Mar 4, 2020
Donald Trump, Mike Pence Coronavirus Briefing Transcript: Briefing with Airline & Diagnostic Lab CEOs
President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence held a coronavirus White House briefing with airline and diagnostic lab CEOs today on March 4, 2020. Read the full transcript of their briefing.
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Donald Trump: (00:10)
And we’re talking about the effects of the virus on the air travel and what they see. In a certain way, you could say that the borders are automatically shut down without having to say shut down. To me, they’re to a certain extent automatically shut down. But it’s affecting the airline business as it would and a lot of people are staying in our country and they’re shopping and using our hotels in this country. So from that standpoint, I think probably there’s a positive impact, but there’s also an impact on overseas travel, which will be fairly substantial and Mike, maybe I’ll let you give a little briefing as to what we just discussed.
Mike Pence: (00:50)
Thank you, Mr. President. And grateful to have the opportunity to meet with the leaders of our airline industry today. Mr. President, you said from early on that we were going to have a whole of government approach, but the truth is as, evidenced by all these great industry leaders, it’s really a whole of America approach. And the American people deserve to know that according to all of our experts, the risks of the average American of contracting the coronavirus remains low. And that’s largely owing to your decision, Mr. President, to suspend all travel from China into the United States and to quarantine all Americans that are returning. It’s also owing to the tremendous cooperation of this industry, the airline industry, because in addition to suspending travel from China, you recently made the decision to designate as “do not travel” certain areas of Italy, certain areas of South Korea, but we also, at your direction, have worked with this industry so that now as of yesterday morning, all passengers on all direct flights from all airports in Italy or South Korea are being screened on multiple times before they board any of these airlines.
Mike Pence: (02:08)
We’re grateful for that, Mr. President. I know you are and everyone here should know that we’re going to continue to follow the facts and the data. Dr. Burks is working closely with all of our health officials to determine what additional screening might be required in the United States or in partners around the world. But our airlines are going to play a key role, Mr. President, in preventing the spread of this disease. And even earlier today at your direction, we met with leaders of our nursing home industry to talk about the measures, increased measures to prevent the spread of infectious disease. We’ve sent new guidance out to nursing homes. We’ll be announcing later today new priority of inspections for infectious diseases. We’re detailing that. We explained it to the industry today and also on the issue of testing, Mr. President, you’ve made that a priority. We’ll have over a million tests in the field today.
Mike Pence: (03:05)
I spoke to several governors this morning that were grateful for the fact that the changes you made this weekend through the FDA now make it possible for state health clinics as well as universities around the country to be able to conduct coronavirus tests. But we’ll also be meeting this afternoon with leaders of our commercial laboratories to make a coronavirus test more rapidly, more wildly available for doctors offices and medical clinics and consumers around the country. So Mr. President, as you said, it is a whole of government approach, but in a very real sense, it’s a whole of America approach. And I’ve already expressed, and I know you feel a great deal of gratitude to our partners in industry and in the airline industry for acting on your priority to put the safety and health of the American people first.
Donald Trump: (04:00)
Good, Mike. Thank you very much. I just want to add and to go a little bit further, the Obama administration made a decision on testing that turned out to be very detrimental to what we’re doing and we undid that decision a few days ago so that the testing can take place in a much more accurate and rapid fashion. That was a decision we disagreed with. I don’t think we would’ve made it, but for some reason it was made. But we’ve undone that decision. Also, when people come in from certain areas we’re doing checks, not only at the site of takeoff, but at the side of landing. So when they land in our country, we’ll also do, that’s if the planes are leaving from certain destinations. I might ask doctor, if you could, I’d like you to say a few words. You’ve been doing a fantastic job in just a short time. We haven’t had much time, but you’ve really been doing a really fantastic time. Please.
Dr. Burks: (04:58)
Thank you. Well, before you came in, Mr. President, we talked about which Americans are most vulnerable and the fact that younger Americans may not be as vulnerable. So we’re really focused very much in that way and I think the airline industry can help us also in any kind of screening required, particularly to protect our older Americans.
Donald Trump: (05:19)
Good. Thank you. Thank you. Doug, do you have anything to say?
