Here We Go Again…

These are the actual remarks. Forget the #FakeNews Spin and Pay Attention

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Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Briefing


Issued on: April 23, 2020



James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

5:48 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Later this evening, we expect the House to pass the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act.  I’m grateful that Congress is answering my call to deliver these additional $320 billion in relief for the American worker and for small businesses.

At a time when many Americans are enduring significant economic challenges, this bill will help small businesses to keep millions of workers on the payroll.  You see states are starting to open up now, and it’s very exciting to see.  I think it’s very awe-inspiring.  We’re coming out of it, and we’re coming out of it well.

And we’re — really, I’m very happy the governors have been — the governors, really, have been doing a really good job working with us, and it’s — it’s, really, pretty impressive to see.  I’ve spoken to numerous leaders of countries over the last 48 hours, and they are saying we’re leading the way.  We’re really leading the way in so many different ways.

I’m also very pleased that Harvard — as you know, it’s Harvard and Stanford and Princeton and numerous other universities and colleges, and also large businesses have sent funds back to us.  And in some cases, I stopped funds that I looked at.  And we are pleased to report that the funds have either not gone out or it’s about $350 million, and they’ve either not gone out or we’ve renegotiated it and they’re not getting them.

So — and it’s — in a couple of cases, they’re sending them back and sending them back immediately.  So I think it was very nice.  I want to thank Harvard in particular.  They acted very quickly and decisively.  And they agreed, when they heard the facts, that they should not be getting it.  So we appreciate it very much from Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and other institutions.

The bill also includes $30 billion to support small lending institutions serving distressed communities, helping countless African American and Hispanic American small businesses.

As we continue our battle against the virus, the data and facts on the ground suggest that we’re making great progress.  In 23 states, new cases have declined in the peak — week.  Forty percent of American counties have also seen a rapid decline in new cases.  Forty-six states reported drop in patients showing coronavirus-like symptoms.  That’s a big number.

To keep America gaining momentum, every citizen needs to maintain the vigilance.  And we all understand that very well; we’ve gone over it many, many times.  This includes practicing good hygiene, maintaining social distance, and the voluntary use of face covering.

A safe and phased reopening of our economy — it’s very exciting, but it does not mean that we are letting down our guard at all, in any way.  On the contrary, continued diligence is an essential part of our strategy to get our country back to work, to take our country back.  We’re winning this, and we’re going to win it, and we’re going to keep watching.  We’re going to watch very closely for the invisible enemy.

With each passing day, we’re learning more and more about this enemy.  The scientists at DHS have released a report offering a number of insights about how the virus reacts to different temperatures, climates, and surfaces.  The findings confirm that the virus survives better in cold or in drier environments and does less well in warmer and more humid environments.

I have to say that, very excitingly, we’re going to have somebody up; Bill will be up in just a little while.  It was a great report you gave.  And he’s going to be talking about how the virus reacts in sunlight.  Wait until you hear the numbers.  You won’t even believe them.

U.S. trials of the COVID-19 have been going on and have been approved in the United States, Germany, UK, and China.  That’s big news.  And we’re — a lot of trials are going on.  We have a lot of great, brilliant minds working on this, both from the standpoint of a vaccine and therapeutics.

We must be careful in all conditions, but we will — we will get this done.  We’re very close to a vaccine.  Unfortunately, we’re not very close to testing because when the testing starts, it takes a period of time.  But we’ll get it done.

And I want to thank the head of DHS Science and Technology, Bill Bryan, for what he’s going to be doing and what he’s going to be saying and the report that he’s about to give.  I think it’s going to be something that nobody has ever heard.  It’ll be brand-new information and very important information.

My administration continues to leverage the Defense Production Act to dramatically increase the manufacture and delivery of critical medical supplies.  We finalized three contracts to produce 39 million more N95 masks in 90 days.  And as you know, we’re also using a sterilization process.  Some great equipment that will sterilize the masks up to 20 times per mask.  So that’s like ordering 20 times more masks.  And it’s working very well.

We just want the hospitals and the institutions, where it is, to use it.  A lot of people don’t use it.  They’re so used to getting a new mask, they don’t want to use it.  They want to go and immediately get a new one.  We’re asking them to use the sterilization process.  Every bit as good — up to 20 times.  Think of that.

