Sep 17, 2020
Mike Pence Coronavirus Safety in Nursing Homes Roundtable Transcript September 17
VP Mike Pence participated in a roundtable about coronavirus safety in nursing homes. Read the transcript of his remarks.
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Vice President Mike Pence: (00:00)
And also, I’m particularly grateful to have the opportunity to welcome the members of the Coronavirus Commission for Safety and Quality in Nursing Homes. In May of this year, President Trump initiated an effort to review the work that we had done in the midst of this coronavirus pandemic with regard to nursing homes and bring experts from around the country, industry experts, patient advocates together to make recommendations about how we can continue to put the health of our seniors first to make sure that we had best practices for nursing homes and longterm care facilities. And on behalf of President Trump and on behalf of Administrator Verma, our entire team here at the White House, and at the task force, I want to say, thank you. Thank you for the long hours that you put in to producing the Commission’s report.
Vice President Mike Pence: (00:54)
Yesterday, I know you issued your final report with a range of recommendations, including 27 best practices around issues like facility design, management, technology, data, and PPE, and also recommendations about federal-state coordination, on nursing home testing, and continuing to ensure adequate PPE supplies to nursing homes. But the work that you’ve done here we think is a significant contribution to our ongoing effort to ensure the health and wellbeing of our seniors in nursing homes and longterm care facilities around the country. It was very early on in this process that we came to understand that the coronavirus represented a particular threat to seniors, particularly those with serious underlying health conditions.
Vice President Mike Pence: (01:51)
So beginning earlier this year, we took action. We raised the infectious disease standards for all nursing homes in America. We deployed all 8,000 of our nursing home inspectors in the month of March to focus exclusively on infectious disease control around the country. And as our task force worked with Governors in every state and territory across the country, our focus with them was to partner to ensure that those infectious disease standards were being complied with. We also took decisive action to put the health and wellbeing of our seniors. First, we stepped up not only enforcement of infectious disease control, but we also required weekly data reporting from all of our nursing homes. And we also have mandated testing, not only of nursing home residents, but of nursing home staff, and had the testing reflect the degree to which the coronavirus has spread in that particular community.
Vice President Mike Pence: (02:57)
As you all know and reflected on in the course of your deliberations, along the way we also took decisive action to protect residents from nursing homes by suspending visitation. And I must tell you, I think there’s no American family that doesn’t understand the hardship that, that is placed on our families. That’s why the President and I are so grateful, and in addition to the report that the Commission released yesterday, that you’re issuing new guidance today which will allow nursing homes to begin to facilitate in home visitation again. Outdoor visits are encouraged. Indoor visitation is allowed if there’s no new cases in a previous two weeks and if certain core principles like screening, resident and staff testing, hygiene, social distancing, and cleansing all are put into effect.
Vice President Mike Pence: (03:53)
Nursing home facilities will continue to use the COVID-19 County Positivity Rate to determine the degree to which indoor visitation can take place, and as Administrator Verma will reflect, you’ve made very clear recommendations on the way that we can safely return to visitation. And I want to assure you that we’ll continue to do our part to make sure that we scale testing and provide testing supplies, including Point of Care testing that makes it possible for people to be able to visit, to have a test, as all of you did when you visited the White House today. I’m pleased to report, as of last week, our administration purchased and delivered Point of Care Abbott tests to a 13,850 nursing homes across the country. We distributed actually nearly five million tests to go with those devices, and so virtually in every nursing home in America, as of today, there is a Point of Care test.
Vice President Mike Pence: (04:57)
So people can come in, be in that secured area, have a coronavirus test administered, and within a matter of 10 to 15 minutes have a result to determine whether or not they would be able to visit their loved one. These recommendations, as well as the resources that we’ve been provided for testing in our nursing homes, we think represent a new day for seniors in nursing homes and longterm care around America and I know it’s going to be deeply meaningful to American families. As you all know, we have secured in April some $14 billion in relief to nursing homes. In the month of May, another $5 billion was distributed into nursing homes across the country. And since early on in this pandemic, we’ve been ensuring that our dedicated personnel at nursing homes have the personal protective equipment necessary to do their work and to do it safely.
