Brownstone » Brownstone Journal » Donald Trump’s March 16, 2020, Press Conference that Kicked Off This Catastrophe, Transcribed
Donald Trump March Press Conference

Donald Trump’s March 16, 2020, Press Conference that Kicked Off This Catastrophe, Transcribed


On March 16, 2020, President Donald Trump gathered with Deborah Birx, Anthony Fauci, and others, to announce “15 Days to Slow the Spread.” That slogan of course has become the source of ridicule nationally and internationally. 

Still, it was the start of the transformation of life in the United States for its entire population, and the inauguration of a new economic, political, and social system. It was supposed to be a short experiment in virus control but it continued all the way until the presidential election and then long after under the new regime of the new president Joseph Biden. 

This moment in history kicked off a radical upheaval of almost all aspects of economics, law, and public health, bankrupting hundreds of thousands of businesses, breaking supply chains the world over, creating a painful labor shortage, inspiring unprecedented levels of public debt accumulation, enabling a monetary inflation without modern precedent, and creating strife, division, and general anger and demoralization among the public. From a policy perspective, it paved the way for the vaccine mandates that are causing millions to lose their jobs. 

Trump’s words unleashed it all at this historic and catastrophic event, while demonstrating little regard to the Bill of Rights, historic liberties, or the experience of thousands of years of public health experience:

“My administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people. Avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts. If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus and we’re going to have a big celebration together.”

That celebration has yet to happen. In the press conference, Trump demurred when asked if businesses should close. Fauci stepped in to cite Trump’s own guidelines:  “In states with evidence of community transmission, bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate should be closed.”

We are surrounded by the economic and public-health carnage of that fateful decision taken by Trump under advisement of Birx, Fauci, and others. One can blame advisors only so much. In the end, Trump bears the responsibility as the man who came into office to “make America great” while touting his extraordinary managerial competence. The virus, on the other hand, had no regard for his past achievements, power, or political movement that gained him power. 

What follows is a full transcript of the historic moment, courtesy of Why this event is forgotten or misunderstood traces to the partisan nature of the debate over virus response: neither side apparently has the desire to point out what should be incredibly obvious: this entire episode began as a Trump administration initiative. 

Donald Trump: I’m glad to see that you’re practicing social distancing. That looks very nice. That’s very good. I want to thank everybody for being here today. This morning I spoke with the leaders of the G-7, G-7 nations and they really had a good meeting. I think it was a very, very productive meeting. I also spoke with our nation’s governors, and this afternoon we’re announcing new guidelines for every American to follow over the next 15 days. As we combat the virus, each and every one of us has a critical role to play in stopping the spread and transmission of the virus. We did this today. This was done by a lot of very talented people, some of whom were standing with me, and that’s available.

Dr. Birx will be speaking about that in just a few minutes. It’s important for the young and healthy people to understand that while they may experience milder symptoms, they can easily spread this virus and they will spread it indeed, putting countless others in harm’s way. We especially worry about our senior citizens. The White House task force meets every day and continually updates guidelines based on the fast evolving situation that this has become all over the world. It’s all over the world. It’s incredible what’s happened in such a short period of time. On the guidelines of the task force, the new modeling conducted by Dr. Birx and our consultation with governors, we’ve made the decision to further toughen the guidelines and blunt the infection now. We’d much rather be ahead of the curve than behind it and that’s what we are. Therefore, my administration is recommending that all Americans, including the young and healthy, work to engage in schooling from home when possible, avoid gathering in groups of more than 10 people.

Avoid discretionary travel and avoid eating and drinking at bars, restaurants, and public food courts. If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus and we’re going to have a big celebration altogether. With several weeks of focused action, we can turn the corner and turn it quickly and a lot of progress has been made. I’m also pleased to report today that a vaccine candidate has begun the phase one clinical trial. This is one of the fastest vaccine development launches in history, not even close. We’re also racing to develop antiviral therapies and other treatments and we’ve had some promising results, early results, but promising to reduce the severity and the duration of the symptoms. And I have to say that our government is prepared to do whatever it takes, whatever it takes we’re doing, and we’re doing it in every way. And with that I’d like to just introduce Dr. Birx, Who’s going to discuss some of the things that we strongly recommend. Thank you.

Dr. Birx: Thank you, Mr. President. I think you know, over the last months we’ve taken very bold action to stop the virus from coming to our shores. And because of that, we gained time to really get together and understand the progress across the globe of what has worked and what hasn’t worked. We now need to appeal to every single American so that they can have their role in stopping the spread of this virus. We’ve talked about things before about washing your hands, but we really want to focus on if you are sick, no matter who you are, please stay home. If someone in your household is diagnosed with this virus, the entire household should quarantine in the house to prevent spread of the virus to others. The reason we’re taking these strong and bold steps is because we know there is virus spread before you develop symptoms, and then we know that there’s a large group, we don’t know the precise percent yet that actually is asymptomatic or has such mild cases that they continue to spread the virus.

If your children are sick, please keep them home. Now, to our older population or those with preexisting medical conditions. Everyone in the household needs to focus on protecting them. Everyone in the household. I want to speak particularly to our largest generation now, our millennials. I am the mom of two wonderful millennial young women who are bright and hardworking and I will tell you what I told to them. They are the core group that will stop this virus. They are the group that communicates successfully, independent of picking up a phone. They intuitively know how to contact each others without being in large social gatherings. We’re asking all of them to hold their gatherings to under 10 people. Not just in bars and restaurants, but in homes.

We really want people to be separated at this time, to be able to address this virus as comprehensively that we cannot see, for we don’t have a vaccine or a therapeutic. The only thing we have right now is the amazing ingenuity and compassion of the American people. We’re appealing to all Americans to take these steps to protect each other and to ensure that the virus doesn’t spread. These guidelines are very specific. They’re very detailed. They will only work if every American takes this together to heart and responds as one nation and one people to stop the spread of this virus. Thank you.