In addition to ramping up our domestic assembly lines, we also have airlifted nearly 750 million pieces of personal protective equipment into the United States through our Project Airbridge, which has been an incredible thing to watch.  It’s really a military operation.

The Vice President is now providing each governor with an exhaustive count[y]-by-county breakdown of the privately distributed personal protection.  And this is equipment and things that are incredible.  It’s personal protective equipment.  It’s incredible, and it’s all brand new and at the highest level.  We’re getting only the highest level.  And also, we’re looking at essential gear within their states, and it’s being delivered to different states quickly and as we speak.

This way, the governor should know exactly what’s being delivered through a private-sector supply chain within their states, as well as through the Project Airbridge.  We’re trying to get it immediately from the plane to the state.  When we can’t do that, we bring it into our facilities and get it to the governors.  And we’re getting them fast, and we’re notifying them very strongly so they know it’s there.  Governors can use this information to quickly ensure that they get materials where and when they are needed.

Today, I also want to extend my special thanks to our nation’s incredible county emergency management teams who have been working relentlessly for weeks around the clock, end on end, to serve their communities, help distribute critical supplies, and save countless American lives.  We salute these heroic officials on the frontlines.

As we continue to develop potential therapies, the FDA has recently begun a national effort to expand access to convalescent plasma donated from the blood of those who have recovered from the virus.  The blood of these donors contains antibodies that can potentially reduce the severity of the illness in those who are sick — and frankly, those that are very sick.  Nearly 3,000 patients are now enrolled in the Expanded Access Program, receiving transfusions nationwide.

And I want to thank all of the people that recovered, for what they’ve done.  They — as I said yesterday, they raise their hand when they barely can walk, and they’re saying, “I want to donate blood.  I want to donate whatever it is that you want, because we want to help people.”  It’s really quite incredible.

Convalescent plasma will also be used to manufacture a concentrated antibody treatment that does not have to be matched with a particular blood type.  This concentrated antibody treatment could be used as a preventative measure to keep healthcare workers and other high-risk populations from contracting the virus in the first place.  A very big deal.

Clinical trials of these products are slated to begin within weeks, and we can maybe have a fairly quick solution.  I urge Americans to get in there and keep doing what you’re doing, because again, we want those people recovering or recovered from coronavirus to contact their local blood and plasma donation center to learn how they can help.  And they’ve been so great, and I just appreciate it.

My administration has also partnered with leading — and we have really been establishing some great partnerships with leading technology companies and scientific journals to create a database of 52,000 scholarly articles on the virus that can be analyzed by artificial intelligence.

Top AI experts are now using this wealth of data to gain insights into potential therapies.  And we’re collaborating with tech firms, universities, and our national labs to harness American supercomputers in the search for treatments and vaccines.  That search is going on, and it’s being — I think you’ll see in the future — you’ll see it’s very successful.  Ultimately, it’ll be a tremendous success.  Great progress is being made at a rapid pace — a pace like no other.

We have every hope that with the full might and resources of American science and technology, and with the courage and devotion of the American people who have been so incredible, we will end this plague, and together we will restore the full measure of American strength and power and prosperity.

Our country is going to do fantastically well.  You see what’s going on.  There is a pent-up demand in our country to get it back right where it was and maybe even better, and that’s what’s going to happen.

So with that, I’d like to ask Mike Pence to come up — Vice President.  Say a few words please, Mike.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mr. President.  And good afternoon.  Today, the White House Coronavirus Task Force met.  And while our hearts are with the families of those who have lost their life to the coronavirus and those who are struggling with serious illness today, our team, led by Dr. Deborah Birx, informs us that the data continues to show promising signs of progress.

The New York metro area, New Jersey, Connecticut, Detroit and New Orleans all appear to be past their peak.  And we are seeing consistent declines in hospitalization and cases in regions across the country.

Our only conclusion is that we’re getting there, America, because the American people have put into practice the President’s guidelines of social distancing because you’ve been listening and adhering to the guidance of state and local officials.  We are — we’re making — we’re making meaningful progress.  In a very real sense, sparing Americans to be exposed to the coronavirus and, no less extent, saving lives.

