Mar 9, 2020
Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Coronavirus Task Force Transcript March 9
Today Donald Trump and Mike Pence held a news conference with the Coronavirus Task Force. They outlined a number of measures to contain the virus and mitigate economic blowback, including a payroll tax cut. Read the full transcript right here.
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Donald Trump: (03:01)
Thank you very much. We just attended a very important task force meeting on the virus that everybody is talking about all over the world. No matter where you go, that’s what’s on people’s minds. We are going to take care of and have been taking care of, the American public and the American economy. We are going to be asking tomorrow, we’re seeing the Senate. We’re going to be meeting with the House Republicans, Mitch McConnell, everybody. And discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief, substantial relief, very substantial relief. That’s a big number.
Donald Trump: (03:40)
We’re also going to be talking about our early wage earners getting help, so that they can be in a position where they’re not going to ever miss a paycheck. We’re going to be working with companies and small companies, large companies, a lot of companies, so that they don’t get penalized for something that’s not their fault. It’s not their fault, it’s not our country’s fault. This was something that we were thrown into. We’re going to handle it, and we have been handling it very well. The big decision was early, when we shut down our borders. We’re the first ones ever to do that. We’ve never done that in our country before, or we would have a situation that would be a lot more dire.
Donald Trump: (04:23)
Also, we’re going to be seeing the Small Business Administration, and creating loans for small businesses. We’re also working with the industries including the airline industry, the cruise ship industry, which obviously will be hit. We’re working with them very, very strongly. We want them to travel. We want people to travel to certain locations, and not to other locations at this moment. Hopefully, that will straighten out sooner rather than later. But we’re working with the industries and in particular, those two industries. We’re also talking to the hotel industry. Some places actually will do well, and some places probably won’t do well at all. But we’re working also with the hotel industry.
Donald Trump: (05:06)
But the main thing is that we’re taking care of the American public, and we will be taking care of the American public. I really appreciate the professionals behind me, and the professionals actually behind them in a different room. We have a tremendous team, and it’s headed up by our great Vice President, Mike Pence. I want to thank Mike, because he’s been working 24 hours a day, just about. He has been working very, very hard, very diligently and very professionally. I want to thank him. I want to thank the team. And I’ll have Mike say a few words. Thank you very much. Thank you. Please.
Mike Pence: (05:44)
Thank you, Mr. President. We just completed today’s meeting of the White House coronavirus task force. We had the opportunity to brief the President today on a broad range of issues. Once again, because of the unprecedented action that President Trump took in January, suspending all travel from China, establishing travel advisories for portions of South Korea and Italy, establishing screening of all direct flights, all passengers from all airports, Italy and South Korea… we have bought a considerable amount of time, according to all the health experts, to deal with the coronavirus here in the United States.
Mike Pence: (06:34)
In fact, as I stand before you today, the risk of contracting the coronavirus to the American public remains low, and the risk of serious disease among the American public also remains low. That being said, the president did deploy not just a whole of government approach, but also a whole of America approach. And last week at the President’s direction, we met with leaders in industries from nursing homes to airlines, pharmaceutical companies, commercial labs, and it’s had great, great impact. Pharmaceutical companies are already working literally, around the clock on the development of therapeutics that will be medicines that can bring relief to people that contract the coronavirus.
Mike Pence: (07:25)
I know that how pleased the President was to learn that the commercial labs in this country led by companies like LabCorp and Quest, have already brought a test forward and are taking that to market, effective today. This week, att the President’s direction, we’ll be meeting with hospital CEOs, health insurance CEOs, and all building on top of what the President will be announcing tomorrow with regard to economic relief for working Americans.
Mike Pence: (07:57)
We also met today in a conference call with 47 of America’s governors. We were able to brief them on the latest, the progress that we’ve made. We were able to confirm with them that testing is now available in all state labs in every state in the country. Over a million tests have been distributed before the end of this week. Another four million tests will be distributed. But as I said before, with the deployment of the commercial labs, we literally are going to see a dramatic increase in the availability of testing. And that’s all a direct result of the President’s leadership.
