and we’re going to pull out in those areas that aren’t as densely populated.
And I just want to give a shout out to them. They’re doing an extraordinary job. I was really pleasant- — I wouldn’t say “surprised,” because I expect it of this country — but to hear what they’re doing and the commitment that they’re putting into making sure that we don’t have the kinds of situations that we’ve experienced, unfortunately, in other areas — this is very important.
I just want to close by — one other thing, something I mentioned yesterday and the day before — that there are a lot of candidate interventions that are going into clinical trials. For those of you who are interested in it, I recommend you go to ClinicalTrials.gov, and you’ll see the design of a clinical trial, and you’ll see that many of them are the randomized control trials that are the really gold standard of how you find out whether something really is safe and effective. And as the weeks and months — and it’ll probably be months — sometime in the summer, we’ll start to see which are working, which are not. And to focus on those that are — we’re developing and we’re working.
I’ll be happy to answer questions later. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Please, Doctor.
DR. HAHN: Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you.
DR. HAHN: The White House Task Force has been very focused on increasing the supply of personal protective equipment for our great providers. I was one of those providers a few months ago and I can tell you nothing is more important than making sure they have what they need.
So, in order to increase the supply of N95 masks, FDA has worked with industry and has now authorized two companies who will supply machines to sterilize N95 masks.
Admiral Polowczyk and FEMA are purchasing, on behalf of U.S. government, 60 sterilization machines, as mentioned by the President. And they will be positioned around the country to increase the amount of supply of N95 masks.
Each machine will be able to sterilize 80,000 95 masks [sic] — N95 masks per day. And we hope to actually increase that further.
The Vice President and the White House Task Force challenged us yesterday, and we responded as a team. FDA issued revised guidance regarding the laundering of gowns because gowns are another issue, in terms of supply, that we’re looking forward on.
This is not something that normally happens around the country, but issued this guidance. It’s on our website now at FDA. So there’s information about how hospitals can do that to increase the supply.
We’ve heard concerns that maybe hospitals might not want to do that because of regulations. And I can — happy to tell you that Administrator Verma and I have worked on this — certified providers and suppliers who follow FDI [sic] — FDA guidance, as posted on the website, will be compliant with Medicare and Medicaid requirements.
And then finally, last week FDA provided guidance to manufacturers on manufacturing specifications for cloth gowns. This is another attempt to increase the number of gowns. Typically, it’s plastic or other types of materials. And this guidance, if followed, can be used by manufacturers to actually make these gowns and no further regulatory red tape will be necessary. They can go into circulation.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Please.
SURGEON GENERAL ADAMS: Thank you, Mr. President. Good afternoon, everyone. I started off the week talking about the challenges that lie ahead, and I want to finish the week just by reiterating what you’ve heard. Mitigation works. It definitively and quantitatively is working. And I want to say thank you to America for your efforts to help flatten the curve and to save lives.
But, at the President’s direction, yesterday, I met with 2,000 Hispanic leaders from their communities. And today, the Vice President led a phone call that I was on with hundreds of African American leaders, including the Reverend Jesse Jackson, including Derrick Johnson of the NAACP, including the National Medical Association and the Black Nurses Association, to talk about some of the alarming trends we’re observing regarding the impact of COVID-19 on communities of color.
And you’ve heard the stats in New York City: Hispanics represent the majority of deaths. In Milwaukee County, blacks are 25 percent of the population but almost 50 percent of the cases and 75 percent of the deaths. So what’s going on? Well, it’s alarming but it’s not surprising that people of color have a greater burden of chronic health conditions.
African Americans and Native Americans develop high blood pressure at much younger ages, and it’s less likely to be under control, and does greater harm to their organs. Puerto Ricans have higher rates of asthma and black boys are three times as likely to die of asthma as their white counterparts. As a matter of fact, I’ve been carrying around an inhaler in my pocket for 40 years out of fear of having a fatal asthma attack. And I hope that showing you this inhaler shows little kids with asthma all across the country that they can grow up to be Surgeon General one day.
