4/3/20 OFW Law Daily COVID-19 News Conference Summary

President Donald Trump held a 90-minute press conference beginning at about 5:20 this evening. He was joined by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, HHS Secretary Alex Azar, Surgeon General of the United States Vice Admiral Jerome Adams, and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, MD.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President acknowledged his meeting with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy.
  2. He said his heart goes out to New York. Louisiana, Michigan, and New Hersey are facing problems. He will not spare any resource in helping New York. The Javits Center is being put into play.
  3. The Centers for Disease Control is announcing additional steps. Recognizing the potential for asymptomatic transfers, CDC is now recommending a non-medical cloth covering, which will be voluntary. It can be a face mask that is easily washed and reused, and is not a medical or surgical grade mask. The mask does not replace social distancing. The President said that he has personally decided not to wear one.
  4. There is no barrier to any American seeking treatment. He repeated that Blue Cross will not have any copays for patients for the next 60 days,
  5. Hospitals treating the uninsured will be reimbursed with funds from the CARES Act.
  6. The Defense Production Act will be used to prevent the export of supplies by unscrupulous actors and profiteers. The Secretary of HHS is working with FEMA. He is also using the Act to stop hoarding and price gouging, giving materials to healthcare workers.
  7. The Department of Defense is providing 8.1 million N95 respirators. So far 200,000 have been sent to New York, and more will be sent.
  8. He spoke with the two largest health systems in New Orleans who say they have enough ventilators. They say they need 230,000 surgical gowns, and they will have them tomorrow.
  9. The National Guard will help with the delivery of supplies.
  10. The Corps of Engineers has assessed 150 sites in many states for potential use.
  11. The effectiveness of hydroxychloroquine continues to be assessed, now having been provided to 1,500 people.
  12. The Paycheck Protection Program has gotten underway, with $3.5 billion in loans processed. SBA and Treasury have been working around the clock.
  13. He met with various energy company executives and told them that space will be made available in the Strategic Petroleum Reserve for American Oil.
  14. The President was asked why he will not wear a mask. He said it may help people but he doesn’t think he has a personal need as he sits behind the Resolute Desk.
  15. Fauci had recommended that every state establish stay at home requirements. The President was asked if he agrees. He said he leaves that to the individual governors.
  16. He was asked what came out of the meeting with the oil executives. The President said there is an over-abundance of oil right now. It will take a long time to work out the massive amounts of gas and oil that are available around the world. He was later asked if the oil executives had asked for a bail-out. He said they had not. There had been a discussion, including talks about tariffs.
  17. The President was asked about his claim that no one could see the pandemic coming. But Secretary Azar at a Biodefense Summit in April, 2019 said that a pandemic flu was what might keep him up at night. Who dropped the ball? The President said that he always knew that a pandemic could be a big problem. He had heard about it for a long time. The Secretary was talking about a pandemic in general, not this one.
  18. The President was asked if he was preparing why don’t we have enough supplies. He said that previous administrations left the shelves empty. He included the military with “no ammunition”.
  19. The President was asked about using the Defense Production Act to prevent exports. He said that if Spain and Italy had long standing orders those materials should go out. He was then asked if we stop exports aren’t we at risk of other countries imposing their own export limits. He said that states should have gotten supplies previously, and the federal government has bought a great amount of supplies that have gone to the states.
  20. The President was asked about Jared Kushner’s comments that the stockpile is “our” stockpile. What did he mean? Is it not for the states? The President said that “our” is for the US and we can then distribute it. The federal government needs it, too. When pressed if it was a stockpile for the states he said that they should have their own stockpiles and states have been given a lot. They had a chance to get supplies but chose not to.
  21. With respect to procurement he was asked if the federal government should be a “traffic cop” for supplies. He said the government is not a traffic cop, but a humanitarian cop.
  22. He was asked about rumors that some of the personal payment checks will not go out for four months. He responded with comments about problems with state unemployment systems.
  23. The President was asked about the coverage of treatment costs for the 11 million who are here illegally. He said this will be discussed later.
  24. The President was asked about Governor Cuomo’s claims that New York is days away from running out of ventilators. He said New York should have done more, and we are doing our best. There are lots of other states that have needs to answer.
  25. The President was asked about a phase 4 stimulus bill and whether he is talking with Speaker Pelosi. He said that he has other people who talk with her and he will speak with her when it is important. He restated his belief that a phase 4 bill should include infrastructure.
  26. With respect to projections for deaths, the President said he wants to come in way under the model projections.
  27. He was asked if the general election will happen in the fall and if every state should be prepared for mail-in voting. He said yes, there will be an election. He does not believe there should be mail-in ballots, saying that he believed it is a great opportunity for cheating, and expressing his support for Voter ID.