Mike Pence: (08:41)
Today, in a few moments, we will outline community guidance that Dr. Berks and Dr. Fauci will be publishing. At the President’s direction, we are going to a providing guidance about how to keep your home safe, how to keep your business safe, how to keep safe and healthy at your school. We’ll be publishing that information and speaking about that.
Mike Pence: (09:07)
A brief word about the Grand Princess. The Grand Princess has docked this afternoon in Oakland, California, at a commercial dock. 25 children. We were happy to learn through the screening over the last two days, that 25 children on the ship are all healthy. Of the people that have contracted the coronavirus, 21 in all, they are being dealt with in proper isolation, working with health authorities in California. We hope before the end of today to begin to disembark California residents to Travis Air Force Base and Miramar. We’ve made arrangements with Canada and the U.K. to take their passengers back. They’ll be transported directly to the tarmac, charter flights home.
Mike Pence: (10:05)
Tomorrow, the remaining passengers will be transported again through very, very carefully controlled environments. Buses out to the tarmac, and flown to military bases in Georgia and Texas. All the passengers will be tested, isolated as appropriate, quarantined as appropriate. I want to express appreciation to the Governor of California and his administration, the Governor of Georgia, the Governor of Texas, for their strong cooperation with us in resolving the issues around the Grand Princess. It has been a partnership which the President directed us from the very beginning. And the process that Bob Kadlec will detail in any questions in a few moments, continues to work and move forward.
Mike Pence: (10:57)
The remaining people on the ship, the crew itself, will push off from the dock, and they will be quarantined and observed and treated shipboard. But the President made the priority to get the Americans ashore. We’re in the process of doing that, as well as returning the foreign nationals.
Mike Pence: (11:20)
Let me just say one other point, is the President has spoken today to congressional leadership. One of the things that I informed the President that I had been hearing from governors, is the concern about hourly wage earners in this country feeling that they had to go to work even if they were ill. And the President has tasked this economic team, and is working already with leaders in the Congress to make sure that anyone is not… feels that they are at risk of losing their job or losing a paycheck because they may contract the coronavirus. When we tell people if you’re sick, stay home.
Mike Pence: (12:02)
The President has tasked the team with developing economic policies that will make it very, very clear that we’re going to stand by those hardworking Americans, stand by those businesses, large and small, and make it possible for us, as the President said from the very beginning, put the health of America first. We’ll be available to take any questions on any of these topics. But Mr. President, I didn’t know if you wanted to speak a few more in closing.
Donald Trump: (12:29)
Well, I think what we will be doing is having a news conference tomorrow to talk about various things that we’re doing economically. They’ll be very major, including obviously, the payroll tax cut. So we’ll be meeting again tomorrow afternoon. We’ll be coming back from the Senate. We have a lot of very important meetings set up. We’ll have a press conference sometime after that, and we’ll explain what we’re doing on an economic standpoint and from an economic standpoint. But they will be very, very dramatic.
Donald Trump: (13:01)
We have a great economy. We have a very strong economy. But this came, this blindsided the world. I think we’ve handled it very, very well. I think they’ve done a great job. The people behind me have done a great job. So I will be here tomorrow afternoon to let you know about some of the economic steps we’re taking, which will be major. Thank you very much.
Mr. President, have you been tested, sir? Mr. President, have you been tested?
Mike Pence: (13:25)
Thank you Mr. President.
Has he been tested? Has he been tested? Have you been tested?
Mike Pence: (13:38)
I have not been tested for the coronavirus.
Has the President been tested? He’s been in contact with people who were in proximity to somebody who had the virus.
Mike Pence: (13:48)
Let me be sure and get you an answer to that. I honestly don’t know the answer to the question. But will refer that question, and we will get you an answer from the White House physician very quickly. Let me ask Dr. Fauci and Dr. Berks to come to the podium. You all in the American public will have at their fingertips very quickly, guidance. This is for every American. We’re working with communities like the Seattle area, like portions of California, New York and Florida, that have what we call community spread, a concentration of coronavirus cases. But we directed our team to come up with helpful recommendations for every American, every American family, every American business and school. If a Dr. Berks and Dr. Fauci step forward, they can outline that for you.
