Mar 10, 2020
Mike Pence & Coronavirus Task Force Update Transcript – March 10
Mike Pence, Dr. Anthony Fauci, and the Coronavirus Task Force held a news conference on March 10, 2020 updating the public on COVID-19 in the United States. Read the full transcript right here.
Michael Pence: (00:04)
Good afternoon. We just completed today’s meeting of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, and I couldn’t be more proud of the efforts of the men and women standing behind me or all of those standing behind them. President Trump said from early on that this would be a whole of government approach, and today gives evidence to the fact that it is also a whole of America approach. We’re bringing the full resources of the Federal Government and the full resources of this great economy, and our great business sector to bear in protecting the American people and protecting American families.
Michael Pence: (00:44)
A few updates from today, as we continue to expand testing availability across the country. Testing is now available at all state labs. By the end of this week, there will be more than 4 million more tests made available in jurisdictions around the country. 1 million are already in place thanks to the good work of our top commercial labs that the President Trump brought together yesterday. LabCorp and Quest are in the process now of distributing and marketing Coronavirus tests all across America. And we’re working with state and local officials to ensure that that happens as rapidly as possible.
Michael Pence: (01:27)
As the testing is expanding, we wanted to make sure the American people knew that testing was available to them and that costs would not be a barrier. Today, president Trump assembled the top health insurance executives in America, and as we announced earlier today, all of our major health insurance companies have now joined with Medicare and Medicaid and agreed to waive all copays, cover the cost of all treatment for those who can track the Coronavirus. They’ve committed to no surprise billing, and they’ve committed to encourage telemedicine. It was a year ago that Medicaid actually expanded to pay for a telemedicine. Medicare pays for telemedicine. So now for seniors who may think that they are either at risk or have contracted the disease, they can get medical advice without having to go to the doctor or go to an emergency room.
Michael Pence: (02:29)
I know I speak for President Trump when I say how grateful we are to see our health insurance industry step forward to meet this need so that no American should be concerned about being able to pay for or afford the cost of a Coronavirus test if they deem, and their doctor deems it to be appropriate and necessary.
Michael Pence: (02:51)
The President also went to Capitol Hill today to meet with members of the United States Senate Republican caucus. There he talked about an economic package including a call he’s calling for payroll tax relief, and I think most important to the president’s heart, we want to make sure that hourly workers, hardworking blue collar Americans that may not have paid family leave today, that small and medium size businesses in America would be afforded the resources to provide paid leave so that no one would feel that they have to go to work if they might be infected or if they might’ve been exposed to the Coronavirus. We had a good reception on Capitol Hill. Our legislative teams have fanned out. We’re going to be working with Republican and Democrat leadership to move an economic package. Larry Kudlow will be reflecting on that in just a few moments.
Michael Pence: (03:43)
We also talked about what are known as N95 masks and we’re working Senator Deb Fischer and others have important legislation that would extend temporary liability protection so that masks that are made for industrial use could be sold to hospitals to ensure that our healthcare workers are properly protected and outfitted. And we’re grateful for growing bipartisan support for that measure, and we’re going to be working earnestly with Republicans and Democrats to move a reform that would make more N95 masks available.
Michael Pence: (04:22)
I’m also pleased to report that we did receive this afternoon a comprehensive proposal from the cruise line industry, a proposal that includes advanced screening, improving medical services on ships, providing for air lift evacuation and land-based care at the expense of the cruise lines for anyone that might be not only infected with the Coronavirus, but with any serious illness. We’ll be reviewing that in the next 24 hours. The president’s objective is for us to make cruise lines a safer, even as we’ve worked with the cruise lines to ensure that no one in our particularly vulnerable population is going out on a cruise in the near future.