Summary of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s remarks:

  1. Leader McCarthy thanked the President for his actions on behalf of California, and said they are all working closely with Governor Newsom.
  2. He said the Bank of America today had 10,000 loans in 2 hours, and said many small businesses will hire people back.

Summary of the Vice President’s remarks and questions:

  1. Vice President Pence said there is evidence in some areas that the guidelines are having a positive effect. California and Washington are at a steady but low rate.
  2. There are outbursts in New York State, Chicago, New Orleans, and Boston.
  3. Thus far 1.4 million tests have been conducted with 266,000 positive results.
  4. Abbott has provided 18,000 machines across the country. FEMA is getting 1,200 more.
  5. FEMA has approved an antibody test developed by Cellex.
  6. There was a teleconference with commercial retailers, in which they were thanked for embracing the coronavirus guidelines.
  7. An Air Bridge Flight arrived from China to Columbus, Ohio.
  8. Medicaid and Medicare have been expanded to include coronavirus testing.

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

  1. Birx thanked people for their discipline and determination. She said that we are just 3 weeks in following the self-distancing guidelines. She appreciates the work in California and Washington, which shows that their curve is different than other areas.
  2. She said they are now working at a much more granular level, being in contact with individual hospitals.
  3. She agrees with Governor Cuomo regarding the support for areas that are impacted.
  4. She said this week and next week will be incredibly difficult.
  5. They are watching Chicago and Detroit. They are concerned about Colorado, Washington DC, and Pennsylvania.
  6. Birx was asked if enough improvements have been made with social distancing so that the models will be improved. She spoke about monitoring how the virus has moved through the population, including other countries, and looking at http://www.healthdata.org/ each night for updated information. All can be changed by our behavior, and can be impacted if we have another major exposure like New York.

Summary of HHS Secretary Alex Azar’s remarks and questions:

  1. Secretary Azar spoke about testing and treatment for the uninsured. He said $1 billion from the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is being rolled out, and that the CARES Act provides another $100 billion for hospitals. He said a portion will be used to cover the costs of providing care to the uninsured. It is conditioned on preventing balance billing. Hospitals will be reimbursed at the Medicaid rate. More specifics will soon be provided.
  2. They are working to distribute funds in a fast, fair, and transparent manner.
  3. If people have lost their insurance, there is a special enrollment period on the healthcare exchange. People may be eligible for Medicaid.
  4. HHS is looking at experimental therapies. Oracle is donating a platform about how patients are responding. This is an effort to get data quickly. Doctors can sign up at https://covid19.oracle.com/.
  5. With respect to the Secretary’s comments about a pandemic and the April, 2019 Biodefense Summit, he said that efforts have been made for the past 15 years. SARS and MERS were nothing like what we are seeing today. There has been great attention under President Trump who issued an executive order last fall and took other action.
  6. Secretary Azar responded to a question about 10 million people losing their jobs and how the stimulus money helps them. He repeated his previous statements about the special enrollment period for them and how the $100 billion in the CARES Act can be used to provide assistance for the uninsured with hospitals not being allowed to bill these people.

Summary of Surgeon General of the United States Vice Admiral Jerome Adams’ questions:

  1. Surgeon General Adams was asked about the fact that the CDC, WHO, and his office originally recommended against masks, saying they would not have a significant impact. He responded that they always had recommended that symptomatic people wear masks. They now know that asymptomatic and presymptomatic individuals can spread the virus. They recommend a cloth face covering in public where self-distancing may be difficult – grocery stores, pharmacies. Social distancing remains key.
  2. CDC recommends masks as an additional voluntary action, but not using N95 or surgical masks. CDC is always looking at data, and new recommendations come as evidence dictates.

Summary of Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield, MD’s questions:

  1. With respect to the President not wearing a mask, Dr. Redfield said CDC continues to embrace social distancing. They are constantly looking at new data. A person cannot be infected beyond 6 feet. The purpose of covering is an adjunctive mitigation strategy.

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