Dr. Berks: (14:43)
Great, thank you. Good evening. It was good getting out last week, meeting with communities. We know that the real solutions to this, is every American has a role in stopping the spread of the virus. So we wanted to really put out guidance for every American and every community that was practical and common sense, but detailed in a way that everyone would know precisely what to do. The guidance will be around how to keep workplaces safe, how to keep schools safe, how to keep the home safe, and how to keep commercial businesses safe, where people would eat or be present.
Dr. Berks: (15:20)
The importance about this is we believe that communities are at the center of this. I came from a field where it was the communities that really solved our issues around HIV prevention. So we’re very much speaking to the communities and the American people about what can be done. All of this information came from a paper that Dr. Fauci provided from the Australians. First author, Dalton. So you can actually look up the scientific evidence that informed each of these guidelines. But we will be providing that this evening in great detail so that every mother, father, child, son, daughter, caregiver, will know precisely what to do and what to ask for.
Mike Pence: (16:02)
Dr. Fauci: (16:03)
Dr. Berks: (16:03)
… What to do and what to ask for.
Mike Pence: (16:03)
Doctor [Fauci 00:00:16:03]?
Dr. Fauci: (16:05)
Yeah. Just to reiterate what Doctor Birx said, it was as simple as that. We have been speaking about the kinds of things that would keep our citizens safe in a variety of environments. We’ve been speaking about it on telephone calls. We’ve been speaking about it at conferences.
Dr. Fauci: (16:21)
The CDC has been talking about this for a long time, as has Doctor Birx and I. So we thought we would put it together in a neat, formed way that would be available to the general public.
Dr. Fauci: (16:32)
What Doctor Birx had mentioned, is that just the other day, I got one of many, many e-mails, where some of my colleagues that I know from Australia, actually decided they were going to write a paper on it, and make a number of boxes, which was exactly saying what we had been talking about. So we came up with the idea, it would be very good for clarity, so why don’t we just put it together, edit it a little and put it in a way that people could look.
Dr. Fauci: (16:55)
What about the home? What about the school? What about the workplace? These are really simple low tech things. There’s nothing in there that’s complicated, but it’s just stated in a way that’s clear, that people can understand.
Mike Pence: (17:08)
I might ask the Surgeon General, so is there anything about the guidance you want to reflect on?
Surgeon General: (17:13)
Well, one thing I want folks to know is that we have been looking at the data from around the world, and we now know more than we ever have about who is at risk. Who is at risk, and I hope you will help us communicate this to the American people, are people over the age of 60. They’re much more likely to develop complications from the Coronavirus, and to be hospitalized from the Coronavirus. The average age of death is age 80.
Surgeon General: (17:39)
Now, what we also want communities to know, is that if you are a child or young adult, you are much more, you’re more likely to die from the flu, if you get it, then you are to die from Coronavirus. So there is something about being young that is protective. We want people to be reassured by that.
Surgeon General: (17:57)
We want people to know that we are really focusing in on those groups that are at highest risk for complications, and helping them understand how to be safe. And this new advice that’s going to be coming out tomorrow is designed to keep our community safe, to help keep the most vulnerable safe, and it’s important to understand, that even though young people aren’t at risk for dying from Coronavirus, they can potentially spread that to older people in the communities, and people with chronic diseases.
Surgeon General: (18:25)
So it’s important we all take precautions, washing our hands, covering our cough, keeping our distance from people who are sick, and taking the steps that will be coming out in this new guidance to help make sure we’re doing everything we know possible to keep our most vulnerable protected.
Mike Pence: (18:41)
Great. Well done. Thank you. I think the Surgeon General raises a very important point.
Mike Pence: (18:50)
My mother is 88 years young. My stepfather is about the same age. This is just a really good time, what Doctor Fauci tells us, what the experts tell us is, is to look after family members, loved ones who are senior citizens, and particularly those who have serious underlying health conditions.
Mike Pence: (19:10)
All the data Doctor Birx confirms to us that they’re the most vulnerable to serious consequences if they contract the coronavirus. But the guidance that we would ask members of the media and the American public looking on, you can go to Coronavirus.gov, and this information to be posted tonight.
Mike Pence: (19:33)
And hopefully it will be useful, helpful, common sense for families, for schools, for businesses, and for commercial establishments that welcome the public in, just to create the kind of practices that we believe will mitigate the spread of the Coronavirus across the country as a whole.
