President Donald Trump and Vice President Pence held a nearly 90-minute press conference beginning at about 7:00 this evening. They were joined by White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx, FEMA Supply Chain Task Force Leader Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie, and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci.
Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:
- The President sent well wishes to British Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
- He said that reported coronavirus deaths in New York are lower than the previous day. This is a good thing and perhaps a sign of a decrease.
- We now have an all-out military operation, and 50 states have been approved for major disaster declarations.
- He is prepared to use Hospital Ship Comfort for the virus if needed.
- As of Tuesday, 3,0000 military personnel will be deployed.
- He reviewed the provision of supplies by FEMA over the last 7 days. An additional 600,000 N95 masks will be provided to New York tomorrow. Additionally, 200,000 masks will go to Suffolk County. There will be 2,500 hospital beds at McCormick Place in Chicago. It will be staffed by military personnel. Governor Pritzker has not been able to do so.
- Washington State has returned 400 ventilators that can be redeployed.
- There have been 1,670,000 tests. The Abbott rapid test is being produced and distributed.
- The federal government is stockpiling and purchasing 29 million hydroxychloroquine pills. What do we have to lose by trying it?
- Billions of dollars of small business loans have been processed.
- There are now 182 countries affected by the virus.
- The President was asked if additional compensation might be provided to doctors and nurses. He said it is being discussed but looking for it at the conclusion of the incident, not now.
- The Surgeon General has said this will be one of the saddest weeks anticipating the number of deaths, more than Pearl Harbor and 9/11 in total. The President is talking about the numbers stabilizing. How do the American people deal with these different messages? The President said he does not believe the messages are that different. He hopes the situation will be better over the next two weeks.
- How does recent data change the projections of 100,00 to 240,000 deaths? The President said he hopes to stay under these numbers, with a goal to stay under the minimum number.
- The President was asked about his promotion of hydroxychloroquine, and if this is effectively medical advice, especially when he says he will take it. The President asked what is there to lose? Given that it has been used previously for other matters it doesn’t kill people. There have been good tests here and in France. There isn’t time for elaborate testing. He is not acting as a doctor. People can do what they want, but there have been some good signs. He emphasized the value of “right to try”.
- The President was then asked why not let science speak for itself? The President said he wants people to have the option to try it. If it works it is good. In case it works, we want to have it.
- The President was asked how he might feel about members of the Task Force wearing masks. He said he would be fine with it if they want to do so. It is voluntary
- The President was asked about the IHME model being accurate on deaths, but wrong on the number of hospital beds needed. The President said that we have said fewer beds are needed than some have suggested. So this is good, and also means that there will be fewer patients and a lower need for ventilators.
- With respect to stimulus checks, the President was asked about a comment from Speaker Pelosi that more might be needed in the next bill. The President said he liked the concept, and repeated his support for infrastructure activity as part of a next bill.
- The President was asked that in his comments today it seems that he is embracing taking a leading role in the distribution of supplies. The President said, no, but some people cannot do it, specifically mentioning Illinois. He said we are meant to be a backup but have taken on a bigger role.
Summary of the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah Birx’s remarks and questions:
- Birx said there are hopeful signs in Italy and Spain with the number of deaths and cases declining.
- New York, New Jersey, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Michigan are the biggest states. The District of Columbia is now visible as an area of concern. In New York, serology is showing the positive cases are starting to decline. There are fewer than 50 cases per 100,000 in 38 states. She reviewed data for Oakland and Wayne Counties, Michigan, and Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, Louisiana.
- Spain and Italy have completed four weeks of mitigation.
- Birx was asked about the potential for changes in projections for deaths. She said that we are happy because Italy and Spain are coming across their apex. We can look like that. She said the Task Force received another update today from an independent modeler which came in close to the 100,000 projection.
Summary of FEMA Supply Chain Task Force Leader Rear Admiral John Polowczyk’s remarks and questions:
- Three additional flights bringing supplies arrived today. In response to a question he said they came from Asia.
- They are working to align the supply chain with areas of need. He described conversations with medical personnel in Michigan and Chicago, working to align priorities by point of care.
- FEMA is working to give them weeks, not just days, of supplies.
- They are working to push out millions of doses of hydroxychloroquine to local pharmacies so doctors can write prescriptions.
- He was asked how he made sure there is not a run on the supplies when they arrive. He said they go to a loading dock, and there are invoices. It is made sure at that point that the supplies go to the proper recipients.
- He was asked about the potential for China sending faulty equipment, as has happened in other countries. He said that we are going to facilities to inspect product, clearing it before it comes here.
Summary of Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie’s remarks:
- Secretary Wilkie said that the VA has a 4th mission: supporting the nation in a time of national emergency.
- The VA is prepared to offer facilities, and has opened up 100 beds in New York, and New Jersey, and is taking similar action at Shreveport, Louisiana.
- He has also given instructions to implement the 4th mission in Michigan.
Summary of the Vice President’s remarks and questions:
- Vice President Pence said that additional DoD and HHS personnel are being provided to New York City.
- He spoke with Governor Murphy of New Jersey, Governor John Bel Edwards of Louisiana, Governor Whitmer of Michigan, Mayor Dugan of Detroit (making hydroxychloroquine available), Governor Pritzker of Illinois, and the Mayor of Chicago.
- He appreciates the Governors of Oregon and Washington for sending ventilators to New York.
- The Vice President was asked how many of the rapid tests have been deployed. He said that some were used for the first responders in Detroit. Abbott is producing 50,000 per day, and there are 18,000 around the country.
Summary of National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci’s questions:
- Fauci was asked how do we balance the difficult times with the President’s optimism about reopening. Dr. Fauci said he does not believe the two are contradictory. It has to do with the lag between cases and the number of deaths. Deaths lag behind the number of cases and we can see a difference in two and a half weeks. The best tool we have is mitigation.
- He was also asked how many asymptomatic cases might there be. He said he does not know, and he expects that it might be 25 to 50% of the reported cases, but has no scientific data to support that belief.