White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing

President Donald Trump

  • Now is a time of national solidarity.
  • Approved emergency declaration for the State of New York at Governor Cuomo’s request. The emergency declaration is unprecedented action in New York.  
  • President Trump will consider emergency declarations for other states if Governors make such requests. We expect California will need this assistance as well.
  • Reminder about new travel restrictions with Canada and Mexico.  
  • Conducted conference call with over 2,000 small businesses to reiterate support for small businesses. 
  • Specifically called out Walmart and CEO Doug McMillion for stepping up the effort to meet consumer demand. 
  • Spoke at length to leaders of G-7 countries.
  • Spoke to many religious leaders yesterday via conference call.  
  • Reiterated many of the developments that were announced at earlier press conferences this week (Education testing, signed Families First Coronavirus Response Act, FDA development of therapeutics, Defense Production Act, HUD actions, expansion of telehealth, etc.) 
  • Every American has a role to play to defeat this invisible enemy. It’s a time of national sacrifice but also a time for what counts: family, friends, faith.
  • We are going to celebrate a significant victory in the not too distant future. 
  • Negotiations are ongoing on the Hill.  

Vice President Mike Pence

  • We are six days into our 15-day guidelines.
  • Data shows that this virus is 3x more contagious than the flu.
  • I am overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from businesses all over the country. 
  • Thank all religious leaders across the country for prayers and willingness to suspend services and to hold church online. Even if Americans are not in the pews still need to contribute to their local congregation.
  • On Monday, the Task Force will detail progress on getting more personal protective equipment (PPE) through FEMA.  
  • HHS just placed an order for hundreds of millions of N95 masks. Masks will be ready in a matter of weeks.  
  • Addressed the news from last night about a member of his staff who has tested positive for COVID-19. CDC has conducted contact tracing. The VP and his wife will get tested this afternoon.  
  • Hopes to pass aid package by Monday in Senate. Reiterated the President’s comments that negotiations are ongoing.

Assistant Secretary of Health, Department of Health and Human Services Admiral Brett Giroir

  • 195,000 tests completed through March 20 and 19,343 individuals have tested positive. It does not include state-based lab data – will get this data in the next few days. 
  • Each American does not need to get tested.  Priorities for testing: those in ICU, asymptomatic healthcare workers, asymptomatic elderly, individuals with underlying health conditions, and public health officials.  
  • For hospitals experiencing shortages, hospitals need to call emergency management who then goes to FEMA, and there is a distribution from the stockpile of supplies. Masks go out as requested.

National Institute for Health Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases

Dr. Anthony Fauci

  • 15-day guidelines are the baseline for everyone, but for area hardest hit, mitigation strategies are much more aggressive. “I can tell you for sure from a public health standpoint that we know we’re having an effect, but we can’t quantify it for you now.”
  • Hospitals, where supplies are being rationed, and doctors and nurses are getting sick, should get relief within days.
  • Everyone does not need to be tested. If unnecessary tests are happening, PPE is being wasted.
  • Reiterated the need to cancel and postpone elective medical and surgical procedures.

FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor 

  • FEMA is leading a whole of nation response.
  • FEMA is assisting states and tribes with health and safety.  FEMA is helping all 50 states, Washington, DC, territories, and tribes. 
  • Requests for critical supplies must be routed through regular channels to ensure they are getting the highest priority.  Buy America provisions do not apply to Stafford Act except in certain areas. If states buy supplies on the open market or from international entities, FEMA will provide reimbursement.  
  • Locally executed, state managed, and federally supported, I can’t say enough that this is the model we are following.

Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson

  • Having a home is a critical part of being healthy. 
  • Immediate cessation of foreclosures and evictions for 60 days. FHA is doing the same for 60 days.  
  • Urging banks and private lenders to institute mortgage loan forbearance. Americans need to contact their mortgage lender to request forbearance.  
  • Section 8 April vouchers will be distributed next week. May vouchers already in process.
  • HUD is trying to bridge the gap. We don’t want to destroy an excellent system. 

During the Question and Answer portion of the briefing, The Defense Production Act (DFA) and its deployment continue to garner confusion in these briefings. The President has provided conflicting answers on his use of the DFA (yesterday he said that he IS using the full powers granted by the Act).  

In today’s briefing, the President stated that he had NOT used the DFA powers to compel companies to act to produce necessary supplies. 

The President noted that “we have so many companies who have stepped up to make medical equipment, so we don’t need to use the Act if companies are volunteering to help.”

The President was also asked when he learned about the pandemic in light of news reports stating Intelligence warnings of the coming pandemic were not heeded.   

Another reporter asked about the meaning of the cancellation of education testing for K-12. 

Vice President Pence responded that he would ask Education Secretary DeVos to attend the briefing tomorrow or Monday to explain.

Vice President Pence said the goal was for the federal government to make clear that the burden of testing is not going to be placed on schools during these trying times

Full Remarks of the White House Coronavirus Task Force:  https://www.whitehouse.gov/news

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