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

President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence held a 1 hour and 45-minute press conference beginning at about 4:15 this evening. They were joined by FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President said they are working hard to get additional materials to New York, and he has spoken with Governor Cuomo.
  2. They are taking similar actions in Louisiana and Dallas.
  3. They are coordinating supply deliveries to the areas that need it the most.
  4. This week and the next will be the toughest, with many deaths expected.
  5. The President urged “certain media outlets to stop spreading false fears and rumors.”
  6. Many hospital administrators are saying that supplies are meeting essential needs.
  7. He is adding military personnel to supplement the states – soldiers and medical personnel. No one has seen a battle like this one since 1917.
  8. There are areas not experiencing high levels of positive cases requesting supplies beyond what they need. We are a backup.
  9. He spoke today with the heads of the major sports leagues, who would all like to get back to their games.
  10. FEMA and HHS have ordered 180 million masks. A number of Defense Production Act provisions are being instituted.
  11. States are being asked for daily updates on supplies of ventilators and masks. Some have more than they need.
  12. FEMA, HHS, and DoD are developing resources within the next 24 hours utilizing revised criteria. The goal is to stay several days ahead of the needs in each state.
  13. He spoke today with Senator Boozman (R-AR) regarding farm conditions and the food supply.
  14. FDA has a Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program. FDA is looking at treatments derived from human blood. Hydroxychloroquine is going into the strategic national stockpile with 29 million doses. India is giving serious consideration to releasing what they produce.
  15. Vaccines are 14-16 months down the road.
  16. Gilead Sciences is entering phase 3 with remdesivir.
  17. Economic relief is being provided to American businesses. So far 28,000 loans have been processed. SBA has clarified that houses of worship are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program.
  18. If we run out of money for the Employer Retention Program, we will immediately ask Congress for more money.
  19. The State Department has coordinated the return of 40,000 Americans from abroad – 400 flights from 75 countries.
  20. The President urged Americans to keep following the guidelines to slow the spread.
  21. The President was asked if the fact that the virus is unpredictable is an argument for a national stay-in-place requirement. The President said he does not think so since there are different cases in different areas.
  22. He was asked about suggestions that there may be a second Task Force to deal with future needs. He said that it is being thought about, and he wants to move to open up the country.
  23. He was asked to elaborate on his call with sports league leaders. He said that they want to see people back at games as soon as we can. Eventually people will be able to occupy seats at arenas.
  24. He was asked about contingency plans for the Republican National Convention. There are none. He expects the convention to go ahead as planned.
  25. With respect to the next relief package, what was not in the stimulus package he would like to see. He said more money may be needed for small business. Tax deductions for meals and entertainment would be helpful to restaurants and sports leagues. Corporations will send their executives, and bring back life to restaurants.
  26. Eight Republican governors still will not issue stay-at-home orders. Fauci supports such orders. The President was asked why he does not tell the governors to issue these orders. The number of cases in South Carolina and Utah were raised as examples. The President said that he wants the governors to run their own states, and the cited numbers are small relative to those states’ populations. He might take different action if there were to be serious outbreaks.
  27. The President says people should follow mitigation efforts, but also says the cure should not be worse than the problem. Which is it? He said we need to get the country open. We are paying people to stay home and that is not the nature of Americans.
  28. The President was asked about Governor Cuomo saying that 1,000 ventilators are coming from China. The President said that two of his friends brought the ventilators, and Governor Cuomo didn’t mention that. The Governor asked for 40,000 ventilators, and had the chance to get 16,000 a few years ago, which he did not do. He repeated what has been given to New York by the federal government.
  29. Given that medical professionals and manufacturers are saying that there may not be enough ventilators, the President was asked if it might be time to level with the American people about the concern? He said it could be, but repeated that some may have overstated their needs. We are mobilized and ready to go.

Summary of FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn’s remarks and questions:

  1. Commissioner Hahn said an emergency use authorization for hydroxychloroquine was provided last week. Usage priorities have been set for clinical trials and general use by physicians for prescription if appropriate. FDA wants to be sure the drug is in circulation in the supply chain for other needs.
  2. With respect to the convalescent plasma program set up on Friday, FDA is looking for the results of transferring immunoglobulins from a person who has recovered to someone who is sick to assess the results. IN response to a further question he said that this is a routine procedure. The plasma has proteins that have antibodies. It does not have to be within families. Since last Tuesday FDA has allowed laboratories to this on a compassionate use basis. They are working with the Red Cross, and are planning to scale up.
  3. Hahn if the antibody test will determine when people can go back to work. He said it is a tool that can be used. He was then asked if it could be scaled up. He said that the regulatory flexibility provided a couple weeks ago is helping and he believes it could be scaled up quickly.

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

  1. Fauci said that on returning to some degree of normalcy we will see the death rate going up. We may see deaths going up but will be looking at the mitigation effects on new cases. Is mitigation working? Places like China where there has been strict mitigation and in Washington show that this mitigation is working. Physical separation is the most important tool.
  2. What is the plan if there is a second wave of the virus? Fauci said what we have to have in place is the capability to do containment when we see it. Test, identify, isolate, and do contact tracing.
  3. Fauci had said the he knew the 15 days would be enough. He was asked about his confidence regarding the 30 days. He said that if we do it in a proactive way as a baseline, he is confident we will see a turning of the curve. It is impossible to say if it is enough, but mitigation works.

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

  1. Birx was asked about the reproductive value of the virus. She said the modelers are reevaluating the models in light of new data. We won’t know how valid the models are until we move through the epidemic. We are now looking at the number of tests, the number of patients in ICUs, and the number of recoveries. There are an equal number of states with less than 5% positive. States are mitigating and making it work. Eighteen states have the largest outbreaks. States in the middle are trying to figure out if they are making it out or not. Spain and Italy are seeing cases drop. In our models we are 10 to 12 days behind them. We are looking at testing in more comprehensive ways as a result of the Abbott tests.
  2. Birx was asked what the next two weeks mean numerically. The President also asked her what will be our worst day. She said that looking at the places that are most difficult – Detroit, New Orleans, Suffolk County in New York – they are all on the upside in mortality. She is predicting the next 6 to 7 days will be the most difficult. Each community is different. If the mitigation is working in New York, cases will go down but mortality will still be up since mortality lags the number of cases.

Summary of the Vice President’s remarks:

  1. Vice President Pence said the stories about what healthcare workers are doing every day are incredibly moving. They are substituting for family members who cannot come visit those who are ill or dying.
  2. The Vice President said it will be a difficult week. Testing will increase. Even though we are likely to see losses rising, do not be discouraged. People whose loved ones are dying now contracted the virus two weeks or more ago before the guidelines went into effect.

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