No. Thank you for having us. Thanks for the work we’re doing jointly to keep people safe. We’re proud of our team. We’re proud of the work they’re doing. We appreciate the aggressive containment efforts that the United States has done to protect Americans and the role we play in that. And so we’re happy to be here and continue to be interested in anything we can do as in particularly as we move from maybe aggressive containment to mitigation efforts, what could be done there as well.
Donald Trump: (05:54)
Doug is the head of American Airlines as you know. Maybe we’ll go around the room, if you’d like to say something, please.
Speaker 5: (06:00)
Well, thank you Mr. President. And again, we appreciate the leadership, appreciate the collaboration and coordination and certainly the industry wants to do everything that we can to keep Americans safe and certainly our employees and our customers. We’ve stepped up our efforts to make sure the airplanes are cleaned and disinfected and we work very closely with the CDC and I think that’s gone very, very well. So we’ve got the proper protocols in place whenever there is a suspected illness. And I think all that’s working very well where I think everybody’s doing a great job and doing all we can.
Donald Trump: (06:42)
We appreciate the job you’re doing. Thank you very much. Please.
Brad Tilden: (06:48)
Brad Tilden, Alaska Airlines. We appreciate the efforts, Mr. President. I think like all of the folks around the table, the focus of the airline leadership teams is the safety of our employees and the safety of our customers and that’s what we’re focused on. I think all of us have made a lot of changes to our cleaning procedures, changes to our onboard procedures, to gloves, sanitation, the service that our flight attendants are providing our customers and we’re trying to do everything we can to help everyone contain the virus and contain the spread of it. And we appreciate it. If there’s more that we can do to help, we’re here to tell you that we want to do that.
Donald Trump: (07:23)
Are you using different things for the cleaning, the fluids? Are you using different [crosstalk 00:07:28]?
Brad Tilden: (07:27)
We’ve taken a good look at them. The stuff that we’re using, I think we’ve concluded is effective, but we are changing the routines. There’s three levels of cleaning that we do and we’re intensifying the cleaning of the aircraft.
Donald Trump: (07:38)
Thank you very much. Great job. Peter.
Peter Ingram: (07:41)
Peter Ingram with Hawaiian Airlines. Mr. President, I echo my counterparts in the industry talking about the safety of our guests and our employees is paramount in everything we do and really appreciate the collaboration with the administration and the government to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to ensure that. I think it is very helpful to hear Dr. Burks talk about the specific areas of risk because there is a lot of concern out there. There’s concern internationally about travel and there’s concern domestically and I think the more information that we have to share with our guests about the facts is very helpful as we go forward with this challenge.
Donald Trump: (08:29)
Good. Thank you very much. Thanks, Peter.
Matt Koscal: (08:32)
Matt Koscal from Republic Airways. Thank you, Mr. President, for this opportunity for us to come together as leaders in the aviation industry and to have a sharing of information, which I think is critical. We all represent the men and women that are on the front lines and need to ensure that they have the tools, resources, and information to do their job each and every day so these efforts are effective. And the one thing the aviation industry has proven it does very well is comes together in times of challenge to provide a solution for this country. So I feel very confident that with your leadership and all the folks in the room that we will continue to serve first and foremost our employees so they can serve the customers that depend on us.
Donald Trump: (09:15)
Chad, did you have anything to say about all that?
Well, I would just say, Mr. President, that again at your leadership, we’re funneling to 11 specific airports and contract medical staff that we put in place have screened over 53,000 individuals and prevented a number of folks from coming into the country. And that’s largely due to the cooperation and the flexibility of the individuals in this room. So again, thank you for everything that you’re doing to help us keep America safe.
Donald Trump: (09:38)
And Chad, anything different on the southern border where we’re doing so well? We’re setting records on the southern border in terms of allowing the people that are supposed to be here in but not allowing others in. Anything new on the southern border?
Well, again, from a screening standpoint, we have some of the same measures that we do at airports of entry at our land ports of entry. So we CVP officers and again contract medical staff, some from HHS and some contract are again screening individuals and then referring to CDC as necessary. So some of the same procedures at airports taking place at land ports of entry as well as maritime ports of entry. So for DHS we’re looking at every way individuals come into the country, not just through the airports, making sure that we’re securing the country as a whole.