Mike Pence: (19:56)
But with regard to seniors, I might just ask Seema Verna to step up and speak about … Last week at the President’s direction, we raised the standards for every nursing home in America, with regard to infectious disease, and we are deploying all 8,000 of our inspectors in every state, as we told the governors today, to focus exclusively on infectious disease compliance at our nursing homes.
Mike Pence: (20:23)
Our hearts break for the families at the Kirkland Nursing Home in Seattle. The loss of life has been grievous, but we are sending the message out, working with our governors, to make sure our nursing homes and long term care facilities have the additional layer of protection against the spread of the coronavirus, and maybe you’d give us [inaudible 00:20:44].
Seema Verma: (20:44)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. As he said, that’s exactly where our focus is. It’s around infection control, and we’re working with the entire healthcare industry. Today, We issued more guidance to nursing homes about really opening their screening of people that are coming into the nursing home and making sure that they’re gloved, and they have masks, so that we can protect people that are in the nursing homes.
Seema Verma: (21:05)
The other thing that we’re doing is because we know that many of our senior citizens are vulnerable, we want to make sure that they know that the Medicare program is behind them, and we’re here to support them. We’re letting our patients know that they can get a coronavirus test, and that there is no cost sharing associated with that, for our seniors on the Medicare program.
Seema Verma: (21:25)
We’re also letting them know that because of the President’s leadership over a year and a half ago, he took action to actually extend more telehealth benefits to our nation’s seniors. And this is a very historic change that we made under the president’s leadership. And so, if they’re sick and they’re ill, they can call their doctor, they can Skype with their doctor, and Medicare will reimburse for those services. And we’ve also in our conversations with governors today, we’ve talked about having telehealth services also available in the Medicaid program.
Mike Pence: (21:53)
Great. Let me invite Bob Kadlec who is a Deputy Secretary of HHS, to come forward, as well, to fill us in on the latest on the progress on the Grand Princess-
Robert Kadlec: (22:07)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
Mike Pence: (22:08)
That is dockside now, and is going through a very careful process of having Americans and foreign nationals come off, and everyone will be tested.
Surgeon General: (22:18)
Thank you very much, sir. And yes, we began our medical operation to basically disembark those passengers. On Saturday, we put in place the medical crew on that boat, to augment the physicians and nurses that were already on the ship. We basically ensured that the quarantine on the boat and no isolation were being enforced, and then evaluated first the children, and those who are ill, identifying anyone who is severely ill if possible.
Surgeon General: (22:43)
When the boat arrived on dockside today, additional medical personnel came on board and we began an orderly disembarkation. Our intent is to basically disembark about half of the passengers on the boat today, and the other half tomorrow. And everyone will be medically screened before they get off. If there’s any question about their physical, or health, they’ll be screened again more additionally.
Surgeon General: (23:05)
And then they’ll be transferred to one of this four quarantine sites in the United States, Travis Air Force base, Miramar Naval Air Station, Lackland Air Force Base, and Dobbins Air Force Base in Georgia. The foreign passengers will be transferred, the Canadians will be taken back to Canada, and we’re working with the United Kingdom to return their passengers back to the United Kingdom.
Surgeon General: (23:27)
But we’re doing this all in cooperation with the great support of the state of California, the city of Oakland, and with the support of the Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and the us coast guard. Thank you.
Mike Pence: (23:38)
Great. And on the subject of testing, we had a very good discussion today, as I mentioned, with 47 governors, and I outlined for them all of the different testing methods that are available. We have tests now in every state lab in America, but we’re rapidly expanding that, and let me ask the secretary of HHS to give us the latest on the availability of testing to the American public and to the States.
Alex Azar: (24:09)
Great. Thank you, Mr. Vice President. So we continue with our strategic plan at HHS across, all of the components represented by many of the leaders here, which is to diagnose, to treat, to contain, to mitigate, to research and communicate. It’s what we do in a healthcare crisis situation.
Alex Azar: (24:27)
One element of that is the test, which of course CDC developed in record time after getting the genetic sequence posted from China. That then was available at CDC, and from that point on, there was no individual that a public health official needed to get tested.