Dr. Fauci: Thank you very much Dr. Birx. So just to connect with what I mentioned to you in previous discussions in this room, and Dr. Birx said it very well. That in order to be able to contain and curtail this epidemic to not reach its maximum capability, we have a two pillar approach. One of which I believe has been very effective in preventing the substantial seeding and namely the travel restrictions that we’ve discussed many times in this room. The other equally, if not more important is when you have infection in your own country, which we do, and I can read the numbers, but they’re really essentially what we’ve seen yesterday. Incremental increases both globally as well as in the United States, but the curve doing that. So therefore the kinds of things that we do are containment and mitigation. This what we’re mentioning now, the guidelines when you look at them carefully, I believe if the people in the United States take them seriously because they were based on some rather serious consideration back and forth, some may look at them and say they’re going to be really inconvenient for people.

Some will look and say, well, maybe we’ve gone a little bit too far. They were well thought out, and the thing that I want to reemphasize, and I will say it over and over again, when you’re dealing with an emerging infectious diseases outbreak, you are always behind where you think you are if you think that today reflects where you really are. That’s not word speak. It means if you think you’re here, you’re really here because you’re only getting the results. Therefore it will always seem that the best way to address it would to be doing something that looks like it might be an overreaction. It isn’t an overreaction. It’s a reaction that we feel is commensurate, which is actually going on in reality. So take a look at the guidelines, read them carefully and we hope that the people of the United States will take them very seriously because they will fail if people don’t adhere to them. We have to have, as a whole country, cooperate and to make sure these get done. Thank you.

Donald Trump: Okay, go ahead.

Speaker 1: [crosstalk 00:17:55]. Mr. President, a lot of people are concerned about how long all of this might last. Do you have any kind of estimate that if Americans really were to band together and do what the White House is suggesting, how quickly you could turn this corner?

Donald Trump: My favorite question, I ask it all the time, how many times Anthony? I think I ask him that question every day and I speak to Debra, I speak to a lot of them. I get the opinion. So it seems to me that if we do a really good job, we’ll not only hold the death down to a level that is a much lower than the other way had we not done a good job, but people are talking about July, August, something like that. So it could be right in that period of time where I say it washes through, other people don’t like that term, but it washes through.

Speaker 1: Is the new normal until the height of the summer?

Donald Trump: We’ll see what happens. But they think August, could be July. It could be longer than that. But I’ve asked that question many, many times. Yes?

Speaker 2: With that being said, Mr. President, Americans today and looking forward are living with so much anxiety and so much fear facing uncertainty right now. I’m curious, how are you talking to your own family about this? How are you talking to your youngest son? Do you empathize with this sense of anxiety? People are really scared.

Donald Trump:  I think they are very scared. I think they see that we’re doing a very professional job. We’ve been working with the governors and the frankly, the mayors, local government at every level. We have FEMA totally involved. FEMA has been … Usually we see FEMA for the hurricanes and the tornadoes. Now we have FEMA involved in this. They’ve been doing a fantastic job locally, working with people that they know because they work, like as an example, in California, in the state of Washington, they work with them a lot on other things and they’re very familiar, so they’re working on it. What you can do and all you can do is professional, totally competent. We have the best people in the world. We have really the greatest experts in the world and someday soon hopefully it’ll end and we’ll be back to where it was, but this came up … We came up so suddenly look, you were surprised. We were all surprised. We heard about it.

We heard about reports from China that something was happening and all of a sudden we did make a good decision. We closed our borders to China very quickly, very rapidly. That was … Otherwise we’d be in a very, as Tony has said numerous times, we’d be in a very bad position, much worse than we would be right now. You’re looking at what’s happening in other countries. Italy is having a very hard time, but I think that what we do, and I’ve spoken actually with my son, he says, “How bad is this?” It’s bad. It’s bad, but we’re going to, we’re going to be hopefully a best case not a worst case and that’s what we’re working for. Yes?

Speaker 3: You can clear up some confusion on two key fronts. One is about your own tests. The other is about containment efforts. Is the administration considering more aggressive containment options like a quarantine, a national curfew [crosstalk 00:21:03]?

Donald Trump: Well, we have that very much. Yeah, we have that very much and we are … We’ve been pretty aggressive. We were early with Europe but we were very, very early with China and other places and fortunately we were. And as far as containment here, we are. We’re coming out with strong suggestions and it’s becoming a little bit automatic. You look at people, they’re not doing certain things. For instance, obviously not … I wouldn’t say the restaurant business is booming and bars and grills and all. People are self-containing for to a large extent. We look forward to the day when we can get back to normal. What’s your second question?

Speaker 1: Are you considering instituting a nationwide lockdown, a nationwide quarantine? The NSC knocked that down, but there’s still some questions about how it all [crosstalk 00:21:47].

Donald Trump: At this point, not nationwide, but, well, there was some point … Some places in our nation that are not very affected at all, but we may look at certain areas, certain hotspots, as they call them. We’ll be looking at that, but at this moment, no, we’re not: … call them. We’ll be looking at that. But at this moment, no, we’re not.

Speaker 4: The second question is you said you had your coronavirus test Friday night. The White House doctor’s office put out a statement around midnight Friday saying that no test was indicated. When exactly was your test administered to you?

Donald Trump: I had my test. It was late Friday night. The reason I did it was because the … I had no symptoms whatsoever. The doctor said, “You have no symptoms so we don’t see any reason.” But when I did the press conference on Friday, everybody was going crazy. “Did you do the test? Did you do the test?” Very late on Friday night I did the test. The doctor may have put out something. I don’t know what time the letter went out. Maybe it was put out by somebody else, but the results came back I believe the following day. We tested negative.