Donald Trump: (10:19)
Good job. Thank you.
Speaker 10: (10:20)
Mr. President, thank you for having us. We were delighted when you made the vice president the head of the Interagency Task Force. We believe in collaboration. We want to try to solve these problems both short and longterm. We’ve been sharing ideas with the vice president’s staff and your staff. We think there are better ways to trace the passengers coming in. We’ve contracted to have a mobile app and a website developed that everyone would have to fill out that would go directly to CDC with that information. And we’re moving forward with that. So there’s been good progress. I think what we all need is the reassurance that you and the vice president and others have been providing the travel is safe and that we can go forward because right now the fear is almost worse than the virus.
Donald Trump: (11:02)
Yeah. And we’re we’re doing a good job. These professionals are really amazing, they’ve really stepped up like the airlines have stepped up very much so. Thank you.
Robin Hayes: (11:11)
Mr. President, Robin Hayes, JetBlue. Thank you very much for having us today, Mr. Vice President. A lot of it’s been said, but we’re taking many of the same measures as everyone else to keep our customers and our crew members, our employees safe and secure. Thank you for putting the vice president in charge of these efforts. The federal government has a tremendous capability when it comes together and is orchestrated with a common goal, and I’d just like to send just a quick shout out to the people in the federal government and the people that work for all of us who are really in the front lines of this and the heroic efforts they’re making every day to keep us safe and secure.
Donald Trump: (11:50)
Thank you very much. Oscar.
Well, I’ll take a different angle just because a lot of it’s been said. I started my whole conversation earlier before you came in on the safety and health of our customers and our employees are the top one, so we will cooperate in collaborating with everything. I think as I look through this from a personal lens, I’m a heart transplant survivor. I am, if you think of the poster child for the individual that could be affected by this, I’m it. Older than the age and I have immune systems and so that’s the task we take at United about making our planes safe. We’re exploring all the different ideas and aspects that we can do to ensure that our planes are as safe as possible.
From the ask perspective anything that continues to project stability, calm and Dr. Burks with regards to behavior, we’ve invented the corona bump at United where you’ll see us all bumping each other. It may sound silly, but it’s a fun way of expressing what I think we all need to know is be careful for the next few weeks as we control this that we adapt our behavior so that indeed we can continue to stay safe. So thank you for [crosstalk 00:12:52].
Donald Trump: (12:51)
That’s right. You are a heart transplant survivor. I was reading about that as one of the big executives, great executives of our country, of the world, and your heart transplant. I’ll tell you, you look very good to me, Oscar.
I don’t recommend it.
Donald Trump: (13:04)
You have that one down. Don’t recommend it, but you, that’s fantastic story. Wow, that’s great. Thank you very much, Oscar. Mike, why don’t you finish it up?
Mike Pence: (13:12)
Well, thank you Mr. President. Again, the American people deserve to know that the threat of contracting the coronavirus remains low according to all our experts. But at your direction, we are going to continue to bring the full resources of the federal government and we’re going to enlist the full resources of American industry to keep the American people safe. And our airlines have been exceptional partners with us, not only the executives, but we also want to commend the crews that have been taking such good care of passengers, people that are cleaning the planes and keeping it all safe and working with us on the screening process and the funneling process. And as you said, Mr. President, we’re going to continue to lean into this effort and we will continue to do so until we find our way through the impacts of the coronavirus. And when we accomplish that, we’ll accomplish it as one American people, as one team. And I’m grateful to have the people on the team here in the room.
Donald Trump: (14:20)
Great job, Mike. As a certain areas get to be more of a problem, we may close them up as we have done with numerous areas. At this moment, we think we have it very much in hand. We’ve closed certain areas down very strongly. In some cases, not whole countries, but certain areas within countries like in Italy. We are I think doing a very effective job in terms of that. It’s very important.