Michael Pence: (05:08)
I’m going to recognize Dr. Fauci to talk about where we are, and Dr. Birx will give us some research that she’s done on the scope. We’ll have other updates. But let me say once again, this is a whole of government approach. And from early on, President Trump has insisted that our government at the federal level, all of our partners at the state level work in concert to protect the American people. And as we stand here today, the risks to the average American of contracting the Coronavirus remains low. But we’re absolutely determined to give every American the tools and the information that they need to protect themselves, their families, their workplace, their schools. And, and we’re going to work together. We’re going to work together to see our way through this, and working with leaders in both parties, in Congress, working with leaders at the state level all across this nation. I’m confident we will. With that, Dr Tony Fauci for an update on the status.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: (06:13)
Well, thank you very much Mr. Vice President. Just to give you a very brief sketch of what we do every day, the cases continue to increase globally. We are paying particular attention to the cases in Europe and Italy and France in which we’re starting to see that up at the same time as the relative number of new cases come down from China. What we’re seeing in Europe is that Europe is in that up slope, so that’s something that is expected. That’s the way these kinds of outbreaks go. This is not a surprise to anybody if you look at the history of infectious diseases outbreaks.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: (06:48)
In the United States, we continue to have new cases. As of this morning, there was 712, I believe, with 27 deaths guaranteed by the time of this evening, that’s going to be up, and there’ll be several more, and tomorrow there’ll be several more. So we realize that this is something obviously that we’ve been saying all along that we’re taking very seriously.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: (07:10)
Now the question is what are we going to do about that? And there are a number of things that one can do in order to blunt it. If you look at the curves of outbreaks, they go big peaks and then they come down. What we need to do is flatten that down. That would have less people infected, that would ultimately have less deaths. You do that by trying to interfere with the natural flow of the outbreak. So what we’re saying today is that although we keep coming in and saying appropriately that as a nation, the risk is relatively low, there are parts of the country right now that are having community spread in which the risk there is clearly a bit more than that, and you know the places, Washington State, California, New York and Florida.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: (07:56)
But what I want to talk to you about today, just for a moment or two, is that we would like the country to realize that as a nation we can’t be doing the kinds of things we were doing a few months ago. That it doesn’t matter if you’re in a state that has no cases or one case, you have to start taking seriously what you can do now that if and when the infections will come, and they will come, sorry to say, sad to say they will, but when you’re dealing with an infectious disease, we always have that metaphor that people talk about that Wayne Gretzky, he doesn’t go where the pack is, he’s going where the pack is going to be. Well, we want to be where the infection is going to be as well as where it is.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: (08:42)
So what we have here, if you could see that here, what… It’s here, is that if you go to coronavirus.gov remember when Dr. Birx yesterday mentioned some of the things that we put together. These are really simple. Keeping the workplace safe, keeping the home safe, keeping the school safe, and keeping commercial establishment safe. This should be universal for the country. Everyone should be doing that. Whether you live in a zone that has community spread or not. When you have community spread, you obviously going to ratchet up the kinds of mitigations that you have, but at a minimum. This is the minimum that we should be doing. So everybody should say all hands on deck. This is what we need to do. So I’ll stop there, and later I’ll be happy to answer.
Michael Pence: (09:28)
Thank you, Dr. Fauci.
Dr. Birx: (09:30)
Thank you Mr. Vice President, and thank you Dr. Fauci for that clarity. We continue to monitor the situation across the country and across the globe, and we are very fortunate between Dr. Fauci and I, we have longterm contacts out there in many of these countries that are experiencing current outbreaks. We continue to review all the scientific literature to look for insights and to really determine who’s at the greatest risk. And that’s why we’ve talked to you about people with immunodeficiencies at any age, people with medical conditions, and the elderly, and how important it is for all of us to take these precautions in the household to protect others, because we have circulating flu and other respiratory diseases at this time. We all have to act like all of those diseases, any respiratory disease can be transmitted to others. And as we said yesterday, we’re hoping that decreases all the respiratory disease we’re experiencing.
Dr. Birx: (10:24)
Finally, we got more new reports out of China, who had nine pregnant women during an acute COVID infection, and all nine were infected. And they delivered while they were infected, and all nine babies were healthy and the mothers were healthy. So we continue to look for data like that to be reassuring to the American public, at the same time, ensuring that every single person is participating in this response to this virus and taking those precautions that we should be taking every day. If we start doing this today, we will be ready next year for any of our respiratory diseases because I think we’ll be able to show that these simple household, simple works, simple schools, simple business approaches across the country can change all of our respiratory diseases. So we thank you for getting the message out. We thank you for the participating, and ensuring in your households and on households around America that we’re protecting all of those who need our support right now.