But I — more immediately share it so that everyone knows it doesn’t matter if you look fit, if you look young. You are still at risk for getting and spreading and dying from coronavirus.
The chronic burden of medical ills is likely to make people of color especially less resilient to the ravages of COVID-19. And it’s possibly — in fact, likely — that the burden of social ills is also contributing.
Social distancing and teleworking, we know, are critical, and you’ve heard Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci talk about how they prevent the spread of coronavirus. Yet only one in five African Americans and one in six Hispanics has a job that lets them work from home.
People of color are more likely to live in densely packed areas and in multi-generational housing, which — situations which create higher risk for spread of a highly contagious disease like COVID-19.
We tell people to wash their hands, but as studies showed, 30 percent of the homes on Navajo Nation don’t have running water. So how are they going to do that?
In summary, people of color experience both more likely exposure to COVID-19 and increased complications from it. But let me be crystal clear: We do not think people of color are biologically or genetically predisposed to get COVID-19. There is nothing inherently wrong with you. But they are socially predisposed to coronavirus dispos- — exposure and to have a higher incidence of the very diseases that puts you at risk for severe complications of coronavirus.
But as the Vice President shared on the call this morning, this history — and I want you to hear me say this — it does not have to be our nation’s future. We’re taking steps now, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, to reach, protect, and strengthen all communities impacted by this disease, and especially our communities of color.
More details will be forthcoming. But we are actively working, as the Vice President and the CDC director laid out today, on data collection; targeted outreach to communities of color; and increasing financial employment, education, housing, social and health supports, so that everybody has an equal chance to be healthy.
And I want to close by saying that while your state and local health departments and those of us in public service are working day and night to help stop the spread of COVID-19 and to protect you regardless of your color, your creed, or your geography, I need you to know: You are not helpless. And it’s even more important that, in communities of color, we adhere to the task force guidelines to slow the spread.
Stay at home, if possible. If you must go out, maintain six feet of distance between you and everyone else, and wear a mask if you’re going to be within six feet of others. Wash your hands more often than you ever dreamed possible. Avoid alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. And call your friends and family. Check in on your mother; she wants to hear from you right now.
And speaking of mothers, we need you to do this, if not for yourself, then for your abuela. Do it for your granddaddy. Do it for your Big Mama. Do it for your Pop-Pop. We need you to understand — especially in communities of color, we need you to step up and help stop the spread so that we can protect those who are most vulnerable.
This epidemic is a tragedy, but it will be all the more tragic if we fail to recognize and address the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 and an array of other diseases and risk factors on communities of color. The task force and this administration are determined not to let that happen. The President, the Vice President have said we will not let that happen.
We can’t fix these issues overnight, but I promise you we will work with your communities to quickly and meaningfully move the needle in the right direction. Nothing less than the fate of our families and friends, my family and friends depends on it.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Great job. Thank you.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. Today, the White House Coronavirus Task Force met and — and heard from the President the gratitude then he and I and I know all the American people feel for all the dedicated workers at FEMA, HHS, U.S. Public Health Service, FDA, and all those that are literally working on your behalf around the clock to partner with states, to partner with local health officials. And Mr. President, allow me to add my — my thanks and admiration to all of the entire team here at the federal level.
On this Good Friday, we — we remember those who’ve lost their lives to the coronavirus. We remember their families, our dedicated healthcare workers, and our first responders. And we do well, on this special day for Christians across this country, to remember them in our prayers.
But, as you just heard from Dr. Birx and from the experts, it’s also a good day to remember that Good Friday is always followed by Easter Sunday. And there is hope. There is hope in this moment that, thanks to what the American people are doing every day — adhering to the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America; thanks to the fact that Americans are listening to state and local leaders, and putting the health of their family members and neighbors first, we’re getting there, America. We’re making progress. But it’s imperative that we all continue to implement all of the guidance in the “30 Days to Slow the Spread.”
As the Surgeon General just attested, at the President’s direction, we engaged more than 400 leaders in the African American community today. And allow me to express my appreciation for their leadership and their efforts in communicating to African Americans and other minority populations some of the unique challenges that those communities face in the midst of this epidemic.