Speaker 4: But the question is, how could the White House doctor’s office say a test wasn’t indicated implying that you hadn’t had one when in fact you had tested?

Donald Trump: I told them that and I went totally by what they said, the doctors, more than one. They said you don’t have any of the symptoms. They checked what you’re supposed to check and that I didn’t have symptoms, but I did a test late on Friday night. It came back probably 24 hours later or something. They sent it to the labs. It came back later. Yeah, please.

Speaker 5: Mr. President, you had a teleconference with the nation’s governors today. In that teleconference you told them if they need things like respirators or masks to try to get it on their own. What did you mean by that? What will the federal government do to help them?

Donald Trump: If they can get them faster by getting them on their own, in other words, go through a supply chain that they may have. Because the governors during normal times, the governors buy a lot of things, not necessarily through federal government. If they’re able to get ventilators, respirators, if they’re able to get certain things without having to go through the longer process of federal government.

We have stockpiles now where we’re ordering tremendous numbers of ventilators, respirators, masks, and they’re ordered. They’re coming. We have quite a few at this point. I think, Mike, we have a lot. But if they can get them directly, it’s always going to be faster if they could get them directly if they need them. I’ve given them authorization to order directly.

Speaker 6: Mr. President, one of the big weaknesses in our healthcare system is surge capacity for medical facilities.

Donald Trump: That’s right.

Speaker 6: I wanted to ask what precautions, what planning is being done to get … China was able to build hospitals in a matter of days. Are you prepared to use the Corps of Engineers or FEMA to start building the surge capacity that we may need in a couple of weeks?

Donald Trump: First of all, we hope we don’t get there. That’s what we’re doing. That’s why we’re taking a very strict look at this. But we also are looking at areas and not only looking, we’re expanding certain areas. We’re taking over buildings that aren’t used. We’re doing a lot in that regard. We hope we don’t have to get there, but we are doing a lot in that regard.

Speaker 7: Mr. President, can you clarify something? These guidelines say, “Stay home if you’re sick.” Yesterday the Vice President said, “No one should worry about losing a paycheck if they stay home when they’re sick.” But the House bill exempts companies of 500 employees or more from the paid sick leave requirement. That’s 54% of the American workplace. Why is it a good idea to only require small businesses to provide paid sick leave?

Donald Trump: We’re looking at that and we may be expanding that. We are looking at that.

Speaker 7: Do you then want to add big companies?

Donald Trump: We want fairness. We want it for everybody. No, we’re looking at that through the Senate, because as you know the Senate is now digesting that bill.

Speaker 7: Do you then want them to add big companies?

Donald Trump: We may very well be adding something on that. Good question.

Speaker 8: Two questions here, Mr. President. One going off of what he was asking. How many ventilators and how many ICU beds do we have right now and will it be enough?

Donald Trump: I could get back to you with that number. We’ve ordered a lot. We have quite a few, but it may not be enough. If it’s not enough, we will have it by the time we need it. Hopefully we won’t need them.

Speaker 8: And you’ll give us the exact number?

Donald Trump: Yeah, we’ll be able to give you-

Speaker 8: Because so far they have not given us an exact number.

Donald Trump: We can give you a number. If it’s important, we’ll give you a number. Go ahead.

Speaker 8: Yesterday you said that this was, “Under tremendous control.” Do you want to revisit that statement if we are going to be experiencing this until July or August, five more months ahead of right where we are now?

Donald Trump: When I’m talking about control, I’m saying we are doing a very good job within the confines of what we’re dealing with. We’re doing a very good job. There’s been a tremendous amount of the way they’re working together. They’re working hand-in-hand. I think they’re doing really a great job. From that standpoint, that’s what I was referring to yesterday. Yeah, Steve, go ahead.

Speaker 8: You’re not saying, “It’s under control,” right?

Donald Trump: I’m not referring to it. Meaning the-

Speaker 8: Coronavirus.

Donald Trump: Yeah, if you’re talking about the virus, no. That’s not under control for any place in the world. I think I read-

Speaker 8: Yesterday you had said it was.

Donald Trump: I think I read … no, I didn’t. I was talking about what we’re doing is under control, but I’m not talking about the virus.

Donald Trump: Yes, please.

Steve: The stock market took another hit today. Is the US economy heading into a recession?

Donald Trump: Well, it may be. We’re not thinking in terms of recession. We’re thinking in terms of the virus. Once we stop I think there’s a tremendous pent-up demand both in terms of the stock market, in terms of the economy. Once this goes away, once it goes through and we’re done with it, I think you’re going to see a tremendous, a tremendous surge.

Steve: Are you looking at any domestic travel restrictions? I know that’s been on the table before, but is that firming up at all?

Donald Trump: We’re not really. We hope we don’t have to, Steve. We think that hopefully we won’t have to do that. But it’s certainly something that we talk about every day. We haven’t made that decision.

Speaker 9: Mr. President, can I ask you, doctors and nurses in this country are telling us across the board that they’re terrified of this virus, of the fact that they can get it, or the fact that they might take it home to their families. What can you say to assure healthcare providers in this country that the federal government is doing something today to ensure that they get personal protective equipment to protect themselves and their family?

Donald Trump: I think the federal government’s doing everything that we can possibly do. We made some very good early decisions by keeping people out, by keeping countries out, certain countries where the infection was very immense. I noticed a lot of people are talking about South Korea because they’ve a good job on one side, but on the other side, tremendous problems at the beginning. They had tremendous problems and great numbers of death. I think that we’ve done a fantastic job from just about every standpoint.

With that being said, no matter where you look, this is something. It’s an invisible enemy. But we are speaking all the time, not only with the people, but also the professional people, the nurses, the doctors, they have been doing a fantastic job. We are also working very much on getting them the kind of equipment that they need. For the most part, they either have it or they will be getting it.