Michael Pence: (11:24)
Excellent. Thank you. Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci. And this information is available at coronavirus. gov, and as we said, we can’t say often enough, the risks of contracting the Coronavirus to the average American remains low. But for senior citizens with serious underlying chronic health conditions, the potential for serious consequences is very real. And make no mistake about it, by these habits in your home, in your school, in your business, you’re not only protecting your health, but you’re also protecting those that are most vulnerable. With that for an update on our progress the President Trump made today with our health insurance companies. I’d like to recognize Seema Verma.
Seema Verma: (12:15)
As the Vice President said, we had a terrific meeting with the insurance companies, a real example of a public private partnership where they agreed to waive copays for testing, not do any surprise billing, and also cover the costs of the COVID virus associated costs. The other things that they did is they asked the president for more flexibility in Medicare advantage plans and the president agreed to do that, and so today we issued guidance to our Medicare advantage plans that not only can they waive the costs for the test, but they can also go further to removing prior authorization requirements, they can waive prescription refill limits, they can allow for mail delivery of prescription drugs, and expand more access to telehealth services if they weren’t offering that in their plan.
Seema Verma: (13:02)
Also at CMS, we continue to work with healthcare providers around infection control practices. We met with home health agencies and also hospitals, and today we issued guidance to dialysis facilities as well as home health agencies around infection control.
Michael Pence: (13:19)
It’s been a great deal of attention about the Grand Princess and HHS working with the coast guard, with the department of defense, is currently working through disembarking American passengers returning foreign nationals to their country, and I wanted to ask Secretary Azar to speak and update us on the progress.
Secretary Azar: (13:41)
Thank you. So with regard to the Grand Princess, I wanted to first express our appreciation to Governor Newsome to the mayor of Oakland, the people of Oakland, the Longshoreman, the Stevedores who’ve helped with bringing it in and clearing the dock area so that we can do all of our operations there. We’ve got Admiral Abel here with us today who’s been leading the coast guard efforts, and then Deputy Secretary Biegun from state has done incredible work with our foreign partners to help with the repatriation of their nationals who are on board the ship.
Secretary Azar: (14:11)
As of our data that I’ve got is as of noon Pacific time today, so this will have increased quite substantially since, since my last update, but as of noon Pacific, we had 548 individuals who have been offloaded from the ship. 228 Canadians are already back in Canada, flown there, I believe it was overnight. 171 Californians were taken by the government of California and are now at Travis Air Base. 26 individuals were sick and they are being treated for various, it could be from the novel Coronavirus. It could also just be we had some frail individuals who are sick that needed treatment.
Secretary Azar: (14:51)
Our goal is to get all of the citizens of California off today to be in the care of the California State government, as well as to get the UK citizens off today so that they could be repatriated to the United Kingdom. We continue to work with other countries on all of those maneuvers. We will have non-California residents who will be in transport to the bases at Dobbins and at Lackland today we hope, or tonight. So everything is progressing. It seems to be progressing well. We’re using the highest isolation, quarantine procedures, medical screenings possible to ensure the safety of not just the passengers, but also of the local communities and all of the healthcare workers and others, emergency responders are helping. So thanks to all of our partners for their help with this very complex operation.
Michael Pence: (15:44)
Good report. And let me echo the secretary’s appreciation to Governor Gavin Newsome, the State of California, the City of Oakland. It has literally been a seamless partnership. Everyone on that ship will be tested, isolated, and quarantined as appropriate and provided with treatment.
Michael Pence: (16:03)
… quarantined as appropriate and provided with treatment. The crew on the ship other than those who were ill, will be quarantined on the ship offshore. But it really represented the kind of partnership and cooperation from every level of government that every American I know is grateful to see. With that, on the economic front, Larry Kudlow.