And the CDC, as the Surgeon General said, is working on not only studying the issue, but very rapidly issuing new guidance. And we’ll be communicating that new guidance to all of those great leaders.
On the subject of testing and supplies, the President gave a great amount of detail. More than 2.1 million tests have been performed and we continue to work very, very closely with FDA and suppliers around the country to expand the ability of testing. And you just heard Dr. Hahn reflect on the fact that very soon we will have an antibody test that Americans will be able to take to determine whether they ever had the coronavirus.
I spoke today to the governor of Colorado, Jared Polis. And we’ve been in contact with Senator Cory Gardner about an outbreak at a particular meatpacking facility in the Colorado area. And at this time, our team is working with the governor and working with the senator to ensure that we flow testing resources. At this point, there are some 14 people hospitalized, maybe 2- to 300 of the workforce have been impacted. And we spoke about providing those resources this weekend. I want to encourage people in Colorado that we will — we will work to support that effort, but I also want to emphasize that all the people that are working in food supply — from farmers, to meatpackers, to distributors, to truckers, to grocers — continue to have our gratitude, as President Trump said just a few moments ago.
On supplies: More than 5 billion have been obligated to the states, 29,600 National Guard have been activated, and, at the President’s direction, more than 4,700 active duty military personnel have been deployed — medical military personnel — in nine states, focusing on the areas of the most significant epidemic.
Air bridge, its 26 flights have been completed. Four flights are scheduled to arrive today, bringing a quarter million gowns, 25 million pairs of gloves. Fifty-four more flights are scheduled, literally bringing in supplies from around the world.
Finally, let me say, as we go into this very special weekend — into Easter services. I know I speak on behalf of the President when I say how grateful we are to all of the churches that have been there — and their ministries have been working under great difficulty — to continue to provide for the needs of your members. There have been — there have been food drives, there have been phone calls, and ministry has continued. And we are grateful for the role, on this Holy Week, that our churches, our synagogues, and all of our houses of worship have played.
On their behalf, allow me to remind you that even if you’re not in the pew this Easter Sunday, if you are able, it’s still a good idea to give, because those ministries continue to go forward. And we encourage you — we encourage you to continue to support them.
We also want to say very respectfully to all of the — all the church communities around this country and all the places of worship to continue to heed the guidelines issued in the President’s Coronavirus Guidelines for America. We know it’s difficult in this time of year, particularly, Mr. President, to avoid gatherings of more than 10. But we’re grateful that so many churches, synagogues, and places of worship have done just that, and we urge you to continue to do it.
And to my Christian brothers and sisters across the country, let me encourage you with the words we should all remember that Jesus said, “Wherever two or more are gathered, there He is also.” And so you can worship, you can celebrate Easter, and know that you’ll be blessed in so doing. And you’ll be serving the nation.
Thank you, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you. Great job. Thank you.
Okay, it’s Good Friday. Let’s be nice. Okay? Let’s be real nice. Yeah, please. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Can you clarify a little bit what the U.S. offer to Mexico, in order to agree to that oil deal?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q And then also go into detail about what you spoke about on oil with President Putin this morning?
THE PRESIDENT: So all of the OPEC nations met, and others, and they’re all agreeing to cut back because there’s a tremendous glut. We don’t even — we’re filling up our strategic reserves. We don’t even have room to store it. In fact, they’re using ships to store oil. There’s never been anything like this.
It was being overproduced to start off with, and then you had the virus and that took off 40 percent right there. So we have — there’s a glut of oil like nobody has ever seen before. It’s good in many ways and, depending on where you are, who you are, it’s bad. We have a tremendous energy business with hundreds of thousands of jobs. We’re doing great. Number one in the world.
So, they all got together and they said, “We’re going to cut it, because we have to get rid of this tremendous supply.”