But remember this, we want the governors, we want the mayors, we want them locally, from a local standpoint because it can go quicker, we want them to work. We had a great talk with the governors today. I think it was a really great talk. There’s a tremendous coordination. There’s a tremendous spirit that we have together with the governors. That’s pretty much for the most part, bipartisan. Yeah.

Speaker 10: Mr. President, you told John that you think this could wash through, as you said, July, August. You just told Steve when he asked you about the possibility of a recession, you said, “It may be.” I’m curious if there is a recession, when do you think that might hit?

Donald Trump: I don’t number one determine recession. I just say this. We have an invisible enemy. We have a problem that a month ago nobody ever thought about. I’ve read about it. I read about many years ago, 1917, 1918. I’ve seen all of the different problems similar to this that we’ve had. This is a bad one. This is a very bad one. This is bad in the sense that it’s so contagious. It’s just so contagious, sort of a record setting-type contagion. The good part is the young people they do very well and healthy people do very well. Very, very bad for older people, especially older people with problems. My focus is really on getting rid of this problem, this virus problem. Once we do that, everything else is going to fall into place. Yes, please.

Speaker 11: Mr. President, there were a lot of rumors last night that you were going to put in a national curfew or some kind of texting stuff.

Donald Trump: I’ve been watching.

Speaker 11: Right, exactly. Me too. Your people were saying this is a foreign disinformation campaign, is that what’s going on? Are people messing with us on the internet?

Donald Trump: I don’t know. That I can’t tell you if they are or not. I think a lot of the media actually has been very fair. I think people are pulling together on this. I really think the media has been very fair. I think it could be that you have some foreign groups that are playing games, but it doesn’t matter. We haven’t really determined to do that at all and hopefully we won’t have to. That’s a very big step. It’s a step we can take, but we have not decided to do it. Jennifer, go.

Jennifer: Mr. President, two things, one on airlines and one on Jeff Bezos. Can you talk a little bit specifically about what you’d like to do to help the airlines first of all? Then second of all, we heard that Jeff Bezos has been in contact with the White House daily. Can you say what he’s been asking for or proposing to do?

Donald Trump: I’ve heard that’s true. I don’t know that for a fact, but I know that some of my people have, as I understand it, have been dealing with them or with him. That’s nice. We’ve had tremendous support from a lot of people that can help. I believe he was one of them.

As far as the airlines are concerned, we’re going to back the airlines 100%. It’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault unless you go to the original source, but it’s nobody’s fault. We’re going to be in a position to help the airlines very much. We’ve told the airlines we’re going to help them.

John: They want $25 billion dollars.

Donald Trump: We’re going to be helping. We’re going to be backstopping the airlines. We’re going to be helping them very much, John. It’s very important.

Speaker 12: What will you do about the stock market, sir?

John: The $25 billion dollars for the passenger carriers and $4 billion for cargo?

Donald Trump: We’re going to be looking at it very strongly. We have to back the airlines. It’s not their fault. In fact, they were having a record season. Everybody was. They were having record seasons. Then this came out and it came out from nowhere. Not their fault, but we’re going to backing the airline. Yeah.

Speaker 13: Stocks continue to fall today. Would the White House support negative rates?

Donald Trump: Best thing I can do for the stock market is we have to get through this crisis. That’s what I can do. That’s the best thing we can do. That’s what I think about. Once this virus has gone, I think you’re going to have a stock market like nobody’s ever seen before.

Mike Pence: [inaudible 00:32:26].

Donald Trump: Oh, okay.

Speaker 14: Thank you, Mr. President.

Speaker 15: Will people be voting tomorrow, Mr. President?

Speaker 14: Mr. President, the other day-

Dr. Fauci: He’ll be back in a sec. He’ll be back in a second. I think that the question that I think maybe John asked about until July, the guidelines are a 15-day trial guideline to be reconsidering. It isn’t that these guidelines are now going to be in effect until July. What the President was saying is that the trajectory of the outbreak may go till then. Make sure we don’t think that these are solid in stone until July.

Donald Trump: Yeah. That would be the outside number.

Speaker 14: Mr. President-

Donald Trump: Hold on one second. Please, go ahead.

Speaker 16: To follow up. Do you want Senate Republicans to change the package that had passed the House last week even though you [crosstalk 00:33:11]-

Donald Trump: I think they may make it even better. Look, they’re working together very well with the House. They are working very much in unison, like the question before. They’re working to only enhance it and make it better and make it fair for everybody. That’s what we’re looking to do. We may go back and forth with the House a little bit, but both will be in a very positive fashion. Please.

Speaker 17: Mr. President, these new guidelines say avoid social gatherings and groups of more than 10 people. The CDC’s recommendations yesterday were for people to avoid gatherings of more than 50 people. What’s evolved in you and your team’s thinking in just the past 24 hours. Also, what exactly do you need to see in a stimulus bill?

Donald Trump: Let me just have the professionals answer that. Would you like to do that? Please.

Dr. Birx: Great. Thank you and thank you for that question. We have been working on models day and night around the globe to really predict. Because some countries are in a very early stage like the United States. We’ve been working with groups in the United Kingdom. We had new information coming out from a model and what had the biggest impact in the model is social distancing, small groups, not going in public in large groups. But the most important thing was if one person in the household became infected, the whole household self-quarantined for 14 days, because that stops 100% of the transmission outside of the household.

As we talked about early on, it’s silent. We had another silent epidemic, HIV. I just want to recognize the HIV epidemic was solved by the community. The HIV advocates and activists who stood up when no one was listening and got everyone’s attention. We’re asking that same sense of community to come together and stand up against this virus. If everybody in America does what we ask for over the next 15 days, we will see a dramatic difference and we won’t have to worry about the ventilators. We won’t have to worry about the ICU beds because we won’t have our elderly and our people at the greatest risk having to be hospitalized.