Larry Kudlow: (16:29)
Thank you, sir. I yesterday had a meeting in the Oval with the President, acknowledging there are going to be challenges on the health and economic side. He mentioned that he intended to bring the full power of the federal government to deal with these challenges. And accordingly, as the vice president said, up at the Republican Senate luncheon today and he mentioned that in this room yesterday, President Trump has unveiled his proposals. Strong proposals for a temporary payroll tax cut holiday, which I think he would prefer to last through the end of the year.
Larry Kudlow: (17:11)
Also, administratively, as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin and others have suggested, we are trying to… We will use assistance to unpaid sick leave people. Very important point. Also, small and medium businesses, another important point. And also, possibly to some distressed industries or sectors in the economy, maybe tax deferral might be a useful tool and other means. So this is a strong across the board package. We are consulting with leaders in the House and the Senate with respect to this package and particularly, the payroll tax holiday.
Larry Kudlow: (17:52)
Let me just say, coming into this difficult period, the economy is in fundamentally good shape. We saw a blockbuster jobs report last Friday. Today for example, the small business confidence index, the NFIB business confidence index, registered a very strong number keeping its near record high. The unemployment remains low at 3.5%. Other indicators look pretty good. We had a lot of momentum in the first quarter, good thing. I recognize the challenges, and that is why we are proposing these fiscal measures to combine with monetary measures that have already taken. And again, I will repeat the President’s words. It just struck me as his determination. He intends to bring the full power of the federal government to deal with these health and economic challenges.
Michael Pence: (18:48)
Thank you, Larry. Well said. And a word from Surgeon General, Jerome Adams. General.
Jerome Adams: (18:56)
Good evening, everyone. As Surgeon General, whether it’s opioids or cigarettes or the coronavirus, my job is to help the American people understand how to live a healthy life. And I’m asking all of you, I’m imploring all of you, to help share my prescription for America to overcome this coronavirus situation that we’re in.
Jerome Adams: (19:17)
There are three parts to it. Number one, know your risk. As you’ve heard many times, but it’s still important to impress upon America, if you are immunocompromised, if you have chronic medical conditions, if you are over the age of 60, you are at higher risk. If you are a child or young adult, you are less likely to be impacted by the coronavirus.
Jerome Adams: (19:37)
Number two, the second part of the prescription. Know your circumstances. Are you in an environment where you can telework? Are you planning on going to large gatherings, like church? Do you live in a community that is being particularly impacted by the coronavirus? You can find out this information from your state or local health department. Does your state have a hotline that you can call into to help you assess symptoms? Again, knowing your circumstances.
Jerome Adams: (20:03)
And number three, and this is the most important part. Know what you can do to stay safe. And we have really leaned into coronavirus.gov. Please, send people to that website. We put the tools on there for individual groups, specific audiences, so that people can understand how to stay safe. If we follow this prescription, we will overcome the coronavirus. As Dr. Fauci said, we will see more cases. Unfortunately, we are likely to see more deaths. We have not hit the peak of this epidemic quite yet. But if we follow this prescription, then we will decrease the number of people who are impacted. We will decrease the number of people who will die, and we will more quickly get to the end of this situation. Thank you.
Michael Pence: (20:50)
Great job. Questions. Please.
Mr. Vice President, that poster right there, it says to avoid crowding, consider a rearranging large activities. So will the Pence/Trump campaign suspend campaign rallies and other activities?
Michael Pence: (21:03)
I think that will be a decision that’s made literally, on a day-to-day basis. I thought Dr. Fauci spoke to that yesterday very well, that we’re going to… I’m very confident that the campaign will take the very best information and make the very best decision going forward. But these proposals are things that every American can do all across the country that will reduce the risk of either contracting or being exposed to the coronavirus.
Mr. Vice President, on the economic package. The word “unveiled” was just used. But so far, the public has not seen it. How big is this package? How big is the payroll tax cut going to be? When is the general public going to see what you all put together?
Michael Pence: (21:52)
Larry Kudlow: (21:54)
We are working out details right now, so I don’t want to quote any numbers ahead of time. You know, you make a proposal. We’re checking with the leaders of both parties in both houses, and see what is doable, and where the tough nuts are going to be. I don’t want to get into any detail.
