White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing

President Donald Trump

  • Our nation is engaged in a historic battle against the invisible enemy. To win this fight, we have undertaken the greatest national mobilization since World War Two.
  • We’ve marshaled every instrument of American power, and we’ve unleashed our most potent weapon of all: the courage of the American people.
  • These have been trying times. A cruel virus from a distant land has unfairly claimed thousands of precious American lives. To every citizen who has lost a cherished loved one: Your pain is our pain. We mourn as one national family. Our country has come together. We draw solace from the faith that God has received, and the departed. He has taken the departed into his eternal and loving embrace. They will never be forgotten.
  • Over the last weeks and months, millions of Americans have joined together in a shared national sacrifice to halt the spread of this horrible disease.
  • The Army built field hospitals and sports arenas and convention centers. The Army Corps of Engineers is great. Over 20,000 beds in record time.
  • The Navy sailed hospital ships to our biggest cities. 
  • Lifesaving supplies and experimental medicines were rushed to the frontlines as we launched a rapid search for groundbreaking treatments and vaccines.
  • We built the most advanced and robust testing anywhere in the world, and we’ve done more testing than any country anywhere in the world.
  • We suspended dangerous foreign travel.
  • We leveraged our industrial base to produce vast quantities of critical medical gear and enacted a historic 2-trillion-dollar relief package.
  • We have seen the heroism of our doctors and nurses, our warriors, the bravery of our truck drivers, food suppliers, and the determination and drive of our citizens.
  • Our experts and scientists report that our strategy to slow the spread has saved hundreds of thousands of lives. Models predicted between 1.5 million and 2.2 million U.S. deaths if there was no mitigation. Between 100,000 and 240,000 deaths with mitigation. It’s looking like we will come far under even these lowest numbers.
  • Our experts say the curve has flattened and the peak in new cases is behind us. Nationwide, more than 850 counties, or nearly 30 percent of our country, have reported no new cases in the last seven days.
  • The United States has achieved a significant lower mortality rate than almost all other countries.
  • Based on the latest data, our team of experts now agrees that we can begin, “Opening Up America Again.”
  • I have said for some time now, a national shutdown is not a sustainable long-term solution. To preserve the health of our citizens, we must also preserve the health and functioning of our economy. Over the long haul, you can’t do one without the other.
  • We want to deliver food and medical supply. We must have a working economy. And we want to get it back very, very quickly, and that’s what’s going to happen. I believe it will boom.
  • Prolonged lockdown combined with a forced economic depression would inflict an immense toll on public health.
  • Our country has suffered. The world has suffered
  • My Administration is issuing new federal guidelines that will allow governors to take a phased and deliberate approach to reopening their individual states.
  • Thank Dr. Birx for her incredible leadership in crafting these guidelines in consultation with scientists, experts, and medical professionals across government. Dr. Birx will explain the guidelines in more detail in a few moments. Dr. Fauci has been absolutely terrific. We’ve all worked together, and we’ve worked together well.
  • Our approach outlines three phases in restoring our economic life. We are not opening all at once, but one careful step at a time.
  • Our strategy will continue to protect senior citizens and other vulnerable populations while allowing military and other groups of incredibly talented people to go about their real business and the business that’s supposed to be hard at work at doing.
  • Healthy Americans will now be able to return to work as conditions on the ground allow. Instead of a blanket shutdown, we will pursue a focus on sheltering the highest-risk individuals.
  • We’re establishing clear scientific, metric, and benchmarks on testing, new case growth, and hospital capacity that must be met before advancing to each phase.
  • This is a gradual process. As the caseload in a state continues to go down, restrictions can continue to be eased and come off.
  • Throughout the process, citizens will continue to be called upon to use all of their weapons in this war: vigorous hygiene, teleworking when possible, staying at home if you feel sick, maintaining social distance, sanitizing commonly used surfaces, and being highly conscious of their surroundings. Those are our weapons.
  • Governors will be empowered to tailor an approach that meets the diverse circumstances of their own states. We are also encouraging states to work together to harmonize their regional efforts.
  • As we reopen, we know that there will be continued hardships and challenges ahead. Our goal will be to quickly identify and address any outbreaks and put them out rapidly. If the virus returns in the fall, as some scientists think it may possibly, these guidelines will ensure that our country is up and running so that we can likewise put it out quickly.
  • The heart of our strategy is the vital role of medical research, especially for therapies that will significantly improve outcomes for high-risk patients and reduce the need for urgent care.
  • At least 35 clinical trials are already underway, including antiviral therapies, immune therapies, and blood therapies in the form of convalescent plasma.
  • We will also continue to expand our testing capacity. We have now completed more than 3.5 million tests, by far the most anywhere in the world.
  • We have now distributed over 600,000 Abbott ID NOW point-of-care diagnostic tests. These are tests that are done on site, and, within five minutes, you know the answer: positive or negative.
  • As we begin a science-based reopening, we must be extra vigilant in blocking the foreign entry of the virus from abroad. Border control, travel restrictions, and other limitations on entry will be more important than ever.
  • Now the American people are ready to rise to the occasion once again. They are ready to show the world once more that Americans can defeat any challenger. Together, we will rebuild this land that we love, we will reclaim the magnificent destiny that we share, and we will carry our nation forward to new heights of greatness and glory. 