Speaker 18: Excuse me, Dr. Birx. Can we ask for a comment on the [crosstalk 00:13:24], Doctor?

Donald Trump: Go ahead, Yes, Mike.

Mike Pence: Thank you, Mr. President. Very productive call today with governors. We talked about the new rollout of testing that we described yesterday and drive-thru and community-based testing. I know how grateful the President is for the efforts that our governors are making and now with the Admiral and the United States Public Health Service as well as FEMA. We’ve made great progress today in coordinating those efforts.

But the other issue that was raised with the President today was personal protective equipment. The reason I mentioned testing is because one of the recommendations that we have for states is that these remote testing sites make a priority of two groups. One would be people over the age of 65 that have symptoms. We don’t want them to go to hospitals or emergency rooms. We want them to go to a remote site in a parking lot or at an isolated community location.

But the other category is our healthcare workers. We want to make sure that our healthcare workers have the opportunity to be tested and using that new high throughput test that the President arranged with our major commercial labs, we’ll be able to do that much more expeditiously. We’re putting a real priority on our extraordinary health care workers that are at this very hour coming alongside that are struggling with the coronavirus and people that are concerned that they may have been exposed.

The other piece is we’re grateful that the legislation passed by the House of Representatives includes liability protection for N95 masks produced by companies like 3M in Minnesota, by Honeywell. Literally tens of millions of masks are produced every year for industrial purposes for construction, but the health experts say they can be used just as readily to protect healthcare workers from respiratory ailments. 3M and other companies were not able to sell those to hospitals, but the President negotiated with the Democratic leadership of the House and Senate. We’ve added a provision to the bill that will literally from one company alone add another 30 million masks per month back to the marketplace.

We’re strengthening the supply chain and healthcare workers around America can be absolutely certain that the President and our entire team are going to continue to put the health of America first and put first our healthcare workers across this country that are meeting the needs of the people of our country.

Speaker 19: Mr. Vice President?

Donald Trump: Admiral, perhaps you could-

Speaker 19: Mr. Vice President, how many test kits have been sent out and how many people can actually be tested?

Donald Trump: I think the admiral can answer that and you might want to talk about the roving also.

Admiral Giroir: Thank you very much for that. As we talked about yesterday, we’re really entering a new phase of testing. At first we were at the initial phase where the CDC-developed test was only available in public health laboratories and the CDC. Works very well for a few thousand tests per day after it gets running. We’re now moving into a phase that the big commercial laboratories with high throughput screening have availability. As we talked about last week, because of the historic efforts of the FDA Roche test, and as the President predicted, a Thermo Fisher test were both produced last week under an emergency use authorization. 1.9 million of those tests will be sequentially into the ecosystem this week.

From the information we have right now, 1 million tests are available with all the reagents, everything ready to go, primarily at the reference labs called Quest, LabCorp and a couple others. Now it doesn’t matter if they are not in your neighborhood because every day when people get tests, a little white box goes out in front, it gets shipped by an incredible distribution system, the test result, and it’s electronically reported. These are available to people nationwide.

We expect more and more than 1 million coming onboard this week as the reagents come up and as people with the testing capacity validate that in their own hospitals and other places. In the future, we expect at least 2 million next week and at least 5 million the week thereafter. There are also a whole growth of what’s called laboratory-determined testing or laboratory-derived testing where individual laboratories, because of the regulatory deregulation of the FDA, can develop their own tests and start using them. If you’re a CLIA-certified lab with complexity, you can do that.

The point is testing is now entering sort of what we normally do in the healthcare system where big labs in a high throughput basis receive these through normal channels. That part of that is really underway.

Speaker 19: But, do you know how many Americans have actually been tested? Do you have a number?

Admiral Giroir: There is a number. I don’t have that number because I’ve been working on setting up this distribution system. This is where we are. The state and public health laboratories and the CDC are published every day on the CDC website. The CDC gets feeds from LabCorp and Quest. They get that on a daily basis. What is not being received right now and Ambassador Birx is fixing is that these homegrown tests in highly complex labs don’t necessarily get reported in the system.

However, as we move forward, particularly in the height, in the commercial phase of where we are right now, we expect about 80% to 85% of the tests to flow right into the CDC. We know them. That’s not good enough for Ambassador Birx. She wants 100% and we’ll work on that.

Donald Trump: I think just to put it a different way, a lot of testing has been going on. I don’t believe anybody has been able to do what we’re doing and what we will be doing.

Admiral Giroir: Let me just say that we talked about the drive-thru testing yesterday. I want it to be clear to everybody. This is just another tool for states and local public health systems and healthcare systems to use. It’s not replacing testing that goes on in a doctor’s office or in a hospital or if you go to your doctor and want to get tested in that office. This is just another tool that we’re helping the states to have.

Again as we talked about, this is modeled on the FEMA-based points of distribution system optimized for testing. We expect this week, we now have gear, people being shipped right now, today that will be in over 12 states with multiple sites, many of states having multiple sites to start augmenting the local capacity and really providing the state and the local people what they need as another way for people to get tested.

Donald Trump: This has never been done before. That’s never been done and certainly not on a level like that. I will say that I think I can speak for the professionals that if you don’t have the symptoms, if your doctor doesn’t think you need it, don’t get the test. Don’t get the test. I think that’s very important. Not everybody should run out and get the test, but we’re able to handle tremendous numbers of people.


John: Mr. President, earlier today Governor Cuomo of New York said that he believes that hospital capacity soon will be overwhelmed and implored you to call on the Army Corps of Engineers to build temporary facilities to house patients. Is that something [crosstalk 00:42:59]-

Donald Trump: We’re looking into it. We’ve heard that. We’ve heard it from really two places. There are two places that have specifically, New York being one. We are looking into it very strongly. Yeah.