Donald Trump: (14:47)
The one thing that we were discussing before is you really don’t know what the percentage of some people will have this at a very light level and won’t even go to a doctor or a hospital. They’ll get better. There are many people like that. Young people seem to be, you can’t say immune to it, but there’s certainly, the numbers are very small. And it does affect the older people that, like the nursing home situation that we have on the west coast, a single nursing home where we have a pretty big percentage of people. But as things go along, so we’re trying to adjust the number, we’re trying to see what the number might be, but if you add many, many people that have it and don’t know they have it or they think they have a cold and all of a sudden they’re recovering from it. I think that number will probably be a lot different numbers than the twos and even the one and a halves that we’re hearing. And I think that’s an important thing for people to know.
Donald Trump: (15:41)
I’m very proud of the people in the administration. I’m very proud of the airline business. You said it very well when you said the airline business always seems to pull together and I’ve seen that over the years and this is a great case of it. And I want to thank you all, you’re great executives and you love the country and you love what you do and thank you all very much. We appreciate it. Thank you.
Speaker 13: (16:00)
Mr. President, are you going to be giving any sort of financial support for the airlines to deal with that loss of business from overseas [inaudible 00:16:06]?
Donald Trump: (16:06)
Don’t ask that question please because they haven’t asked it. So I don’t want you to give them any ideas or you’ll end up heading an airline. He’ll end up heading an airline. That’s a pretty tough question. So I don’t. We haven’t discussed that yet.
Speaker 14: (16:20)
Is your message to Americans that it’s safe to fly and can you convince the traveling [crosstalk 00:16:27]?
Donald Trump: (16:27)
I think where these people are flying, it’s safe to fly. In large portions of the world are very safe to fly. So we don’t want to say anything other than that. And we have closed down certain sections of the world frankly. And they’ve sort of automatically closed them also. And if they’ll understand that and they understand it better perhaps than anybody. Yes, it’s safe.
Speaker 15: (16:47)
Are American businesses overreacting to cutting down domestic travel and they’re telling people not to fly to [inaudible 00:16:52] inside the United States?
Donald Trump: (16:53)
Well, a lot of people are doing a lot of domestic business now. I can tell you they’re staying in this country. They feel safe because we have a, if you look at a percentage, we have a very, very small percentage and a big percentage of what we have is when we brought in the 40 or so people from the ship. We brought them in, we immediately quarantined them.
Donald Trump: (17:11)
But you’re adding that to the numbers that we had, which were very small. Now what we’re going to do is as people get better, because most of these people are getting better. Some are already released, some are going home, some get a full 100% report. We’re going to take them off the list. But we have a very small number of people in this country. We have a big country. The biggest impact we had was when we took the 40 plus people, they’re Americans. I mean, I could say don’t let them into the country, but these are Americans and they were literally stranded and it was very unfair. We brought them back. We immediately quarantined them. But you add that to the numbers, but if you don’t add that to the numbers, we’re talking about very small numbers in the United States.
Donald Trump: (17:54)
We’ve all done a very good job, all of us. And I think the news has been in the, for the most part, the media has really treated us very fairly, which I appreciate. I think it’s very important.
Speaker 16: (18:04)
Mr. President, is there anything that they should be doing differently since you think it is safe to fly?
Donald Trump: (18:09)
Ask the head of American Airlines or United Airlines.
Speaker 16: (18:12)
Executives around the table that if you’re a passenger you’d get on that plane. We’ve been told, wash your hands.
Donald Trump: (18:17)
Maybe Dr. Burks, Dr. Burks, you can maybe say something.
Dr. Burks: (18:22)
Well, we’re always saying the common sense of washing your hands, not touching your face, ensuring that if you’ve touched anything, you go and wash your hands again, 20 seconds with soap. Hand sanitizers also work, but I think I was very reassured to hear the airlines talk about their cleaning procedures and there are three levels of cleaning procedures because I think that will be reassuring to the American public.
Donald Trump: (18:51)
And I haven’t touched my face in weeks and weeks. It’s been weeks. I miss it.
Speaker 17: (18:52)
Would you do anything to address some of the concerns of maybe travelers who booked their flights and they might be coming up on a trip and they might have to make rearrangements? Is that something…
Donald Trump: (19:02)
Doug, what would you say about that?