Alex Azar: (24:42)
The CDC didn’t have surplus capacity to test, but we’ve been moving progressively to bring that test closer and closer and closer to the patient, and to the bedside, and to make it as easy as possible for us to use testing, very much in line with our peer countries, facing similar epidemiological circumstances.
Alex Azar: (24:59)
At this point, we, as many of you who were here on Saturday for the briefing know, we have over one million tests that have shipped from CDC, and to private contractors that are the CDC type of test. Those are now out, and as the Vice President mentioned, every state public health lab is validated, and operating those tests. In addition, hundreds of thousands of those tests are in hospitals, in private labs, in commercial labs.
Alex Azar: (25:25)
We now have a total of 2.1 million tests that are available, either shipped, or waiting to be shipped, or waiting to be ordered. We, by the end of this week, expect to be able to be producing up to four million tests per week in the United States.
Alex Azar: (25:43)
That is on top of what the private commercial entities, the companies you know of, like LabCorp or Quest using their technology, the test that they’re getting out, which is an even better experience for the patient because those work, they are able to actually collect samples directly in doctor’s offices, have a very sophisticated collection system to their labs. Again, making it a very, much more seamless patient experience.
Alex Azar: (26:08)
They’re now validated, and getting up and running, and that, you’ll see even more of that. So as I said, over the next week or so, you’re just going to see a progressively better patient and physician and provider experience connected to diagnostic testing here in the United States. Thank you.
Speaker 3: (26:24)
One moment. I want to ask Mr. Azar [crosstalk 00:10:26]-
Alex Azar: (26:24)
Well, let me-
Mike Pence: (26:24)
Well, we’ll have questions in just a moment.
Alex Azar: (26:24)
Mike Pence: (26:28)
And we’ll come back. We’ll come back. With that, I want to invite the director of CDC to come forward, just to give you an overview of where we are in the country, with regard to cases, and then we’ll take questions on any of the topics.
Dr. Robert Redfield: (26:46)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. We do continue to see an increased number in cases. Again, as we said, we would, as time passes, we’re currently having over 500 cases now in the United States, outside of the repatriation cases, and the cases on the Diamond Princes.
Dr. Robert Redfield: (27:05)
We now have cases in 35 states that have been reported, and the District of Columbia. I want to reiterate what the Vice President said, despite what I just said here, is that at the present time, the risk of the American public does remain low.
Dr. Robert Redfield: (27:21)
We do have several community outbreaks, which we’re focusing on in the Seattle area, in the Santa Clara, California area, in Westminster, in New York, and in Florida, and these are areas that we’re investigating heavily, to try to understand the transmission mechanisms there, and begin to help these jurisdictions begin to operationalize a series of mitigation strategies to help, again, to slow and contain the outbreak. Thank you.
Mike Pence: (27:51)
And let me say, just before we go to questions, coronavirus.gov. For the American public, for healthcare professionals, it is a comprehensive website. We’re adding to it every day. And also, Dr. Birx, we’re working very diligently to establish a single website, where people can go to track all of the cases, and where they’re emerging. Questions?
Speaker 4: (28:15)
Can I ask you and Secretary Mnuchin, if I could-
Mike Pence: (28:18)
Speaker 4: (28:18)
The stock market, a huge slide today, and people on Wall Street now talking about the possibility of a recession. Some people saying it’s a better than 50-50 chance that that will happen. How worried are you that that will happen?
Secretary Mnuchin: (28:29)
Well, let me just first say, today was an unprecedented move in the oil markets, so we saw a overnight reaction, of over down 20%, and that’s obviously what had a major component today on the stock market. But let me just make a couple of comments more broadly about the economy.
Secretary Mnuchin: (28:46)
First of all, we couldn’t be more pleased that coming into the situation with the coronavirus, the U S has the most resilient economy in the world. You saw a very large economic jobs number last month, and we couldn’t be more pleased that the president’s economic programs of tax cuts, regulatory relief and trade, have put the economy in a very good position.
Secretary Mnuchin: (29:07)
I would also just say that I am in daily conversations with Chair Powell. We are committed and we just had a meeting with the President and the economic team. The President is committed that whatever support we need to provide to the US economy, we will use all our tools, working very closely with the regulators.