Steve, go ahead please.

Steve: Sir, how have you changed your own behavior to take account of this virus? Are you washing your hands more?

Donald Trump: I’ve always washed my hands a lot. I wash my hands a lot. Maybe, if anything, more, certainly not less.

Speaker 20: What was it like taking the test?

Donald Trump: Not something I want to do every day. I can tell you that. It’s a little bit of … good doctors in the White House, but it’s a test. It’s a test. It’s a medical test. Nothing pleasant about it.

Speaker 21:You said that in a Tweet that Governor Cuomo should be doing more.

Donald Trump: I think he can do more.

Speaker 21: What specifically should he be doing if he can?

Donald Trump: I think he can do more. It’s an area of the country that’s very hot right now. I think New Rochelle, a place I know very well. I grew up right near New Rochelle.

Place I know very well. I grew up right near New Rochelle. I think it’s a very, no I think it’s an area that has to be tamped down even more. Because it’s a hotbed. There’s no question about it. So I think they could look at doing it. But we’re getting along very well. We’ve had a very, in fact, I noticed he made some statements just now that the relationship with the federal government has been good. That federal government has done everything they’ve wanted us to do.

But we can, I think it’s very important that all of the governors get along very well with us. And that we get along with the governors and I think that’s happening.

Group: [crosstalk].

Speaker 22: The Defense Secretary and the Assistant Defense Secretary decided to separate and be in a bubble to avoid the spread of the disease and to protect the chain of command. Is that something you and the Vice President should be doing? And has there been any talk about having to have a 25th Amendment procedure in place?

Donald Trump: Well, we haven’t thought of it. But you know, I will say this, we’re very careful. We’re very careful with being together. Even the people behind me they’ve been very strongly tested. I’ve been very strongly tested and we have to be very careful. But everybody should be very vigilant. We have to be vigilant. Yeah please.

Group: [crosstalk].

Donald Trump: Go ahead please.

Speaker 23:Two simple questions for you Mr. President.

Donald Trump: Hold it, hold it. Before you.

Speaker 24: Okay. I don’t know if this is a question for you or Dr. Birx. But Dr. Birx said that it is the millennials who are going to lead us through this and that now is the time to look out for the older people in our home. Older might be a state of mind, not necessarily an age. So for those millennials of us who have parents who are in their fifties, sixties, seventies what is older? What should we tell them at this point?

Dr. Birx: Well, if I was Dr. Fauci I would tell you there’s a physiologic age and a numerical age. So older people with preexisting conditions. And what do we mean by that? Significant heart disease, significant kidney disease, significant lung disease, any immunosuppression, any recent treatment for cancer. Any of those pieces in any household.

Now why do I think the millennials are the key? Because they’re the ones that are out and about. And they’re the most likely to be in social gatherings. And they’re the most likely to be the least symptomatic. And I think we’ve always heard about the greatest generation. We’re protecting the greatest generation right now and the children are the greatest generation.

And I think the millennials can help us tremendously by having… plus they need to communicate with each other. Public health people like myself don’t always come out with compelling and exciting messages that a 25 to 35 year old may find interesting and something that they’ll take to heart. But millennials can speak to one another about how important it is in this moment to protect all of the people.

Now you could be 40 and have a significant medical condition and be a substantial risk. You could be 30 and having come through Hodgkin’s Disease or Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and be of a significant risk. So there are risk groups in every age group, but there’s more millennials now than any other cohort. And they can help us at this moment.

Group: [crosstalk].

Speaker 23: Thank you very much. [crosstalk 00:47:28] Thank you very much. Mr President, you already talked. Mr. President the other day you said that you were not responsible for the testing shortfall. Very simple question. Does the buck stop with you? And on a scale of one to 10 how would you rate your response to this crisis?

Donald Trump: I’d rate it a ten. I think we’ve done a great job. And it started with the fact that we kept a very highly infected country despite, even the professionals saying, “No, it’s too early to do that.” We were very, very early with respect to China. And we would have a whole different situation in this country. If we didn’t do that. I would rate ourselves and the professionals. I think the professionals have done a fantastic job.

As far as the testing. You heard the Admiral, I think the testing that we’ve done. We really took over an obsolete system. Or put it maybe in a different way, a system that wasn’t meant to do anything like this. We took it over and we’re doing something that’s never been done in this country. And I think that we are doing very well. We took the system, we worked with the system we had and we broke down the system purposely. We broke it down in order to do what we’re doing now. And within a short period of time and even now we’re testing tremendous numbers of people. And ultimately you’re saying, it will be what? It will be up to how many people will be able to test?

Admiral Giroir: We certainly expect with the high throughput testing that that’s no longer a barrier. The barrier is actually doing the test on a person. And I’m sure as the president would inform you in order to do the test, a healthcare provider needs to dress in full personal protective equipment, full personal protective equipment. And there’s a swab that’s put in the back of the nose all the way to the back of the throat. It’s called a nasopharyngeal swab, which is then put in media. The next person who has to get tested, that healthcare provider has to change all the personal protective equipment. When you put that in, it’s highly likely a person coughs or sneezes so you’re at risk. So that’s what we’re trying to fix now by the mobile platforms, by all the things we’re doing is to enable high throughput of this swabbing. And we’re doing some technological things too that might be breakthroughs to make it much, much faster. But we certainly expect that from thousands of people per day we will be at the tens of thousands of people per day this week according to those who are [inaudible 00:49:51]

Speaker 25: Does the buck stop with you, Mr President? Does the buck stop with you?