Our task force actually believes, Mr. President, that if we continue these mitigation efforts in the days ahead — as states implement their policies, including phased reopening — that we’ll preserve those gains.  We do believe, by early summer, we could be in a much better place as a nation with much of this coronavirus epidemic behind us.

Earlier today, we also had a conference call led by Secretary Ben Carson and leaders from HUD about the President’s announcement yesterday that he is repurposing the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council to focus on the impact of the coronavirus on minority communities.  Secretary Carson will convene the council tomorrow, and we’ll be reporting tomorrow afternoon on their progress.

We want to thank the more than 270 leaders of organizations dedicated to housing, homelessness, and improving the lives of people across our urban communities — not only for being with us today, for the way they have partnered with our administration and partnered with state and local officials to put the health of all of their constituencies first.

As the President mentioned, we’ll — you’ll receive a report that our task force received formally this week from Bill Bryan of the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security.  He will outline, as the President said, encouraging news about the impact that heat and sunlight have on the coronavirus, which will increase the confidence that we feel about the coming summer.

On the subject of testing: At the present moment, we have reports of 4.93 million tests having been performed across America.  And encouraging news: As states have been engaging commercial labs at a higher level across the country, yesterday our commercial lab system did more than 100,000 tests in a single day.  So we’re beginning to activate all of the capacity.

And tomorrow, at the President’s direction, our task force will convene a conference call with all of the nation’s governors to talk about the progress that they are making on testing.  And we’re going to hear from governors about the practices that — and methods that they are employing to significantly increase testing following our briefing about capacity in laboratories this past Monday.

For instance, Governor Mike DeWine just announced that Ohio’s testing has been greatly expanded after the FDA approved Thermo Fisher’s new extraction reagent, saying, in his words, that the action, quote, “probably doubled, maybe even tripled testing in Ohio virtually overnight.”

Governor Tim Walz of Minnesota announced, along with the state’s healthcare system, the Mayo Clinic, and the University of Minnesota, what he described as a breakthrough for rapid, widespread testing — able to test more than 20,000 people using a molecular test per day.

Governor Kim Reynolds of Iowa launched the Test Iowa Initiative that will triple testing capacity by partnering with Nomi Health and DOMO.  She also worked with the University of Iowa Hospitals to leverage further capacity.

And Governor Eric Holcomb and Governor Andy Beshear, of Indiana and Kentucky respectively, both announced additional drive-through testing locations.

Our priority has always been to focus first on those impacted by the coronavirus and then on those extraordinary healthcare workers ministering to their needs every day.  And I know, Mr. President, how proud you are that our men and women in uniform have come alongside our healthcare workers in communities most impacted, and I know the American people are proud as well.

As of today, FEMA reports that 35,000 National Guard have been deployed across the country to aid in our coronavirus response.  Governor Kevin Stitt of Ohio [Oklahoma] actually deployed the National Guard to hospitals across the state to evaluate protective equipment and hospital capacity and report it in to state emergency management and FEMA.

And Governor Greg Abbott of Texas actually mobilized more than 1,200 National Guard and 45 teams to provide greater access to testing.

Along with the National Guard, at the President’s direction today, more than 4,500 active duty military doctors, nurses, and medical assistants have been deployed across the country.  Yesterday, 1,013 medical professionals in our military were actually deployed to 19 hospitals in 7 states to support those amazing healthcare workers.

And with 4.4 million more Americans filing for unemployment in the past week, I joined the President in welcoming passage in the House today of the Paycheck Protection Program.  It’ll support working families.  It’ll allow small businesses to keep people on the payroll for a period of two months.  But it also, as the President requested, included $75 billion to assist hospitals across the country.

And in that spirit, the President and I will continue to urge states across the country: Given the unique burden on hospitals, we are now encouraging states to restart elective surgeries, wherever possible — either statewide or on a county-by-county basis.  We recognize the role elective surgeries play in finances for local hospitals and we’ll be working with states to enable that.

In that vein, Governor Doug Ducey exec- — issued an executive order not long ago, allowing elective surgeries beginning May 1 for hospitals that meet certain preparedness criteria.

And Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, is allowing elective clinical procedures to begin on April 21st.

Finally, Mr. President, the task force received today our first report on state reopening plans.  At the present moment, 16 states have released formal reopening plans.  Thirteen of those were actually released since you unveiled the Opening Up America Guidelines to our governors and to the nation last week.

And to your point, Mr. President, states are beginning to make those plans.  And we’re encouraged to see so many states embracing the phased approach to reopening their economies that’s contemplated in our Guidelines for Opening Up America Again.

For instance, Governor Mike Parson of Missouri announced the “Show Me Strong” Recovery Plan as two initial phases intended to protect the most at-risk.

Governor Tom Wolf announced the Plan for Pennsylvania that would begin May 8th — will end a stay-at-home order for just portions of Pennsylvania.  But the plan, again, requires regions to have fewer than 50 new positive cases per 100,000 for a period of 14 days, and it also lays out a phased reopening roadmap.

Governor Kate Brown of Oregon updated their framework for reopening, doing three phases — again, on a county-by-county basis.

And Governor Brad Little of Idaho released “Rebound Idaho” in just the last few days that will consist of four phases and require specific criteria that Idaho and businesses need to meet to begin to reopen.

Mr.  President, with the — with the Guidelines to Open Up America Again, states are making plans.  And at your direction, our task force will continue to work very closely, providing them with the data, providing them with the resources to be able to implement those plans in a safe and responsible way.

So, with that, let me just end where I began, and to say thank you to the American people.  The progress that we are seeing is a testament to what all of you have done; to our extraordinary healthcare workers; to a partnership between the federal government and to state and local official.  And I’m confident it’s also owing to the prayers of millions of Americans each and every day.

All of that combined, we’re — we’re slowing the spread.  We’re protecting the most vulnerable.  We’re saving lives.  And every single day, we are one day closer to opening up America again.

With that, Mr. President, I’d be pleased to call Bill forward.  Bill Bryan leads the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security and now will make a presentation on their recent study.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN:  Thank you, Mr.  Vice President.  Thank you, Mr.  President —

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Bill.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN: — for this opportunity to do this today.

Good afternoon everybody.  My name is Bill Bryan and I lead the Science and Technology Directorate at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.  Over the last several months, we’ve intensified the Department’s R&D efforts to identify and deliver information that informs our response to COVID-19.  S&T is working to identify, develop, deploy, and deploy the tools and information to support our response to this crisis.

As part of our efforts, we’re leveraging the unique capabilities of S&T’s National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center to study the biology of the COVID-19 virus.  This center is a high-biocontainment laboratory located in Frederick, Maryland.  It was established in the early 2000s, in response to the Amerithrax attacks, and where we study, characterize, analyze, and develop countermeasures for biological threats to the homeland.  We work closely with the CDC, FDA, HHS, and also our Department of Defense colleagues and many others.

Yesterday, I shared the emerging results of our work that we’re doing now with the Coronavirus Task Force.  And today, I would like to share certain trends that we believe are important.

If I may have the first slide, please.  And while that’s coming up, our most striking observation to date is the powerful effect that solar light appears to have on killing the virus — both surfaces and in the air.  We’ve seen a similar effect with both temperature and humidity as well, where increasing the temperature and humidity or both is generally less favorable to the virus.

So let me illustrate with this first slide.  If you look to the right, you’ll see that term “half-life,” with a bunch of timestamps on there.

First, let me tell you what a “half-life” is.  We don’t measure the virus as far as how long we live on the surface; we have to measure the decay of the virus in terms of its half-life, because we don’t know certain elements.  We don’t know how much a person expectorates when he — when he spits — right? — when he sneezes, whatever the case may be.  We don’t know how much virus is in there.  So it’s — that has a long — a bearing on how long the virus is going to be alive and active.  So we measure it in half life because half-life doesn’t change.

So if you look at an 18-hour half-life, what you’re basically saying is that every 18 hours, the virus — it’s the life of the virus is cut in half.  So if you start with 1,000 particles of the virus, in 18 hours, you’re down to 500.  And 18 hours after that, you’re down to 250, and so on and so forth.  That’s important, as I explain in the rest of the chart.