Secretary Mnuchin: (29:27)
The President has the bank CEOs coming in this week. We’ll be talking to them about what they can do, to help small businesses and companies that are impacted. So let me just, again, emphasize our primary focus is, there are parts of the economy that are going to be impacted, especially workers that need to be at home, hard working people who are at home under quarantine or taking care of their family. We’ll be working on a program to address that.
Secretary Mnuchin: (29:55)
We will also be working with small businesses, who need liquidity, through SBA programs. We’re looking at alternatives at the IRS. We have large tax payments coming up, of providing certain relief, to two companies and individuals for liquidity. So the President is 100% committed that we will provide whatever tools we need, that the economy will be in very good shape a year from now. This is not like the financial crisis, where we don’t know the end in sight. This is about providing proper tools and liquidity to get through the next few months.
Mike Pence: (30:32)
Secretary Mnuchin: (30:33)
Well, let me just say there are certain authorities that the President has that we can do on our own, and we’ve already cataloged those tools. We have a large group, a sub-task force of Treasury and NEC working on this.
Secretary Mnuchin: (30:47)
We are also working with bipartisan leadership, on a whole range of alternatives that we’ll be discussing with them tomorrow. And as you know, we had bipartisan agreement on the spending deal. We will use the same approach to work with the leadership on the House and the Senate on this.
Secretary Mnuchin: (31:03)
Speaker 5: (31:03)
You’ve just said that you have not been tested. You said you don’t know if the President has been tested, but today we’ve learned that the president has interacted with two lawmakers who have interacted with someone who is positive for coronavirus, so why not get tested?
Mike Pence: (31:19)
Well, I just simply don’t know what the White House physician has recommended to the president, but I promise you we’ll get you that information.
Speaker 5: (31:24)
When do you think you could let us know if the president has been tested?
Mike Pence: (31:28)
We’ll let you know tonight. Right away. [crosstalk 00:31:31] Yeah, look, this is a… Obviously, the White House physician is, their directive is to see to the health and well-being of the president of the United States, and we’ll get you a very direct answer on that.
Mike Pence: (31:44)
Speaker 6: (31:44)
Is your staff being required to be tested?
Mike Pence: (31:46)
I’ve had no recommendation that I would be tested. But let me, let me just say to everyone, I really do believe that the guidance that we put out today would be very helpful and very encouraging to Americans. It was fashioned by Dr….
Mike Pence: (32:03)
… Very helpful and very encouraging to Americans. It was fashioned by Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, some of the leading experts in infectious disease in the world. And for families that are looking on tonight, to go to coronavirus.gov. You can find information about how you can just make your home safer, your family safer, your school safer, your business safer, and we recommend that to your attention.
Speaker 7: (32:23)
Mike Pence: (32:23)
Speaker 8: (32:25)
Do you believe and does the president believe that what happened in the stock market today and what we’re seeing among the American industry, some of which the president named today as being affected and in trouble here, are in any way a result of this White House’s reaction to the coronavirus crisis? Is this the markets and American businesses saying that you guys are not enough and didn’t think enough ahead?
Mike Pence: (32:53)
Well, I have to tell you, I’m about a week and a half into being asked to lead the president’s White House coronavirus task force and the men and women standing behind me and all the men and women standing behind them have done a remarkable job responding to this. The president’s decision to suspend all travel from China. Dr. Fauci I think reflected just last night on national television about the time that that bought us, the decisive action in declaring a public health emergency. I really do believe that the American people can see that this president is putting the health of the American people first.
Mike Pence: (33:37)
But make no mistake about it, as we go forward and particularly as we have more testing available and we have these communities that have community spread there will be more cases, but we simply ask … We ask today for the American public to join with us in the common sense practices that will mitigate the spread of the coronavirus. And also particularly we’re asking every American to look after our seniors who have serious underlying health issues. They are clearly the most vulnerable. And that’s where the focus of our energy is today. Even as we do everything that we can, working with governors at every level, state and local public health officials to limit the spread.
Speaker 7: (34:27)
If I could ask you a question, Dr. Carson, thank you. Mr. Vice President, you’re up there.