Now, the good news is, gasoline prices — I’m seeing 90 cents, 85 cents, in different parts of the country, a gallon. Nobody has ever seen that. I guess you have to go back to the 1950s where they had the big large dollar bills, remember? You don’t remember; you’re too young. But the fact that you have to go back a long ways to see it.
So there’s some good. The airlines are trying to come back, having low fuel costs is good for them — and other reasons. Steel manufacturing — but a lot of the steel goes to building what we do for the oil and engineering firms. So, you know, that’s a — that’s a double-edged sword.
But it’s — it’s — we want to keep our energy. We want to remain independent. We will remain independent, I think, regardless. But we want to get rid of this tremendous overflow. There’s no place to even store it.
So the OPEC nations met. They’ve been meeting. And, you know, I’ve hated OPEC over the years, absolutely hated them. But obviously it broke down and we potentially have years’ worth of supply. A long time before it ever can catch up, even if they do reduce it.
And they agreed, but Mexico didn’t agree. It was one of the few countries that didn’t agree. This is OPEC-Plus. These are OPEC-Plus countries outside — you understand? And Mexico didn’t agree. And I understand the President very well. He has a level when he came in, and he wanted to keep it at that level. Oil is important for Mexico. The problem is — and I explained it very strongly — you know, you’re going to be selling it for $5 or $10 a barrel. So, in the end, it’s bad.
But he did have some political difficulty with it, frankly, and I understand that too. And it’s a small amount for us. It’s a large amount for Mexico, but it’s a very small amount for the United States, being the biggest producer. So I agreed to pick up some of the slack. So he was going to reduce it by 100,000 barrels — reduce his output by 100,000 barrels. And I was going to pick up the slack and they would make it up to us at a later date. They would make up what we’re doing at a later date. It could be in a different form.
And I don’t know whether or not that’s going to be — for Mexico, it was acceptable. I don’t know whether or not that’s going to be acceptable to the other oil-producing nations. We’ll find out. But it’s something that would certainly be acceptable to me to get it over the back. So Mexico is going to reduce by 100,000 barrels, and that would mean that they’re 250 to 300 barrels short. We’d make up the difference. They would reimburse us at a later date. Okay?
Q You mean make up the difference by cutting U.S. production?
THE PRESIDENT: By cutting some U.S. production. Now, the U.S, production has already been cut, because we’re a market-driven economy and — and oil is very market driven. They’ve been cutting oil all over the place. We’re cutting it back.
And what does it mean really? It means we have it in the ground. We can use it. Now we have a lot of — we have a lot of ground with a lot of oil in it. I think we’re number one in that too. We’re probably number one, especially with ANWR. As you know, I got ANWR approved in Alaska. That’s one of the biggest finds anywhere in the world.
So when you add it all up, I think we’re probably number one, even in what we have under- — we’re very lucky. We were — we grew up in a land that was rich in a lot of ways, but it’s also rich because it has a lot of oil underneath — oil and gas.
And as, you know, natural gas — LNG — is all over the country now at a very low price. And our carbon, our atmosphere, our — the level of environmental cleanliness is at its all-time best right now. All-time best. Because we are using a lot of natural gas.
But we have many forms of energy, including some of the newer forms that people want to see us go to. We have a lot of different forms of energy. We’re number one in the world. We want to keep it that way.
So we’re helping Mexico out. We will be reimbursed, in a form, sometime in the future.
Q Mr. President, I want to ask about the new federal projections in a moment. But first, today, you tweeted “The Invisible Enemy will soon be in full retreat!” Given it’s invisible, without widespread testing how would you know?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think we’re going to have it in retreat. Will it be today? No. Tomorrow? No. But it will be — at a certain point in the not-too-distant future, it will be gone.
Q But how do you know that without the widespread testing is specifically my question.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’ll know. We’ll know because people aren’t going to go to the hospital, people aren’t going to get sick. You’re going to know that without — but we’re going to do very substantial testing. We’re doing more testing right now than any other country in the world by far.
Q But it’s still fewer than 1 percent of our population —
THE PRESIDENT: And if you’d like to have that question answered, I’ll have the professional answer it. Deborah, perhaps you could come up. We are doing tremendous testing, but you’ll know. You’re going to know before anybody, because you’re going to see nobody’s getting sick anymore. It will be gone, and it won’t be that much longer.