Donald Trump: Yeah, normally. But I think when you hear the, “This has never been done before in this country.” If you look back, take a look at some of the things that took place in ’09 or ’11 or whatever it may have been, nobody’s ever done anything like what we’re doing. Now. I will also say Admiral, I think we can say that we’re also getting this ready for the future. So that when we have a future problem, if and when, and hopefully we don’t have anything like this. But if there is, we’re going to be starting off from a much higher plateau. Because we were at a very, very low base. We had a system that was not meant for this. It was a smaller system. It was meant for a much different purpose and for that purpose it was fine. But not for this purpose. So we broke down the system and now we have something that’s going to be and is very special and is ready for future problems. I think we can say that very strongly. Yeah.

Group: [crosstalk].

Donald Trump: Go ahead please.

Speaker 26:  Thank you Mr. President. How close are you to shutting down America’s northern border with Canada? And could you also speak to the fact about the elections that are supposed to be taking place tomorrow? Is it your advice that those states postpone those elections?

Donald Trump: Well, I’d leave that up to the states. It’s a big thing. Postponing an election. I think to me that really goes to the heart of what we’re all about. I think postponing an election is a very tough thing I know they’re doing, because they’ve been in touch with us, they’re doing it very carefully. They’re spreading people out at great distances as you can see. And I think they’ll do it very safely. I hope they do it very safely, but I think postponing elections is not a very good thing. They have lots of room and a lot of the electoral places. And I think that they will do it very well, but I think postponing is unnecessary.

Speaker 26: On the Northern border, sir? How close are you to shutting it down? [crosstalk]

Donald Trump: We think about it. We think about it. If we don’t have to do it, that’ll be good. We have very strong emergency powers when it comes to something like this, both on the Southern and the Northern borders. And we are talking about different things, but we’ll see. Right now we have not decided to do that. Steve.

Steve: Sir, are we getting Dr.Fauci to talk about the vaccine trial today? And whether the timetable for vaccine is it possible to accelerate?Or is it still 12-18 months?

Dr. Fauci: Thank you for that question. The vaccine candidate that was given the first injection for the first person took place today. You might recall when we first started, I said it would be two to three months. And if we did that, that would be the fastest we’ve ever gone from obtaining the sequence to being able to do a phase one trial.

This has been now 65 days, which I believe is the record. What it is, it’s a trial of 45 normal individuals between the ages of 18 and 55. The trial is taking place in Seattle. There will be two injections, one at zero day, first one, then 28 days. There will be three separate doses, 25 milligrams, 100 milligrams, 250 milligrams. And the individuals will be followed for one year. Both for safety and whether it induces the kind of response that we predict would be protective. And that’s exactly what I’ve been telling this group over and over again. So it’s happened. The first injection was today.

Group: [crosstalk].

Speaker 27: Sir the market just closed down 3000, almost 13%. Your response to the market close sir?

Speaker 28: [crosstalk] Pregnancy. Is pregnancy an underlying condition?

Donald Trump: Go ahead please.

Speaker 29: Dr. Fauci, is there guidance for someone who may have felt sick but then feels better? So you had symptoms but you no longer do, your fever is gone away. How long would you stay home after that point? That’s not clear from the guidelines.

Dr. Fauci: If you are positive for the infection. If you have coronavirus, it is less how you feel than whether or not you’re still shedding virus. So the general issue about letting people out of a facility who, for example a hospital or whatever, who have been infected, you need two negative cultures the same way that was just described 24 hours apart.

Donald Trump: Yeah, no the market will take care of itself. The market will be very strong as soon as we get rid of the virus. Yes.

Group: [crosstalk].

Speaker 28: Can you clarify about pregnant women? Is that an underlying? Because the UK said today that pregnancy was one of those underlying conditions. Do we say that too?

Dr. Birx: There’s very little data on pregnant women. I think I, about a week ago, I said that reports that came in from China, from the Chinese CDC. Of the nine women who were documented to be pregnant and have coronavirus in their last trimester delivered healthy children and they themselves were healthy and recovered. That is our total sample size and we will be getting more data from countries. While countries are in the midst of this crisis like Italy, I try not to bother them frequently to get us their data. We try to get it just weekly from the countries that are in the midst of responding to the epidemic. So that their focus is on their individuals in their country.

Speaker 30: Mr.President. Any comment on what people like Devin Nunes, the Governor of Oklahoma had been saying? Encouraging people to go out to restaurants, which goes directly against what this advice in your guidelines says.

Donald Trump: I haven’t heard that. I haven’t heard that from Devin or anybody else.

Speaker 31: Should they stop saying that?

Donald Trump: Well I have to see what they said. But-

Speaker 31: They encouraged people to go to restaurants, if they felt okay with their families.

Donald Trump: Well, I would disagree with it. But right now we don’t have an order one way or the other. We don’t have an order, but I think it’s probably better that you don’t. Especially in certain areas, Oklahoma doesn’t have a tremendous problem. You said the Governor of Oklahoma?

Speaker 31: Governor of Oklahoma, Devin Nunes-

Donald Trump: And Devin.

Speaker 31: … was another.

Donald Trump: Yeah, well I had heard that.

Speaker 31: So should they be doing that or should they not be doing that in Oklahoma?

Donald Trump: [crosstalk 00:55:41] I would said verse to what the professionals are saying.

Speaker 31: And what you’re saying in your guidelines.

Donald Trump: Yeah.

Speaker 31: Is that people shouldn’t be going to restaurants.

Donald Trump: I’ll take a look at it. Absolutely.

John: I don’t know who would be best to answer this question. Maybe a Secretary Azar or Dr.Fauci. School districts across the country are closing down. Yet for the most part, daycare centers remain open. And considering the children can sometimes be asymptomatic carriers and go home to older individuals. Are there any recommendations about daycare centers?

Secretary Azar: I prefer one of our medical professionals to discuss that. That’s a clinical recommendation.

Dr. Fauci: That’s a good question John. In the original guidelines as they were presented it was schools, not daycare. I think it’s very important we should probably, if we have not discussed that, go back and discuss that in some detail about whether or not that’s equivalent to school. It’s a good question.