If you look at the first three lines, when you see the word “surface,” we’re talking about nonporous surfaces: door handles, stainless steel.  And if you look at the — as the temperature increases, as the humidity increases, with no sun involved, you can see how drastically the half-life goes down on that virus.  So the virus is dying at a much more rapid pace, just from exposure to higher temperatures and just from exposure to humidity.

If you look at the fourth line, you inject summer — the sunlight into that.  You inject UV rays into that.  The same effects on line two — as 70 to 35 degrees with 80 percent humidity on the surface.  And look at line four, but now you inject the sun.  The half-life goes from six hours to two minutes.  That’s how much of an impact UV rays has on the virus.

The last two lines are aerosols.  What does it do in the air?  We have a very unique capability — I was discussing this with the President prior to coming out; he wanted me to convey it to you — on how we do this.  I believe we’re the only lab in the country that has this capability.

We worked with John Hopkin Applied Physics Lab, and we actually developed a larger drum to do actually more testing.  And it’s four times the size of that.  So this is the capability that we bring to this effort.

So, in summary, within the conditions we’ve tested to date, the virus in droplets of saliva survives best in indoors and dry conditions.  The virus does not survive as well in droplets of saliva.  And that’s important because a lot of testing being done is not necessarily being done, number one, with the COVID-19 virus, and number two, in saliva or respiratory fluids.

And thirdly, the virus dies the quickest in the presence of direct sunlight under these conditions.  And when you — when you look at that chart, look at the aerosol as you breathe it; you put it in a room, 70 to 75 degrees, 20 percent humidity, low humidity, it lasts — the half-life is about an hour.  But you get outside, and it cuts down to a minute and a half.  A very significant difference when it gets hit with UV rays.

And, Mr. President, while there are many unknown links in the COVID-19 transmission chain, we believe these trends can support practical decision making to lower the risks associated with the virus.

If I can have my next slide.

And when that — while that comes up, you’ll see a number of some practical applications.  For example, increasing the temperature and humidity of potentially contaminated indoor spaces appears to reduce the stability of the virus.  And extra care may be warranted for dry environments that do not have exposure to solar light.

We’re also testing disinfectants readily available.  We’ve tested bleach, we’ve tested isopropyl alcohol on the virus, specifically in saliva or in respiratory fluids.  And I can tell you that bleach will kill the virus in five minutes; isopropyl alcohol will kill the virus in 30 seconds, and that’s with no manipulation, no rubbing — just spraying it on and letting it go.  You rub it and it goes away even faster.  We’re also looking at other disinfectants, specifically looking at the COVID-19 virus in saliva.

This is not the end of our work as we continue to characterize this virus and integrate our findings into practical applications to mitigate exposure and transmission.  I would like to thank the President and thank the Vice President for their ongoing support and leadership to the department and for their work in addressing this pandemic.  I would also like to thank the scientists, not only in S&T and the NBACC, but to the larger scientific and R&D community.

Thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Bill.

Q    Mr. Bryan —

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  So I asked Bill a question that probably some of you are thinking of, if you’re totally into that world, which I find to be very interesting.  So, supposing we hit the body with a tremendous — whether it’s ultraviolet or just very powerful light — and I think you said that that hasn’t been checked, but you’re going to test it.  And then I said, supposing you brought the light inside the body, which you can do either through the skin or in some other way, and I think you said you’re going to test that too.  It sounds interesting.

ACTING UNDER SECRETARY BRYAN:  We’ll get to the right folks who could.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  And then I see the disinfectant, where it knocks it out in a minute.  One minute.  And is there a way we can do something like that, by injection inside or almost a cleaning.  Because you see it gets in the lungs and it does a tremendous number on the lungs.  So it would be interesting to check that.  So, that, you’re going to have to use medical doctors with.  But it sounds — it sounds interesting to me.

So we’ll see.  But the whole concept of the light, the way it kills it in one minute, that’s — that’s pretty powerful.

Steve, please.

Q    You’re saying that the country will be in a better place by early summer.  Does that mean you’re going to need to extend the social distancing guidelines until then?