Larry Kudlow: (22:13)
I think the outline of the thing is very important. The payroll tax holiday is probably the most important powerful piece of this. But on the other hand, I want to draw attention. We can use administration and executive authority again, to help unpaid sick leave people, which is very important. We can use it for the medium and smaller businesses, which is very important. Other distressed sectors, we have some leverage on tax deferral. We know.
Larry Kudlow: (22:49)
I mean look, I will say again as I have for quite some time, the economy is strong. We also know there are going to be problems ahead. We know there are going to be challenges ahead, don’t deny it. We’ll see. I want to take that a day at a time, and a fact at a time, a statistical release at a time. But anyway, this will be the broad package. At some point in the near future, we will outline a more detailed package for you.
Michael Pence: (23:13)
Actually maybe while Larry’s still up there, unless you want to answer it, Mr. Vice President, go right ahead. The President proposed to the GOP policy lunch today, to remove the entire payroll tax from both employers and employees. That would be a 12.4% reduction. Back in 2010, we had a 2% reduction. Can you basically eliminate for however number of months, the payroll tax, without blowing a huge hole in the budget? And furthermore, the President told the lunch, he’d like to make that cut permanent. How do you do that?
Larry Kudlow: (23:54)
The payroll tax holiday is a bold move. It’s a very bold move. And this has always been a bold President. We’ve been cutting taxes and rolling back regulations, and changing trade deals and opening up the energy sector, and doing things that nobody thought we could do before, John. We’ve had pretty good economic results for it. We’re in a challenge period now, I get that.
Larry Kudlow: (24:18)
So with respect to your question on the specifics… I think there will be a big growth pay off. I think it will help deal with whatever challenges occur in the next few months. I think beyond that, ameliorating the tax burden on the middle class, the so-called blue collar boom that I talk quite a bit about. That’s what this is aimed for. That’s really what the payroll tax is principally about. By lifting the burdens of those middle class folks, I think we’re going to get a big growth kicker.
Larry Kudlow: (24:50)
We’ve had a terrifically strong labor market, as you know. It may stall bit or not, I’m just speculating on the challenges on the health side. But I think over time, we’ll make it up with much better economic growth. And I will remind also that later on, way down the road, probably later this summer or early fall, we will unveil another package of tax cut and tax reform proposals. But yeah, it’s a bold proposal. And this is a bold President. I think it’s paid off.
If you were to make it permanent, can you back bill from general revenue to make up for… I mean, in fiscal year ’21, Social Security, unemployment insurance and Medicare Part A revenues, are $1.23 trillion. Can you find that money somewhere else?
Larry Kudlow: (25:36)
I’d just say, we’re not talking about Medicare at this point. By the way, the answer’s yes, you can back bill it. That has been done before, because we’ve had other payroll tax cuts, and you mentioned one of them in 2010 or 2011. So the answer to that is yes. And the answer is, we will always maintain a solvent Social Security system.
Larry Kudlow: (25:58)
But you know, tax reform is very important. Economic growth is very important. Incentives for middle and lower income workers are very important. And I would just add, in terms of the boldness of this president’s policies, despite what some of our critics think, actually, it’s the middle and lower middle people that have done the best in wage growth terms. And I think this is absolutely consistent. This lifts tax burdens on the middle class. I think it’s absolutely consistent with his earlier policies.
Michael Pence: (26:32)
Let me also say John, if I can, that the other piece of this is what the doctors have said to us. What the experts have said, is if you’re sick, if you have reason to suspect that you may have coronavirus, we want you to stay home. And the president’s absolutely adamant working with the Congress or using his executive authority to ensure that hourly workers, people working for small or medium sized businesses that don’t currently have paid family leave, will be able to stay home and be confident that they’re not losing a paycheck. I think every American can identify with that concern.
Michael Pence: (27:09)
We are going to work forward. Whether we do it legislatively or the President has some resources in his executive authority to act, we’re going to work to make sure that hourly workers don’t feel like you have to go to work sick because you’re risking a paycheck. Get home, stay home. Take those couple of weeks to get better. Eamon.