Mike Pence: (34:32)
Speaker 7: (34:35)
More and more organizations, charities are canceling fundraising events, other events is, is that proven? Is that an overreaction? Do you think the president should continue with campaign rallies and do you believe that people, even if they’re healthy, should get on board a cruise ship?
Dr. Fauci: (34:58)
Okay, so there’s multiple different questions on it. So the idea about individual entities, governors, mayors or whatever, canceling activities that are not coming from a direct recommendation from the federal government. I think that they have a … I don’t think, I know they have the authority to do that, but what they’re probably acting on is what they would consider for their citizens and abundance of caution. Most of the time when that happens, it usually is in an area where there is already documented community spread, and Dr. Redfield mentioned the four areas right now that are having community spread that’s documented. But there may be, as we know, it’s a possibility that there’s community spread going on in areas in which we are not detecting it yet. And I think that’s the response of the individuals, be they mayors or governors who have you who are doing that, so I wouldn’t criticize them for that. They’re using their own individual judgment and to me I think that that would be prudent.
Speaker 7: (36:03)
Dr. Fauci: (36:05)
You know, I can’t comment on campaign rallies. It really depends. We are having, as we’ve all said, this is something in motion. This is an evolving thing, so not sure what we’re going to be able to say at the time where you have a campaign rally. If you’re talking about a campaign rally tomorrow in a place where there is no community spread, I think the judgment to have it might be a good judgment. If you want to talk about large gatherings in a place where you have community spread, I think that’s a judgment call and if someone decides they want to cancel it, I wouldn’t publicly criticize them.
Speaker 7: (36:46)
I asked one last one about cruise ships because a lot of people are planning cruises over the spring break. Would you recommend that anybody, even a healthy person get on board?
Dr. Fauci: (36:56)
I think if you’re a healthy young person that there is no reason, if you want to go on a cruise ship to go on cruise ship. Personally, I would never go on a cruise ship because I don’t like cruises. But that’s another story. But the fact is that if you have the conditions that I’ve been speaking about over and over again to this group, namely an individual who has an underlying condition, particularly an elderly person that has underlying condition, I would recommend strongly that they do not go on a cruise ship.
Mike Pence: (37:30)
Let me also say John, I think you raise a good point for we’re expecting a proposal tomorrow. DHS, the coast guard, all of our health officials are currently discussing with the cruise line industry. I was in Miami on Saturday. We made it very clear that we needed cruise lines to be safer to establish and to embrace new protocols, screening onboard off new medical protocols, shipboard processes for evacuating people that may contract a coronavirus or a serious illness. And I know the president was grateful that our, our cruise line leadership all stepped up to the table. They said they’re ready to go to the next level. And so we’ll be reviewing that proposal tomorrow with the objective that apart from the Americans that Dr. Fauci just described, the seniors with serious underlying conditions, we’re going to work with the cruise line industry to improve the safety, improve the health environment on cruise lines in the short term and in the longterm.
Speaker 8: (38:42)
Thank you. Sorry, I got it. Last time president Trump was in this room. He told us that the number of US cases was 15 and would soon go down to zero. You guys are saying today that the number is going up and it’s more than 500. What is the discrepancy and how was he so wrong on that number?
Mike Pence: (38:59)
Look, I think what the president was referring to is that we will have people that test positive and then they get better. President Trump wants the American people to know, and I’m going to ask Dr. Birx to reflect on this for a moment. The vast majority of people who contract the coronavirus will get better. And the president has just challenged our task force as the numbers grow, and they will. We’ll continue to test more and more Americans. We are as I’m standing here. It’s also important to remember that people, the vast majority get better completely. Some large percentage have mild flu symptoms, some have serious flu symptoms. But then of course for the Americans, you heard the surgeon general refer to seniors with underlying serious health conditions dr. Fauci referred to. We’re committed to lean in and to make sure they have the support they need. But the president’s focus here is just making sure people understand that while the numbers grow, there are people that come off the list because they get better. And Dr. Birx, did you want to reflect on what we know about the cycle of the coronavirus?
