White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing

Today’s White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Conference is summarized below. 

Note Dr. Anthony Fauci, the government’s top expert on infectious diseases, was absent from the press conference.  

There are multiple reports that tension exists between President Trump and Dr. Fauci’s blunt approach and contradiction of the President’s statements during the press briefings.  

Dr. Fauci gave an interview over the weekend stating, “The next time they sit down with him and talk about what he’s going to say, they will say, ‘By the way, Mr. President, be careful about this and don’t say that.’,” Fauci said. “But I can’t jump in front of the microphone and push him down. OK, he said it. Let’s try and get it corrected for the next time.” 

The President also used his remarks today and the Q&A portion to expand on a tweet he sent last night that the “cure should not be worse than the problem”.

The President wants to return to normal and lift current restrictions when the 15-day guidelines end next week.

Public health officials including Dr. Fauci are pushing back against the President’s desire to lift the current restrictions and “open for business again”.

President Donald Trump

  • We will get through this challenge. Normal life will return soon. We must remain united in purpose. Sacrifice being made is saving lives.
  • Must protect Asian Americans. Spread of virus is not their fault.
  • Our country was not built to be shut down. America will be open for business for soon. The cure won’t be worse than the problem. We will assess the opening of the country once we get past this 15-day period (ends next week March 30). This is a medical problem that we will not allow to be a financial problem. We won’t allow it.
  • Continue to work with Democrats and Republicans to pass economic aid package.  We must avoid playing partisan games. I’m told negotiations are getting close to a deal.
  • Supplies – 8 million N95 and 13.3 million surgical masks have been sent across the country and places with greatest need including personal protective equipment (PPE) supplies to NY and WA.
  • Happy to report that clinical trials will begin in NY tomorrow for existing drugs that may treat the virus. Thank FDA for incredible work.
  • Postponing deadline for compliance with REAL ID requirements. New deadline will be announced shortly.
  • Overnight 103 Americans returned to US who were stranded in Brazil on a cruise.  
  • Virus is in 148 countries.
  • Today, I invoked Section 4512 of Defense Production Act to prohibit hoarding of biomedical supplies and PPE. Our goal is to also prevent price gouging. DOJ will prosecute fraudulent schemes seeking to exploit Americans during this crisis.   Currently prosecuting a company who fraudulently advertised a vaccine.
  • Thanks to Fed Ex, UPS, USPA and truckers who are maintaining supply chains. Also want to thank first responders, medical workers, grocery workers, restaurant workers and delivery drivers for their tremendous work.

Attorney General William Barr

  • DOJ working to keep enforcement efforts at full throttle during this crisis. Thank all colleagues in law enforcement at all levels of government.
  • On March 18th, Executive Order 13909 invoked Defense Production Act (DPA) to address shortage of PPE and ventilators.  Today, President signed second Executive Order to address those hoarding supplies and PPE.  
  • DPA designates materials as “scarce” or buy persons keeping excess amounts, beyond usual personal or business needs.   Today’s Executive Order delegates authority to Secretary of HHS Alex Azar to designate these critical items and work with DOJ to identify hoarding that is interfering in response to virus. We are talking about hoarding on an industrial scale, not personal or ordinary course of business.  People who have bought a lot of toilet paper don’t need to worry. If you are sitting on a stockpile of masks, we will be knocking on your door.
  • Designated Lead Prosecutor in each of 93 jurisdictions to pursue these cases.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx

  • Getting mortality data from health ministers around the world and appreciates their cooperation.
  • No child under 15 has died in Europe. One child who was 14 in China passed away.
  • In Italy, pre-existing conditions continue to account for most mortalities.
  • 250,000 tests run in last 7 days. Thanks to all lab employees. Labs are still getting more tests than they can run in one day.
  • Self-nasal swabbing will be available from FDA this week. Does not change recommendations to only get tested if need to, but self-tests will help address strain on PPE supplies.

Vice President Mike Pence

  • Call with Governors again today assuring Governors who have submitted disaster declarations that those requests will be considered expeditiously. Already acted on declarations for NY, WA, CA.
  • Spoke to Governors about the bill negotiated on the Hill and the need for Governors to weigh in with their respective Senators and Congressional delegations.
  • Asked Governors to survey all hospital operating rooms and surgical outpatient centers to identify ventilators that can be converted for use to help coronavirus patients under new FDA guidelines.
  • 313,000 tests have been completed.
  • HHS Guidance going out tonight that will direct all commercial labs to prioritize testing for hospital patients.  All hospital labs required to report tests data to CDC.
  • We are 8 days into the 15-day guidelines. Urge Americans to follow guidelines and those in place by State and Local officials that are more stringent than the federal guidelines.

FEMA Supply Chain Task Force Navy Rear Adm. John Polowczyk

  • Brief comments about the purpose of the Task Force and their Work with private sector to increase supply.

The question and answer session began with a question to President Trump about the Surgeon General’s statements that the numbers are going to get worse. President Trump responded that he agrees the numbers will get much worse, but “we will open our country up to do business. Parts of the country with small numbers (NE, ID, IA, and other states) handling the virus very well and not impacted to extent of NY need to open and get businesses and people back to work.” Dr. Birx injected that our response may have to be tailored to geographic data and even age population to see if mitigation measures are working. She explained that we are doing projections for both areas with less impact and areas with greatest impact. She said we must identify the virus where it is, where is going, and what predictions we can make about the curve before we will know if we can reduce current guidelines. President Trump reiterated via tweet and again during the press conference that the “cure should not be worse than the problem”. He said he is not looking at months at all – no longer sticking to his timeframe of June or July. He will reopen the country in weeks not month while also watching hot spots and vulnerable populations such as senior citizens. He stated that “we have to do both.  Governors will have tremendous leeway for how to operate their state when we get the country back to work.”

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