3/30/20 OFW Law Daily COVID-19 News Conference Summary

President Donald Trump held a 1-hour press conference beginning at about 5:12 this evening. He was joined by HHS Secretary Alex Azar, FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Seema Verma, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, and several executives of companies detailed below.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President said that the extension of social distancing guidelines will save millions of lives. It is shared patriotic duties, and will be a challenging 30 days.
  2. Over 1 million Americans have been tested – more than any other country.
  3. The President repeated Secretary Azar’s point that 30 million hydroxychloroquine tablets will be coming from Sandoz, and 1 million chloroquine tables will be coming from Bayer.
  4. The President said that the FDA has approved N95 respirator sterilization equipment produced by Battelle, following Ohio Governor Mike DeWine’s call to the President. The company will send 2 machines to Ohio, 1to New York, 1 to Seattle, and 1 to Washington DC. The machines can disinfect 120,000 masks per day, and each mask can be disinfected up to 20 times.
  5. The Vice President has asked hospitals to report on their various capacities on a daily basis.
  6. Javits Center construction was completed today, providing 2,900 beds. The Hospital Ship Comfort with 1000 rooms arrived in New York Harbor today. Additional facilities are being provided at the State Universities at Stony Brook and Old Westbury, and the Westchester Community Center. Now 60 ambulances are being provided with 190 more to follow. FEMA has provided $1.3 billion to New York.
  7. He said that 400 ventilators are being provided to Michigan, with 300 to New Jersey, 150 to Illinois, 150 to Louisiana, and 50 to Connecticut. He also spoke about the volume of respirators, masks, surgical gloves, and gowns being provided.
  8. Ford and GE Healthcare will produce 50,000 ventilators in less than 100 days. Nine other companies are also producing units, which in turn can be sent to Italy, France, Spain, and other countries.
  9. He has activated 14,000 National Guard Troops.
  10. $100 million in medical supplies will be sent to Italy.
  11. The President introduced Darius Adamczyk (CEO, Honeywell), Debra Waller (CEO, Jockey International), Mike Lindell (CEO, My Pillow) David Taylor (CEO, Procter & Gamble), and Greg Hayes (CEO, United Technologies), who each spoke about how their companies are increasing production capacity and/or donating various items of Personal Protective Equipment.
  12. The President was asked if he expected the self-distancing guidelines to carry on or be modified. He said he expected the guidelines to remain as they are, perhaps a little bit tougher. They are having a big impact.
  13. With ventilator production increasing, the President was asked again if he can guarantee that all who need one will get one. The President said 10,000 have been kept back. Some additional are being sent to Michigan. Some can be sent to New York. Alabama has flared up. It sounds like there are a lot, but there isn’t. Ten companies at least are making ventilators. He expects there will be enough as we get to the peak. The hospital ships came in sooner than expected, and the governors are very appreciative.
  14. The President was asked if Virginia Governor Northam’s order of stay at home for 70 days was constitutional and necessary. The President said those decisions are being left to governors. People should be staying at home.
  15. He was asked if there would be a nation-wide stay at home order. He said it has been discussed. Some parts of the country are in deeper trouble. They had talked about quarantines the other day, and decided not to do so.
  16. Former FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb has provided a roadmap, suggesting that everyone should wear a mask in public. The President said that he has learned of these recommendations and they are being discussed. He could see it for a limited period of time.
  17. The President was asked what he might say to Americans who are upset that he had been downplaying this issue for the last two months. The President said we know it is going away. He wanted to keep the country calm, strong, ready to fight and win.
  18. The President was asked about our still not testing as many people per capita as other countries, e.g. South Korea. He said that we have vast areas and not packed areas like Seoul. He inherited a broken, obsolete system. The companies that have stepped up have been incredible and should be congratulated.

Summary of HHS Secretary Azar’s remarks:

  1. Secretary Azar said we are currently conducting nearly 100,000 tests per day, a level no other country has reached. He thanked both CDC and FDA for their efforts.
  2. He thanked state and local leaders who lead the testing.
  3. Many American companies are coming forward, with 20 different emergency testing plans. FDA responds within 24 hours.
  4. FDA has opened up opportunities for using these new tests.
  5. 30 million hydroxychloroquine tablets will be coming from Sandoz, and 1 million chloroquine tables will be coming from Bayer.
  6. New decontamination machines will be available to sterilize masks.

Summary of the FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn’s remarks:

Hahn spoke about the Abbott point of contact test, with its patient-centered approach. It gives you the result where you get the test. It will be available around the country providing results in 5 to 15 minutes.

  1. Normally it takes 9 to 12 months to get approval for a new product. This one was done in weeks.
  2. The most innovative and safe products come from the private sector. Abbott and FDA had worked together in this effort.

Summary of Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Seema Verma’s remarks:

  1. Administrator Verma acknowledged Doctor’s Day and offered thanks to all caregivers,
  2. She said we are engaged in a war against an invisible enemy.
  3. CMS is waiving a wide range of regulations. She spoke about hospitals without walls, using hotels, gyms, and surgical centers with excess capacity; changes in Medicare to facilitate testing; the expansion of the workforce with a broad range of flexibility to let healthcare workers work at the top of their licenses; allowing hospitals to provide more support including childcare, meals, and laundry services.
  4. She described efforts to expand telehealth, including paying for doctors to make phone calls, and allowing emergency rooms to use telehealth.
  5. She also spoke about advance payments to healthcare providers experiencing cash flow problems.

Summary of the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx’s questions:

  1. Birx was asked if there are more things we should be doing to not exceed the 100,000 to 200,000 fatalities model. She said that all states are moving in the same curve. States still have an opportunity to follow the recommendations.

Summary of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s questions:

  1. Fauci was asked if we are prepared for and expect a second cyclical virus. He said he would anticipate one. But it will be a “totally different ballgame”. We will have the ability to test, to isolate, clinical trials on therapeutic intervention, vaccines on trial with multiple other candidates.

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