Speaker 4: But the question about the sort of underlying public health strategy behind some of these guidelines. Telling people to avoid restaurants and bars is a different thing than saying that bars and restaurants should shut down over the next 15 days. So why was it seen as being imprudent or not necessarily to take that additional step offered at additional guidance?

Donald Trump: Do you want to answer that?

Dr. Birx: Well, I think we have to say the data that has been coming out, and I’m sure you’re all up to date on how long the virus lives on hard surfaces. And that has been our concern over the last two weeks.

Dr. Fauci: Don’t, I’m sorry go ahead. I just want, there’s an answer to this.

Dr. Birx: Oh, go ahead Tony. He was my mentor so I’m going to have to let him speak.

Dr. Fauci: The small print here. It’s really small print. “In states with evidence of community transmission, bars, restaurants, food courts, gyms and other indoor and outdoor venues where groups of people congregate should be closed.”

Speaker 32: [crosstalk 00:57:35] So Mr. President, are you telling governors in those states then to close all their restaurants and their bars?

Donald Trump: Well we haven’t said that yet.

Speaker 32: Why not?

Donald Trump: We’re recommending but-

Speaker 32: But if you think this would work.

Donald Trump: … we’re recommending things. No, we haven’t gone to that step yet. That could happen, but we haven’t gone there yet. Please.

Speaker 33: So on the election, you’re saying it’s a bad thing to postpone it. But if you’ve got the 25 person maximum guideline in a practical sense, can you have rallies? Primaries surely gather more than ten people.

Donald Trump:  Well hopefully it will pass through and hopefully everybody will be going to restaurants and flying and being on cruise ships and all of these different things that we do. And it will very, very hopefully be at a fairly quick period of time. But we’re taking a tough stance. We may make certain other decisions, we may enhance those decisions. We’re going to find out as per the question that you were asking, some of those decisions may be hence. How about one more? Jennifer.

Jennifer: On the cyber attack on HHS.

Donald Trump: Yeah.

Jennifer: Is there any reason to believe that they were trying to hack into the system and gather information from the system? And also is there any reason? So were they trying to hack to get information? And also do you have any reason to think that it could have been Iran? Russia? Do you have any reason to believe it was a foreign actor?

Secretary Azar: So in the previous 24 hours we saw a great deal of enhanced activity with relation to the HHS computer systems and website. Fortunately we have extremely strong barriers. We had no penetration into our networks. We had no degradation of the functioning of our networks. We had no limitation of our capacity for people to tele-work. We’ve taken very strong defensive actions. The source of this enhanced activity remains under investigation so I wouldn’t want to speculate on the source of it. But there was no data breach or no degradation in terms of our ability to function and serve our important mission here. Thank you.

Speaker 34:  Mr. Vice President, have you been tested yet? [crosstalk 00:59:26]

Speaker 35: What are you looking for in another stimulus package sir. Could you speak to that?

Donald Trump: One thing Mike just said, it’s very important to get out that this is for the next, much of what we’re talking about is for the next 15 days. Mike, go ahead.

Speaker 34: Mr. Vice President, have you been tested?

Mike Pence: I’ve not been tested yet. I’m in regular consultation with the White House Physician and he said, I’ve not been exposed to anyone for any period of time ahead of the coronavirus, and that my wife and I have no symptoms. But we’re checking our temperature regularly every day and we’ll continue to follow guidance.

Which I think may be a good place to land at the end of the day. And that is as we expand testing rapidly around the country through the new public/private partnership that the president facilitated, we want the test to be available for people who have symptoms. People who have symptoms and are in vulnerable populations and our healthcare workers to make sure that they can have the peace of mind that they’re doing their jobs and they’re properly protected.

And so our best council, the council of the experts, is if you have a question, call your doctor, call your healthcare provider, ask whether or not you should be tested. And that’s what my family is doing as well.

Let me just emphasize one more point if I can. The president asked the task force to continuously review the data and the information that we have, not only in this country but from around the world. To give the best guidance to state leadership and local healthcare leadership and all of the American people about how to keep themselves, their family and their community safe. This guidance for the next 15 days is what our experts say is the best opportunity we have to lower the infection rate over the entire course of the coronavirus. Just as the president did by suspending travel from China, just as he did with travel advisories and screening from Italy and South Korea. Just as we’ve done with Europe and at midnight tonight with the UK and Ireland.

We will continue to take very decisive steps to lower the spread of the coronavirus. But we want every American to know and we would ask all of you in the media to spread the word of the American people. That this is advice on behalf of the President of the United States to every American what you can do over the next 15 days to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. And we’re calling on every American to do your part because together we’ll get through this and we’ll find our way forward.

Donald Trump: Just one more. Steve go ahead please.

Steve: You had a G7-

Donald Trump: Yeah.

Steve: … video conference today.

Donald Trump: We had a G7.

Steve: What was the upshot of it?

Donald Trump:  It was-

Steve: Are you still going to be able to meet at Camp David?

Donald Trump: It looks like it.

Speaker 36: And are you confident in their responses? As you are with Europe?

Donald Trump: I am very confident. They’re in a position that some of them are in a rough position. If you look at a couple of them. And some are heading toward pretty rough territory. We had a very good conference. It was a teleconference. Everybody was on the phone, every leader. And almost a hundred percent was devoted to the subject that we’re talking about today. And they are working very hard and they’re very concerned obviously, but they’re working very hard. But I would say just about all of it was Steve, all of it was devoted to what we’re talking about.

Steve: Hold that summit at Camp David?

Donald Trump: I think so. I mean so far it seems, we didn’t even discuss that. It’s still a ways off. But it was a very good discussion and there’s a great camaraderie. There’s a great togetherness. I think I can say that very, very strongly. Thank you all very much. Thank you. Thank you very much.

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