Q I’ll ask about the projections after. Thanks, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
DR. BIRX: Thank you, Mr. President. So, the testing, I want to reemphasize about what kind of testing we’re talking about. This is RNA diagnostic testing. That is the platform that was built to respond to this epidemic. It is the same platform that we utilize for HIV viral loads, and so many HIV clients have also given up their space on the machines to have these tests run for all of Americans.
This assay is complicated. It’s not like an assay that you have for your other diseases — your strep test or other diseases like that. This is a very complicated assay that requires a lot of technical oversight and it’s part of the reason why not all 100 percent our machines are running at full capacity. But we had great discussion with the lab directors about that.
Every day, more are brought online. And so — but I think we have to create expectations of what the daily test rates will be. Last year, we probably did 3 million HIV viral loads or 4 million HIV viral loads as a country. We’ve done over 2- — almost 2.2 million in four weeks. So this is unprecedented in what we have to do.
I think that’s why we’re working very hard for two pieces. And I want to make sure that people understand: Testing is just part of our strategy. The other part of the strategy has to be this syndromic and influenza-like illness, where there’s an alert to an illness. And so that we’re surveying where we know the most vulnerable cases have appeared.
And the great call that I had with the mayors and with the health officials yesterday and mayors today — a lot in the rural areas, their primary — and as it was in Washington and California — it was at the nursing homes.
So the issue is to build a testing strategy that speaks to our strengths of laser focusing a strategic approach to testing when we know what our volumes are — and they increase every day, but we have to be realistic about what the volumes will be a week, two weeks, three weeks from now — and combine that with strategic surveillance so that we’re testing symptomatic people and their contacts very quickly — to go back to contact tracing, utilizing our complete strategy.
And I think we’re very much interested — and it’s why the President, three weeks ago, really put us on getting an antibody test. And I think — I called from the podium for our university colleagues and unive- — and hospitals to begin an ELISA-based test, because that’s a blood draw. But we really wanted a finger prick to make it easy and deployable.
That’s what’s being worked on now. Of course, we don’t want to promise until we have it because I think we deserve that, the American people deserve that: to have a test that is efficient to let people know who has been positive for immunity. That’s critical to epidemiologists and public health officials to know what the penetrance of a virus was into a community, when all you’re seeing are the serious cases and testing the most symptomatic.
And so that’s a question that we still have: Is this the tip of the iceberg or is this half the iceberg or three quarters of the iceberg — what we have seen to date?
And we have — I just want to complete the thought by saying: In the areas where we had an outbreak, these large metros — Louisiana, Denver, Detroit, Chicago, New York, New Jersey — but, per capita, we’ve done more tests than any other place in the world. That was intentional. We focused the tests where the need was the greatest and the burden of disease the greatest. And now we’re trying to really see how strategically that very valuable resource can be utilized around the country to create a mosaic of testing combined with surveillance.
Q Can I ask about the new federal projections? There’s new reporting today — the new federal projections suggest —
THE PRESIDENT: Let you ask who?
Q I’d like to ask you, if I can, about the new federal projections that suggest lifting the 30-day shelter-in-place orders would lead to a spike in infections. Have you seen those new projections from your Department of Homeland Security and HHS, first of all?
THE PRESIDENT: I have not. When did they say this would take place? When?
Q They said that it would take place if the 30-day shelter-in-place were to be removed. They’re three different example —
THE PRESIDENT: Oh, well, we’ll talk about that. Doctor, would you like to talk about that?
Q So does that impact your thinking though that those —
DR. BIRX: We haven’t seen the documents.
THE PRESIDENT: I haven’t — they haven’t seen it. I guess, you’re seeing — I guess they leaked it to NBC.
Q They didn’t leak it to us. It’s being reported by others.
THE PRESIDENT: Nobody has it. And they’re the ones that do it, so.
Q It’s your administration, so I asked. It’s from the HHS and DOJ.