Vice President Mike Pence: (05:55)
Every week since May, at least, 90% of American nursing homes have reported that to us an adequate supply of PPE, and in August, $2.4 billion more was provided to 14,000 nursing homes for PPE and staffing and testing. We have a ways to go, but I want to assure all of you that as we work to slow the spread, as we work to flatten the curve, we’re going to continue to focus on those that are most vulnerable to the coronavirus. And frankly, because of the work of the Coronavirus Commission and the dedication all of you have shown in this effort, we’re going to be even more equipped to protect our seniors as we continue to drive toward that day where we have not only more medicines, more therapeutics, but ultimately we believe that day when we’ll have the first coronavirus vaccine well before the end of this year, and be able to deploy that vaccine on the basis of first protecting those most vulnerable and the seniors.
Vice President Mike Pence: (07:00)
I have every confidence when those decisions are made by the ACIP and our other health experts be focused on those that are most vulnerable. It’s been a focus of our administration from very early on recognizing the vulnerability of seniors to the coronavirus and I want to thank all of you for the extraordinary professionalism that you brought to the commission’s work, the recommendations today that will lay a framework for communities to begin to open up once again and open up for in-person visitation in our nursing homes. I know it’s going to be a blessing to families across the country and on behalf of the President, on behalf of our entire team on the White House Coronavirus Task Force, I want to thank all the members of the commission for your dedication. And with that, Seema Verma.
Seema Verma: (07:47)
Thank you. And just want to echo the thanks to the Commission members. You’ve done an outstanding job and we really appreciate your time and effort. And special thanks to the President and the Vice President for their leadership. Setting up this commission, I think was a great idea. It really helped guide our efforts. And essentially after looking at the results of the report, it validated all the work that we’ve done and appreciate the leadership of the Coronavirus Task Force that across the board with FEMA and supplies with HHS delivering the testing. CMS and CDC has stood up a new training system. We’ve already heard a quarter of nursing homes have already participated in the first two weeks. The resources, the supplies, and across the board, I think it’s been an unprecedented response. So thank you and thank you to the Vice President for your leadership on this.
Vice President Mike Pence: (08:38)
That’s just great. Thank you all.
Speaker 3: (08:47)
Vice President Mike Pence: (08:47)
Speaker 3: (08:47)
Vice President Mike Pence: (08:49)
What’s the question?
Speaker 3: (08:50)
[crosstalk 00:08:50] had any reaction to the comment on that video that was posted by your former Homeland Security Advisor Olivia Troye?
Vice President Mike Pence: (08:56)
Well, I haven’t read her comments in any detail, but it reads to me like one more disgruntled employee who’s left the White House and now has decided to play politics during an election year. I think my staff has indicated that she made no comments like that when she was serving on our team here at the White House Coronavirus Task Force. And I couldn’t be more proud of the work we’ve done all along the way and the leadership that President Trump has provided. I mean, from very early on, our President put the health of America first. We suspended all travel from China. No administration had ever done that before. We stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force. For the first time in 50 years, the President began quarantining people that were returning to this country from aboard cruise ships that had been infected.
Vice President Mike Pence: (09:54)
We began the process of reinventing testing and scaling the PPE supplies that we were able to distribute all across the country to hospitals, including nursing home facilities around America. Today, we’re able to perform some three million tests per day, even though the demand at this point is only roughly 700,000 tests. We saw to the manufacturer and the distribution and delivery of hundreds of millions of supplies to our hospitals and doctors and nurses. No American that ever required a ventilator was ever denied a ventilator. And as we gather here today, every single day, we’re one day closer to the day that we’ll have the first safe and effective coronavirus vaccine.
Vice President Mike Pence: (10:39)
So I’m very proud of the work that our White House Coronavirus Task Force has done. I’m very grateful for the president’s leadership, the partnership that we’ve forged with Governors all across the country. And while some may want to play politics and say different things once they leave here than they said when they were here, we’re going to keep focusing on the health of the American people. We’re going to keep driving to that day that we have a vaccine and we’ll continue to make sure we tell the story of all that we’ve accomplished for the American people.