Thank you Mr. Vice President. I want to drill down on something that Larry just said, though. Because in 2018, according to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, federal payroll taxes generated $1.17 trillion, which is an enormous figure. Larry, you’re suggesting that you can make that up from general revenue. Where are you going to get $1 trillion from?
Larry Kudlow: (27:51)
You know, let us put the proposal out in concrete details and flesh that out, and we’ll have much better answers. Right now, I want to stay in my lane. I think the health story, the coronavirus story, is very, very important here. We will do the best we can, Eamon, to give you the specific plans and details once we’ve fleshed them out.
Mr. Vice President. Mr. Vice President.
Michael Pence: (28:13)
What about the increased testing capacity? We’re still seeing reports of severe rationing in many cases because of the limited supply. It appears to be close to impossible for average Americans to get tested without being hospitalized first. So when can the American people expect to see these test kits available at doctors’ offices, at urgent care, admitting clinics, that sort of thing. Specifically, planning.
Michael Pence: (28:36)
Well, I’m going to have the Secretary step forward and address that. But let me say, we’ve made great progress over the last week. A million tests are in the field. Every state lab in America can do coronavirus tests. If you’re concerned that you have coronavirus, your doctor can contact the state lab, can have a test processed. By the end of this week, another four million tests will be distributed.
Michael Pence: (29:02)
But to your very important question, we’re working day by day with the largest commercial labs in America. We had some good discussions today with outside experts as well, who said that when the President brought the commercial labs in, he did exactly the right thing. Because it’s those big companies that have logistics infrastructure all over the country, have labs all over the country, that can distribute the tests, process the tests. Whether it’s Quest or whether it’s LabCorp. We believe that in the days and weeks ahead, we’re going to continue to see the availability of tests dramatically rise, and we’re driving toward that every day. Mr. Secretary, did you want to add to that?
Secretary Azar: (29:43)
Sure. Maybe Dr. Redfield can add in also. So by the end of this weekend, we had 1.1 million tests that were actually shipped. We have another one million that are either in transit or waiting for orders. So we actually have a surplus capacity already of tests that had been produced. And as the vice president said, by the end of this week, there will be another four million tests. So the tests are out there. The tests are in every public health lab in the country. They’re in hospitals, they’re in labs.
Secretary Azar: (30:13)
But I think there’s a false premise in your question, which is the notion that just because I as a person say, “Oh, I’d like to be tested for the novel coronavirus.” I should be going to a minute clinic or some other facility, and just walking in saying, “Give me my test, please.” That’s not how diagnostic testing works in the United States or frankly, almost anywhere in the world.
President Trump said on Friday, that anyone who wants to get tested can get tested.
Secretary Azar: (30:38)
We’ve always been clear. If their doctor or public health physician believes they should be tested. It needs to always be clinically indicated to receive a test. So it’s a false premise. Go to your doctor if you… First, actually, don’t go to your doctor. Call your doctor’s office if you believe you may have the novel coronavirus. Call the clinic, call the hospital. Call the doctor’s office so that you don’t just walk right in. Follow their infection control procedures for doing that. And then, they will decide working with you, whether a test is appropriate to be done.
Secretary Azar: (31:14)
But there are millions of tests out there now, and as the vice president said, with Quest and LabCorp getting it at the doctor’s office, swabbing, their distribution and transport system… It’s going to be an even better closer to the patient experience as I promised, as I talked to you on Saturday when we met together.
Michael Pence: (31:32)
That’s very good. And to answer you, I’m going to ask Dr. Berks to speak to this too, because she’s just done a tremendous job bringing our commercial labs to bear on this. But to your other point, the President directed us to essentially change the criteria that CDC was giving labs around the country. We heard from governors around the country that people that were only mildly symptomatic were being told that they couldn’t be tested. We changed that. We changed that-
Michael Pence: (32:03)
Were told that they couldn’t be tested. We changed that. We changed that description and so as the President said, anyone who, on a doctor’s order, wants to be tested can at a doctor’s indication be tested now. We’re working to fill that need and we’re making great progress every single day, but I wanted Dr. Birx to speak to it as well.