Q I’ll circle back in a sec- —
THE PRESIDENT: We’ll find out about it. They don’t know about it.
Q So in terms —
THE PRESIDENT: Do you want to say something, Tony? Go ahead.
DR. FAUCI: First of all, Peter, I haven’t seen that, so I can’t quote on that.
Q But New York Times just reported it with the last four hours.
DR. FAUCI: That’s okay. I still haven’t seen it. I’ve been here all day. (Laughter.)
Q I understand. I’m just saying it wasn’t leaked to me; I’m just telling you what I’ve seen.
DR. FAUCI: So, what I think — what — that they’re talking about is that whenever you pull back, you would expect that you might start seeing cases. And what we’ve been talking about — what Dr. Birx has just mentioned — is that when you see that, that’s where you want your resources to be able to very efficiently, in real-time, identify, isolate, and contact trace.
So, don’t let anyone get any false ideas that when we decide at a proper time when we’re going to be relaxing some of the restrictions, there’s no doubt you’re going to see cases. I would be so surprised if we did not see cases. The question is how you respond to them.
I think that’s what they were referring to.
Q I guess, the question, Mr. President: Should Americans have to decide between staying healthy and going back to work?
THE PRESIDENT: Look, I think we’re going to do both. We’re going to go back to work and we’re going to stay healthy. And staying healthy is also a proportion. If you look at what we’re doing, we’re looking at a date — we hope we’re going to be able to fulfill a certain date — but we’re not doing anything until we know that this country is going to be healthy. We don’t want to go back and start doing it over again, even though it would be in a smaller scale.
Yeah, Jeff. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, sir. Just a follow-up on the oil question. The President of Mexico said that you had agreed that the U.S. would cut production by 250,000 barrels per day. Is that what you agreed to?
THE PRESIDENT: Yes, we would — which we’ve already done, by the way. But we would agree to a reduction cut; they would agree to do something to compensate us in the future. Okay?
Q Did you make any assurances to Saudi Arabia that you, the United States would not bail out oil drillers here?
THE PRESIDENT: We didn’t discuss that with Saudi Arabia. We just discussed the numbers and we discussed who is opposed and who is not. And pretty much everybody is in favor of it, because they’re getting clobbered. They’re all getting clobbered. All of those countries are having problems.
If you look at Saudi Arabia, that’s their source of income — primary source of income, by far. So they want to do it. Russia wants to do it. The OPEC nations want to do it. They all want to do it. So we’ll see what happens. There’s a difference between wanting to do it and doing it.
Yeah, go ahead. OAN, in the back.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. This is a national security question, back to Venezuela and China. This morning —
THE PRESIDENT: Venezuela. Go ahead.
Q Your administration has placed a $15 million bounty on Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro. And we have news this morning that President Xi is talking with Nicolas Maduro, expressing his financial support for Maduro. So, two questions: One, have you discussed with Dr. Xi — President Xi the U.S. policy on Maduro? And two, are — how does this affect U.S. policy with regards to its war on anti-narcotics?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. We will not be happy if that takes place. I have not spoken to President Xi of China about Venezuela — about that aspect of Venezuela. But if that took place, we will not be happy. Okay? I will not be happy.
Q Are you concerned that he is opening up another financial avenue with him?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m concerned about everything. I’m concerned about everything. That’s why I don’t sleep a lot. I get myself concerned about everything. But I would not be happy about that. Go ahead.
Q Mr. President, getting back to Peter’s question — a variation of that question. Your doctors who are gathered here seem to be in doubt as to whether or not the country could reopen on May the 1st. If they come to you before May the 1st and say the country is not ready or huge parts of the country are not ready to reopen on May the 1st, will you listen to them?
THE PRESIDENT: I listen to them about everything. I think they’re actually surprised. I have great respect for these people. All of them. You, look —
Q But those — that recommendation in particular —
THE PRESIDENT: And others that are working with us. I have great respect for this group. In fact, I told Tony Fauci — I said, “Why don’t you move to New York, run against AOC? You will win easily.” But he decided that he’s not going to do that, okay? I kid. By the way —
Q Some of your allies have been bashing these doctors. Some of your allies have been bashing —
THE PRESIDENT: — you know that —
Q Some — some of your allies have been bashing these doctors. Would you tell them to cut it out?