Dr. Berks: (40:20)
Yeah, thank you. So we know the coronavirus reacts a lot like the flu in the way it’s spreads and in the way we prevent it. And so when we put out the guidelines to the American people, they will reinforce the guidelines and we hope the number of flu cases go down too, because people will really be what we call situational awareness. I did want to add one piece to our cautions about people with preexisting condition. We also know that there are children with preexisting conditions and we know that there are individuals that are undergoing chemotherapy for their treatment of cancer.
Dr. Berks: (40:58)
For those individuals, if they have what we call decreased number of white cells, and they will have that discussions with the doctors. They are given often a sheet of paper that really describes how they need to protect themselves and how their family needs to protect them. So I want to make sure that we understand, yes, we’re concerned about the elderly, we’re concerned about others with preexisting condition, but we’re also concerned about anybody who may be in an immuno … What we call an immunodeficiency state, having less white cells and less able to combat any virus. We want to protect all of them from the flu and we want to protect all of them from coronavirus. And that’s why these guidelines are particularly important.
Mike Pence: (41:44)
It really is really important, I think, and I’m going to ask all of the journalists in the room, do what you can to distribute this information. Coronavirus.gov Because exactly the reason that Dr. Birx just said so well that we want to make sure that families have the tools, businesses have the tools, even in areas where we don’t have a significant outbreak of the coronavirus, we want to make sure that the American people have the tools to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Particularly with regard to the most vulnerable.
Speaker 9: (42:16)
Yes. Earlier you said you’d tell us how many Americans have already been tested and as a followup to a question was asked earlier, are the president’s tweets hurting your efforts at all? Because he’s accused the Democrats and some of the members of the press of making more of this than he says it is. He’s made lighter of it then you all have here. So have his tweets hurt you and can you please tell us how many Americans have been tested?
Mike Pence: (42:40)
I’m happy to do that. A lot of the president’s leadership has made the difference here. I heard it again today from 47 governors, Governor Larry Hogan joined me in the situation room. He’s the chairman of the National Governors Association. I think every American would be inspired if you could see the way, under the president’s leadership and in cooperation with governors in every state and every territory, we literally are working seamlessly on behalf of the health of the American people. I’m going to invite the secretary of HHS to come up and speak about the number of tests that have been done and where we are. The tests that are available, he’s addressed. But in terms of those that have been conducted,
Alex Azar: (43:23)
So we’ve told you, we’ll tell you what we know and what we don’t know. Okay? So there are different types of tests that get sent out. The CDC’s test the CDC is sending out. That’s that 70 … Enough to test 75,000 people that was sent out last week. Those go to public health labs, about 80 labs in the United States, one in each state at least. Those report results back in to the CDC because they’re part of the public health network.
Alex Azar: (43:55)
The larger quantity of tests that shipped, about 900,000 of the tests that shipped by this weekend. And then so many of the remainder of that two point total, 2.1 million tests. Those go to hospitals, private labs, others for testing. They don’t currently have to report to us that they’ve conducted a test or what the result of that test is. The CDC is actively working right now to build that IT connectivity with them so we can gather that information. So right now I could not give you a number of how many Americans have received a test because many will have received a test through hospitals or non-public health labs. And so let’s work we’re getting the system, the IT system up through CDC. We want to give you accurate information as we go.
Mike Pence: (44:43)
Hey everyone. Thank you all for being here. We will be back here tomorrow and we’ll continue to bring the latest information forward to the American people. Again, let me encourage all of you here and everyone looking on around the country to go to coronavirus.gov to get really useful, practical, common sense recommendations about how to make your home safer, how to make your school safer, how to make your business and any enterprise out there safer. These are practical recommendations from the best experts in America and we commend them to your attention, but let me also just have a word of encouragement to everyone.
Mike Pence: (45:28)
I want to say again, all of our medical experts, apart from the areas where we have community spread and we’re focusing resource, the risk of contracting the coronavirus for the average American remains low. It will remain that way moreso if all of us continue to practice common sense habits in our home, in our businesses, in our schools, in our public institutions, and so it’s important to remember what President Trump said. We’re all in this together. It’s not just going to be a whole of government approach. It’s a whole of America approach. And together we’ll get through the coronavirus. Again, details on all the latest information. Coronavirus.gov. Thank you.
Speaker 8: (46:13)