Dr. Birx: (32:21)
Yeah. I just wanted to talk to you briefly about what happened in decreasing barriers. I’ve been a lab person, I’ve been a vaccine developer, I’ve been a doctor, I’ve been all those things, but I’ve never in my lifetime of government service have worked with the CDC in a way that every time the state or local government calls and says, I have this barrier, I need a modification to the regulations that has happened almost daily and the reason we have commercial labs willing to step in immediately is because the FDA has created that ability and posted on their website, I don’t know if you’ve been there, this unbelievable waiver system and the clear definitions there. Every single hospital, every single University can utilize this testing algorithm. And that’s highly unusual, but it’s also what’s bringing the super large high throughput companies to the table. And this has been unique for me to be able to see this unbelievable dialogue between what states need, what local governments need and federal government being responsive with changing those regulations. And that has been really wonderful to watch.
Michael Pence: (33:38)
Thank you Dr. Birx. Can I get you, right here.
Speaker 1: (33:41)
Yes. I wanted to ask, I guess the administration has really touted the success of the travel ban on China and Iran. Why has it not extended those bans to South Korea or Japan or Italy? And is it still under consideration or has the administration really shifted to mitigation from containment?
Michael Pence: (34:01)
Well, I’m going to let Dr. Birx speak to that in a moment, but there is no question, as Dr. Fauci said just a few days ago, we would be in a very different place if President Trump had not suspended all travel from China. And we would also, I suspect, be in a very different place if we hadn’t issued travel advisories for portions of Italy, or portions of South Korea and initiated a screening of all passengers on all direct flights into the United States from both of those countries. I will tell you, we had a very thorough discussion today, the prospect of recommending to the President additional travel advisories. What we’re doing particularly, as Dr. Fauci said, is we’re following the facts and we’re going to bring those recommendations forward in the time and manner that we as the White House Coronavirus Task Force determine are appropriate, but let me tell you, it is literally a day to day consideration and we’re going to continue to put the health and safety of America first. Dr. Birx, did you want to amplify that?
Dr. Birx: (35:18)
I think that was perfectly said.
Michael Pence: (35:19)
How about you?
Speaker 2: (35:25)
Thank you. Tom Bossert, who used to be a part of this administration had an op ed where he basically said that the U.S. has 10 days before hospitals could be overrun. He recommended that schools be shut down for maybe eight weeks? What does the administration think about that? Does it agree that the U.S. could be at the point where there could be a turning point in the next 10 days or so? And what about keeping schools open? Should they be kept open?
Michael Pence: (35:56)
Well, let me say the recommendations that you have and that every American now has @coronavirus.gov apply to every jurisdiction in the country, every state and every community, irrespective of whether or not there’s been a Coronavirus case established. I will tell you that we’re working very closely with California, Washington, New York, Florida, to develop community specific recommendations for those areas where we have had what is known as community spread, a number of Coronavirus cases that appear that it’s being transmitted in the community. In the next 24 hours, working with those states, we’ll be publishing CDCs recommendations for what ought to be done. But I want to turn it over to Dr. Fauci to tell you that we really think the most important thing here is that we continue to bring the facts forward to the American people and that our proposals and our recommendations, well, all of these apply to everybody in the United States and it’ll help reduce the infection rate of the Coronavirus that for those communities that are being impacted, we’re going to develop specific recommendations that’ll make the most sense for them. Dr Fauci.
Speaker 2: (37:18)
Thank you. Dr. Fauci can you wait until there’s community spread to make some of these decisions?
Dr. Anthony Fauci: (37:27)
Well, it depends on the degree of community spread. I mean community spread could be just a small amount or you could start to see multiple generations, but getting to your individual question that everything is on the table for consideration. So, the idea that we’re not closing all, I mean I think for the country right now to say we’re going to close all the schools in the country, I don’t think would be appropriate. Would school closures be appropriate depending upon not whether you have already the horse is out of the barn, but when you start to see we’re getting a little bit danger here, so let’s do it.