THE PRESIDENT: I can only say this: I have tremendous respect for these people and we’ve done very well. And when you look at us compared to others — we’re a big nation. When you look at us compared to others, when you see how we’ve taken testing from a broken system that I inherited to having the best tests that anyone has made anywhere in the world — and other countries are calling us, wanting to use our technology. I have great respect for these people.
Q But if they come back to you, sir —
THE PRESIDENT: I’m never saying bad about these people.
Q If they come back to you, sir, and say, before May the 1st, “We can’t open on May the 1st,” do you listen?
THE PRESIDENT: I will certainly listen. I will certainly listen.
Q Will you take that advice?
THE PRESIDENT: There are two sides. Remember, there is — I know — I understand the other side of the argument very well because I look at both sides of an argument. I will listen to them very carefully though.
Please. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You may have seen this, but JPMorgan came out with a forecast about GDP growth in the second quarter, and they’re saying a 40 percent decline in the second quarter of this year. Do your economic advisors share that view?
THE PRESIDENT: I think my economic advisors are interested in the third quarter and really the fourth quarter. And I think we have a chance to do record fourth quarter numbers, because there’s a tremendous pent-up demand. And you see it this week — I mean, what reason would there be, other than faith in us and in this country? Faith in this group — and me, and our Vice President, and everybody. Governors, perhaps. You can add them into it also. What reason would that be for — in a shortened week, four days instead of five — to have the biggest stock market gain in over 50 years? So, I think that — you know, to me, there’s a sign.
Hey, look, with all we’ve been down — I mean, we’ve — we’ve never been hit — I don’t know, has this country ever been hit like this? Probably not. 1917, but that was different, and it was a different time, and, frankly, Europe took the brunt of it. We didn’t, but it was a terrible time also. But, probably, never been hit like this, right?
Somebody was saying — in fact, I was speaking with Governor Cuomo about it. Because we were in New York City — a place we love, New York State — with the World Trade Center. And that was approximately 3,000 people. Well, we’ve doubled that. In this same area, we’ve doubled that — more than doubled it, substantially more. And it’s obviously going. You know, we had our highest number yesterday and the day before.
Okay. With all of this news, what would lead you to believe that we’re going to have the best stock market week — shortened week — in 50 years? Almost broke the all-time record. You know what that is? That’s a pent-up demand. Now, that’s my opinion.
The other thing is we’re doing tremendous stimulus plans. And despite what you’re reading — you know, there’s back and forth, but we are getting along with the Democrats. They want to see something happen. We have to help our workers. We have to help our small businesses. We have to help — we have to help our restaurants. I think deductibility will be great for entertainment, restaurants, all of it.
Look, I think, with the stimulus, with the people, with what we’ve got going, with all of the things — we’re going to be meeting with the airlines over the weekend. We have a great plan for the airlines. We’ve got to keep the airlines going. You know, it’s never been a great business, but it’s a very vital business for the country.
We’re going to be meeting with Boeing. We’re going to be meeting with a lot of companies that are great companies and were great companies a short while ago. I mean, we can’t let anything happen to Boeing. It’s, you know, got so much potential. You talk about potential — can anything have more potential than that?
So, we have a lot of very exciting things taking place. We have tremendous plans. We have tremendous stimulus. And I think we have a chance to do really well.
So this quarter isn’t the quarter I’m looking at. Third quarter, we start to think about it. And I think fourth quarter is going to be at a level that, maybe, we haven’t seen before.
I think our country — with the stimulus, with all that we’ve been through — we’ve learned a lot. Don’t forget, we’ve learned about pandemics and epidemics. We’ve learned a tremendous amount. And with all that we’ve learned — as an example, we’re making ventilators. We have thousands of them being delivered in the very near future. We have countries calling us: “Can we have ventilators?” That would have been an unthinkable call. I’d be — I wouldn’t know what to say. They have people dying, but we needed them for ourselves. We have plenty before the surge. In New York, they need far fewer hospital rooms or far fewer hospital beds, in particular, than we thought.
