5/11/20 OFW Law Daily COVID-19 News Conference Summary

President Donald Trump held a 1-hour press conference beginning at 4:15 this afternoon. He was joined by Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, M.D., and the Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Brad Smith.

Summary of the President’s remarks and questions:

  1. The President said the purpose of today’s press conference was to provide an update on testing capacity.
  2. He said he has marshalled every resource at the country’s disposal. Testing capacity is a core element of reopening America.
  3. FDA has authorized 92 different tests over 3 months.
  4. We are now doing over 300,000 tests per day, and will pass 10 million tests conducted by the end of the week – double the number of any other country.
  5. This past Friday FDA authorized a new antigen testing method proposed by Quidel Corp.
  6. $11 billion is being provided to states, territories, and tribes in support of testing. He went to review the type of support provided to states for improving testing capacity. Collection supplies will be provided to states.
  7. Testing is being expanded in underserved communities. There will be more than 300 sites by the end of the week, and retailers have plans for hundreds more over the next 30 days.
  8. There has been partnering with the private sector to coordinate the delivery of more than 90 million N95 masks.
  9. He expects a pent up demand when the country reopens. We will be transitioning to greatness in the 4th quarter and next year.
  10. The President was asked where the system broke down in allowing leading government health officials to be exposed to the virus. The President said the system did not break down. The staffer tested negative the prior day, and the three officials have tested negative themselves, and decided to self-quarantine.
  11. The President was asked when Americans across the country will be able to be tested every day, like people in the White House. The President claimed it will be “very soon” and it is because we have the best equipment.
  12. He was then asked if people should not return to work until greater testing capability is available. The President said he leaves this to the individual governors. Americans are following hygiene practices and social distancing. The number of new cases around the country are going down.
  13. He was asked about reports that Chinese hackers are trying to steal technology related to vaccine research. The President replied “So what else is new?”. He repeated that the virus could have been stopped at its source.
  14. He was asked if he supports a second round of direct payments to Americans, as may be included in the House Democrats bill. He said they are talking about it. He wants the payroll tax reduction. It is all being negotiated.
  15. The President was asked if it is a double standard that White House staff gets tested frequently when other Americans cannot get tested. He said that we can’t win because the press complains about testing either way.
  16. He was then asked how he can assure Americans that their own workplace will be safe when the White House is not. The President said only 1 person tested as positive, when hundreds of people are “pouring through” every day. He repeated that the Administration is doing a very good job on testing, and said again that everyone who wants a test can get one.
  17. The President was asked was asked about now seeing a serious problem with children who contract the virus, and what the task force may be doing about it, he said the number of children around the world is a small percentage of the total positives and they are looking into it.
  18. The President was asked what he would say to parents who want to send their children back to school. He again repeated that children are a tiny percentage of total cases, but they are looking into it. It has been on our radar for weeks.
  19. The President was reminded that the money for testing he announced today was provided by the CARES Act which was signed into law 42 days ago. He was asked if the delay in announcing the funds was a desire to suppress the official numbers of US cases and deaths as he tried to reopen the country. The President said the announcement was based on being sure that the right machines and capabilities for more complex procedures were in place first.
  20. The President was asked about models being revised to project a death toll of 137,000 by August. The President said the models have been wrong, and repeated that we are doing a very good job. He does not want to think about the potential number of deaths. He believes we saved hundreds of thousands of lives by acting early with the China travel ban.
  21. He was asked about the Vice President urging governors to have all nursing home residents tested, and was asked if this testing should be mandated instead of urged. The President said he will consider a mandate. Some governors have been very lax. All states should do it.
  22. He was asked if he is considering separating himself from the Vice President as a matter of caution. The President said the Vice President is working hard, and has been in contact with a large number of people. He is being tested, but the President will talk with the Vice President about the separation.

Summary of Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, M.D.’s remarks and questions:

  1. Giroir said it is clear that America leads the world in testing, both in quantity and diversity.
  2. We have tested more than twice the per capita rate done in South Korea.
  3. He spoke about FDA having authorized 79 diagnostic testing methods (78 nucleic and 1 antigen test which is capable of 300,000 tests per day), 25 testing devices, and 12 serology tests.
  4. Last week more than 1.9 million tests were done. The percent with positive results has been going down.
  5. There is enough testing for a phase 1 reopening.
  6. With respect to the money being provided to the states that the President announced, they are being very specific with states regarding the nature of testing locations. There will be a large contract to assure that those underserved are getting access to the tests they need.
  7. When the President was asked how testing everyone will be accomplished., Dr. Giroir said we are testing those who need diagnostics, and through conducting tracing, and surveillance. This testing is within the range of what we need. As we move into summer there are surveillance methods that will be followed. He later said again that there is sufficient testing for phase 1, and that reopening should be on a phased basis.
  8. When the President was asked was asked about now seeing a serious problem with children who contract the virus, Dr. Giroir said it is similar to the Kawasaki Syndrome. The CDC is interacting with pediatric intensive care units, and he also briefly referenced work being done by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. We know the illness can be treated, and there has been activation. It is a small percentage of total cases, but it is quite frightening.
  9. With respect to concerns about children returning to schools, Dr. Giroir said that most children do recover, but it is a serious matter and can be fatal. He suggested work should be done with parents to understand the symptoms, and there are treatments.
  10. When the President was asked why Drs. Fauci and Hahn may be self-quarantining even though they tested negative, Dr. Giroir said they tested negative on the day of the test, while the incubation period is 14 days. So they could test positive over this period and are self-quarantining in line with the CDC guidelines.

Summary of Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services Brad Smith’s remarks and questions:

  1. Smith said they are working with each state to set testing targets for May. More than 2% of each state’s population will be tested.
  2. They are working with each state to be sure they have specimen supplies. Enough has been purchased for both May and June, and there is more in reserve.
  3. They continue to work on testing capacity including testing kits. The number each state will be getting exceeds the testing goals for May. He spoke about both extraction kits and reagents.
  4. He also referenced community based testing sites.
  5. On the subject of frequent White House testing, Mr. Smith said he would not be tested if he was not coming to the White House. They are taking other precautions at HHS separate from testing.

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