Dr. Anthony Fauci: (38:02)
So, it’s incorrect to say now everything has happened bad, let’s close the school and it’s incorrect to say let’s just blanket close the schools in the entire country tonight. I don’t think that that would be appropriate, but I do think it would be appropriate to carefully try and do things like closing, but there’s other things besides closing to do real mitigation sometime before you think you really need it. That gets back to what I said a few moments ago about where the puck is going to be, but you want to make sure you’re not so far ahead that you overshoot.
Michael Pence: (38:35)
Great. Great. You.
Speaker 3: (38:38)
Just real quick, should the President stop shaking hands with people? He just did it at the Medal of Freedom ceremony a few moments ago. On this sign up here it says you should stop handshaking if you’re at your workplace, in your school or in commercial establishments, should the President set that example? I notice you’ve been opting for the elbow bump. I’ve been shaking hands too. What do you make of that? Is that necessary do you think at this point?
Michael Pence: (39:04)
Well, look, as the President has said in our line of work, you shake hands when someone wants to shake your hand and I expect the President will continue to do that. I’ll continue to do it. What this is is a broad recommendation for Americans, but a really good recommendation is to wash your hands often and all the experts tell me that while people want to get the various sanitizing lotions, washing your hands with hot soap and water for 20 seconds is just as good as any lotion you can buy.
Michael Pence: (39:43)
So, move on. You right there. How about one or two more.
Speaker 4: (39:50)
Is it a plan to coordinate a response with other countries?
Michael Pence: (39:54)
I’m sorry. Say again.
Speaker 4: (39:54)
Is it a plan to coordinate a response with other countries in the continent, President Trump met President from Brazil, Bolsonaro, this weekend. Did they talk about Coronavirus?
Michael Pence: (40:04)
I know that they spoke about a broad range of issues and I’m confident the Coronavirus was discussed. What I can tell you is that our focus is on the health and wellbeing of the American people. We’re going to continue to communicate with nations across this hemisphere and across the country, but what the President’s given us as a mission of the White House Coronavirus task force is to see to the health and wellbeing of the American people and we’ll continue to make recommendations to do just that. How about one more.
Speaker 5: (40:42)
Thank you Mr. Vice President.
Speaker 6: (40:44)
Mr. Vice President, two questions. One on Washington state, they made a request of the strategic stockpile for, I think it said 233,000 masks and they received half of that. I’m wondering if that report is inaccurate, please speak to it. And secondly, on cruise lines, are you looking at a bailout from cruise lines? Several of these companies are tax exempt.
Speaker 5: (41:11)
Larry’s waving you off.
Secretary Azar: (41:11)
So, they got half of the shipment from the strategic national stockpile initially and then when the Vice President actually went out to the state of Washington, that’s when the second half of the shipment arrived. But I have spoken directly with Governor Inslee with whom we’ve had a superb working relationship and he has informed me that there are some additional personal protective equipment needs that a couple of their hospitals have and we’re working through the strategic national stockpile to make sure we are directing and fulfilling shipments to them as needed.
Michael Pence: (41:40)
All right. I want to echo again, our gratitude to Governor Inslee and all the health officials in the state of Washington. I was there last week, our teams are working very closely together. We’ll follow up on that public report that the secretary has indicated. But look, as I said, in the next 24 hours, we will be working with not only Washington state, California with New York, with Florida, and unveiling our recommendations, CDCs recommendations to those areas that have been impacted by a community spread. And then we’ll continue to come alongside those communities to do everything in our power to mitigate the spread. But let me just say again, as a resource, thank you all, we’ll be back here again tomorrow. Coronavirus.gov practical information for every American, details for state labs that may yet have questions about performing their own tests. We have specifics, enzymes, agents, ingredients that where they can be acquired and how for the performance of Coronavirus tests. But for every American, I just want to say again, remember the risks to the average American of contracting, the Coronavirus remains low…
Speaker 7: (42:56)
How do we know that?
Michael Pence: (42:56)
But however, the risk to senior citizens with serious underlying chronic health conditions is very significant and it’s important for all of us to continue to take all the steps necessary to look after the most vulnerable, to look after our health and I’m confident that we’ll get through this together.
Speaker 7: (43:20)
Will we ever have drive through testing like in Korea? Dr. Fauci, will we have drive through testing like in Korea?