And I have to say, Dr. Birx told me that four weeks ago, six weeks ago. I remember you said, “That number is too high. We don’t need that many.” And based on what she said, and others, we did what we had to do. We actually gave the maximum. We built Javits. We sent the ship in. We then made the ship COVID, because, you know, there weren’t a lot of people on the roads; you didn’t have the accidents that we thought — other unrelated accidents. There’s nobody driving. You know, normally you have a lot of car accidents. You have a lot of motorcycle accidents. You have people going to the hos- — we didn’t have that. We had almost none of it. So, a lot of things have happened.
I think we have a chance to be stronger than before. I really do. I think the stimulus is very important. What we’re doing — I think it’s very, very important.
Q Can I ask —
THE PRESIDENT: Please, go ahead.
Q Mr. President, may I ask you about credit and debt as well? Many American individuals, families have had to tap their credit cards during this period of time.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q And businesses have had to draw down their credit lines. Are you concerned, Mr. President, that that may hobble the U.S. economy — all of that debt, number one? And number two, would you suggest to credit card companies to reduce their fees during this time?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s something that we’ve already suggested. We’re talking to them. Business interruption insurance. I’d like to see these insurance companies — you know, you have people that have paid — when I was in private, I had business interruption.
When my business was interrupted through a hurricane or whatever it may be, I’d have business where I had it. I didn’t always have it. Sometimes I had it; sometimes I have a lot of different companies. But if I had it, I’d expect to be paid. You have people — I speak mostly to the restauranteurs, where they have a restaurant, they’ve been paying for 25, 30, 35 years — business interruption. They’ve never needed it. All of a sudden, they need it. And I’m very good at reading language. I did very well in these subjects. Okay? And I don’t see the word “pandemic” mentioned.
Now, in some cases, it is. It’s an exclusion. But in a lot of cases, I don’t see it. I don’t see a reference, and they don’t want to pay up. I would like to see the insurance companies pay if they need to pay, if it’s fair. And they know what’s fair and I know what’s fair. I can tell you very quickly.
But business interruption insurance, that’s getting a lot of money to a lot of people. And they’ve been paying for years. You know, sometimes they just started paying. But you have people that have never asked for business interruption insurance, and they’ve been paying a lot of money for a lot of years for the privilege of having it. And then when they finally need it, the insurance company says, “We’re not going to give it.” We can’t let that happen.
Please, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. On March 6th, you said anyone who wants a test can get a test. Now you’re saying that there — that you would be open to reopening the government without having a national testing system. How do you square those two statements, given that there’s still issues with testing going forward? And how can you tell people —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, there’s not a lot of issues with this.
Q — that they’re not going to have their lives put at risk?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah. I got it. There’s not a lot. And it’s a good question. There’s not a lot of issues with testing.
Certain sections of the — if we go to Iowa, we go to Nebraska, we go — and interestingly, Idaho is very interesting because they had a few breakouts, small breakouts. But they’re very, very capable states and they’re big distances. A lot of land. A lot of opening. You don’t need testing there, you know, where you have a state with a small number of cases. Some states with almost none. West Virginia hung in for a long time, as you know, with none — for a long time.
So when you have that, you don’t need testing. You don’t have to test every person in the state of Iowa, as an example. You don’t have to test every single person to say, “Let’s open up and let’s get the tractors moving, and let’s get the corn,” and let’s open up all of the different things they do in that great state. You don’t need that.
With that being said, if there’s a little hot corner someplace, we’ll be testing. But I think Deborah speaks to this very well. Same thing in New York. That’s what we talked to Governor Cuomo about this morning. We have the Abbott test, which is very quick and very easy. It goes very fast. Then we have a lesser test that we talked about where we can talk about a larger area.
But you’re going to know — so