We’ve just issued, we put out a fair sale recently that allows customers the flexibility to book their travel in advance and if they find they want to change that later, the change fees are waived. So I think all of us were working to figure out ways to make sure that there’s flexibility for them.
Donald Trump: (19:20)
I would think, Oscar, how would you handle that? You have a lot of people they’ve booked and now made a-
Listen, this is a time unprecedented in our history that we need to be absolutely understanding of people’s travel plans and like [inaudible 00:19:34] and most of the airlines, we are taking all appropriate measures to make sure that our customers get the best treatment.
Donald Trump: (19:41)
I think people are going to be very impressed with what the airlines do.
Speaker 18: (19:43)
Mr. President, you mentioned the Obama era rule that you had changed regarding this virus. I didn’t follow that.
Donald Trump: (19:50)
Well, let’s talk about it. Go ahead.
Mike Pence: (19:51)
We can talk. Bob Redfield, you might speak about the last administration asserted FDA jurisdiction over testing and the development of tests like this and Bob, the president changed that on Saturday. So that now as I spoke to several governors this morning, states now have the ability to actually conduct the coronavirus tests in state labs, university laboratories and that’s because of the change the president authorized. Bob, you just might very quick reflect on the changing jurisdiction of that that’s freed up more available testing.
Bob Redfield: (20:27)
Thank you, Mr. Vice President. So in the past we used to be able to have laboratories that could develop what we call laboratory developed tests and then be able to apply them for clinical purposes. And in the previous administration that became regulated so that now for someone to do that, they had to formally file with the FDA. And what the president’s decision did was allow that regulatory relief now and that those university labs and those other labs in this country now can be fully engaged in developing laboratory diagnostics for the clinical arena so the men and women this nation can get access to and the doctors to get to know the extent of HIV and the patients that they’re caring for. It’s really very, very important. It’s what’s changed the availability of testing overnight.
Donald Trump: (21:17)
This was a very big move and it was something that we had to do and we did it very quickly and now we have tremendous flexibility, many, many more sites, many, many more people. And you couldn’t have had that under the Obama rule and we ended that rule very quickly. Yes.
Speaker 19: (21:32)
Mr. President, on the contact tracing, can you explain what you’re hoping to get from these folks? What more information do they need to track or share with the government?
Donald Trump: (21:41)
Go ahead, Chad.
So what we’re asking for is additional pieces of information so that the CDC, HHS and others can track individuals as they come into the country and as they continue on to their final destination. And if we need to, from a health perspective, to continue to reach out, continue to track them and to get in touch with them, looking for a few more pieces of information and data from them.
Speaker 19: (22:03)
Do you think you’ll give us information in this meeting today on that?
I think we will continue to have conversations, but yes, we’ll get that for you.
Speaker 21: (22:09)
Can I follow up on that question? The North Carolina case was someone who was at the nursing home in Washington State, does the administration now have the contact information who were with that person on the flight to North Carolina?
Bob Redfield: (22:25)
That public health evaluation is ongoing right now and we’re working with the airlines and obviously within their North Carolina health department. CDC supports the local public health department to really work together to get all that information that’s in progress.
Speaker 21: (22:40)
But at this point you do not have that, the passenger information.
Bob Redfield: (22:45)
My understanding is we have the manifest. Now the trick is to go find them and that’s why we’re having this discussion.
Donald Trump: (22:50)
And much of that has been done already.
Speaker 22: (22:52)
All right. Thanks guys, let’s go.
Donald Trump: (22:57)
Thank you very much everybody.
Speaker 22: (22:58)
Donald Trump: (22:58)
No questions on the election? This has to be [crosstalk 00:22:59].
Speaker 22: (22:59)
All right. Thanks, guys, let’s go. Let’s go. Come on, guys. [inaudible 00:23:07], let’s go.
Donald Trump: (23:11)
I think the election was a great last night. I thought it was great. I thought the results were, it was a great comeback for Joe Biden. Incredible comeback when you think about it. But if you would’ve looked, if Elizabeth Warren would have done what she probably should have done from their point of view, he would’ve won. Right? He would have won a lot of States including Massachusetts, probably Texas, definitely Minnesota. So Bernie would’ve won states that he lost I think it was fairly easily. But in particular, Massachusetts, I would say Minnesota in particular. I would also say Texas and some others. So had she, I put something out on it this morning. She was really a spoiler because other people got out in those votes in order to Joe. And those people really helped Joe by getting out early. But the couple that got out as the endorsement. In the case of Elizabeth Warren, had she gotten out, it would’ve been a very different situation I think.
Donald Trump: (24:16)
It would have been a very different night. Just that one simple move. Had she left, you pick up Massachusetts, Minnesota and probably Texas and those are the three I check. I would imagine there are others that he would’ve picked up, too. So Elizabeth Warren was the single biggest factor in that election last night. It would have been a very different thing and not in a positive way for her, in a very selfish way for her. She was very selfish from that point of view. Now do I care? No, because we’re just waiting to find out who we’re running against. But when you look at it, pretty incredible. If she would’ve gotten out and endorsed, even if she didn’t, she didn’t even have to endorse. I think there’s a lot of bad blood there, but had she gotten out and endorsed, he would’ve been a lot better off.
Speaker 23: (25:06)
What do you think happens now?
Donald Trump: (25:08)
Well now I think it’s a very tough, I think it’s tough. I think Joe has an easier path right now, believe it or not. I see Mini Mike just got out and he’s going to try and save face by putting some money into Biden’s campaign and we’ll see what happens. I don’t think that’s going to have an impact. You got to look, money has to be spent wisely. One thing this whole thing has shown that you can’t buy an election. It’s a beautiful thing. Steyer put in $250, $300 million and now who knows where he is? He’s home probably licking his wounds. And Bloomberg put in probably $1 billion and sometimes you just don’t have what it takes. And I said to him, “It’s not easy doing what I did, is it?” So it’s one of those things, but it’s going to be very interesting to think that this would have changed so much because if you go before Saturday, before South Carolina, I mean, Joe had absolutely no chance according to you people.
Donald Trump: (26:13)
But they used to say that about me, too. Not as much though. I think I always felt that I had a very good chance. But I’d watch and they’d say, “Well, it can’t happen.” But it happened and it happened pretty easily. I think Joe actually would have the advantage now. If you look at the states he’s going to with Florida and others, I think he’s got an advantage in those states. But again, had Elizabeth Warren endorsed Bernie, you’re talking about a whole different subject and that’s not even a question. You’re talking about a whole… because he would’ve gotten 80, 90 almost. I mean, he would’ve gotten most of those votes. So you’re talking about a much different…
Speaker 24: (26:49)
What do you think of the stock market’s reaction today? It seems like there’s been a sigh of relief that [crosstalk 00:26:53].
Donald Trump: (26:52)
I think, well, I’ve said from the beginning, it’s partially this, it’s a big part of this, but it’s also the fact that they didn’t like seeing what they’re seeing. But they don’t like Joe either. Joe’s become, a lot of people are with Joe. If you look at those people, they’re worse than Bernie in terms of being radical left. I mean, some of Joe’s handlers and that’s what they are is handlers. I want to be nice, but they are handlers. Some of Joe’s handlers are further left than Bernie. That’s pretty scary. So it’s going to be that way.
Speaker 25: (27:28)
Do you think Bloomberg’s money will be more powerful without Bloomberg himself in the race? He said he’s-
Donald Trump: (27:32)
Well, it couldn’t be less powerful because look what $1 billion did. He won nothing. I mean he got so few delegates. It’s incredible. I would say probably, well, now he’s doing that because he’s spiteful and he’s a spiteful guy. I know him well, he’s a very spiteful guy, he’s very upset. He made a fool out of himself to be honest with you. And he’s not too happy about that. I think the first thing he should do is fire his political consultants because I could have told, I know, I could have told him very easily, you can’t win. You can put $2 billion in, you can’t win. Okay. Thank you, everybody.
Speaker 22: (28:07)
Come on, let’s go. Come on, let’s go.