Vice President Mike Pence

  • Members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force today joined the President to meet with a bipartisan group of members of the House and of the Senate to get their counsel on the development of what the President unveiled to America’s governors this afternoon.
  • The new guidelines for “Opening Up America Again” are a product of the best science and the best common sense that the President has marshaled on this team and from a broad range of advisors from all across the nation.
  • The President launched a whole-of-government approach. 
  • More than 640,000 Americans having contracted the coronavirus, and our hearts go out to the families of the more than 31,000 Americans who lost their lives and those who continue to struggle with serious consequences of the coronavirus.
  • Because of the actions of this President, this administration, governors at every level, our healthcare workers, and our fellow Americans, we’ve saved lives. Every American should be comforted by that.
  • The guidelines begin with what is the best criteria that our experts have developed, a downward trajectory in cases over a 14-day period of time to ensure states have proper capacity in their healthcare facilities.
  • These new guidelines for “Opening Up America Again” can be implemented on a statewide basis or on a county-by-county basis.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx

  • Slide: Talks about the gatekeeping criteria moving into Phase One.
    • Both the state and public health officials are used to watching this, county health officials are used to watching it, and frankly, every family around the United States knows how to access this on the CDC website in order to get up-to-date information to the communities.
    • We are tracking the number of cases, and it must have a downward trajectory for 14 days, as well as the influenza-like illness and the syndromic illnesses, and a downward trajectory in the number of positive tests with persistence of high levels of testing.
  • Slide: Chart the syndromic illnesses were reporting throughout the early part of March. You can see in New Orleans; respiratory diseases were starting to be seen in the emergency room. That is the red line. The cases are shown in the dark blue line. The gray mountain is testing, and underneath that is the blue mountain of positives. You can see that the early alert was present from the emergency room about early respiratory disease. You can see it predated the cases.
  • Slide: That first peak is influenza B in the red; that’s this season. I showed you all the seasons here so you could see the seasons as they are displayed. The first peak is influenza B, second peak influenza A. Then you can see the coronavirus, and it’s decline towards the baseline. This will allow us city by city, community by community, state by state to look for variations and an early response mode in those localities that I described.
  • Slide: Call your attention to the third bullet on this graphic. The third bullet is about setting up sentinel surveillance sites to be able to distinguish and find asymptomatic individuals that you have heard about that may be either pre-symptomatic or asymptomatic throughout their entire disease course. We want to be able to find them in communities of particular vulnerability. We’ll be doing sentinel surveillance throughout nursing homes, inner-city federal clinics, indigenous populations to be able to find early alerts of asymptomatic individuals in the community. We want to make sure that all the healthcare facilities have adequate protective — personal protective devices and the equipment to handle the surge and to ensure the ICUs can handle increased capacity.

We want every state to have a plan for the health and safety of its workers in critical industries, and to protect the health and safety of those living in high-risk facilities, including senior care facilities, as we discussed with sentinel surveillance but also additional surveillance.

  • Slide: This slide is the 15 and 30 days to prevent the spread. It’s continuing those critical handwashing or sanitizer, avoiding touching your face at all times, disinfecting surface, using face covering while in public, following state and local guidelines, and staying home if you are sick. A lot of people go to the workplace when they are feeling ill. You know when you’re feeling ill. It won’t get better by going to work. We’re asking again for people to stay home when they’re sick.
  • Slide: employers need to ensure that there can be social distancing and protective equipment; temperature checks; use of disinfectant in high-traffic areas, including break rooms; and ensuring there’s no non-essential business travel, and monitoring for any symptomatic individuals in the workplace.
  • Phase One:
    • You have to go through those gating criteria related to 14 days of decreasing evidence of illness and decreasing testing, despite adequate testing.
    • Phase One begins with all vulnerable individuals, including those with comorbidities continuing to shelter in place and ensuring that those who go out into the public are not those that are most vulnerable to bad outcomes in this disease. Continue to do six-feet maximum physical distancing in public spaces, continuing to avoid large gatherings and all non-essential travel.
    • For employers, if a vulnerable population needs to return to work and cannot be teleworking, there should be special accommodations for all vulnerable populations, as well as options for teleworking. We believe every employee should encourage work return in phases: from 20 percent or 25 percent, to 40 percent, to 50 percent. Minimize all non-essential travel.
    • If schools are already closed, they should remain closed. All visits to senior living facilities and hospitals should be continued to be prohibited. Large venues, including sit-down dining, can only be operated under strict physical distancing protocols and maintaining those six feet. Gyms could open if they, again, adhere to strict physical distancing. Elective surgeries can resume on an outpatient basis.
  • Phase Two:
    • Continuation of another 14-day decline among those criteria that were in the gating. We’re asking for all vulnerable individuals to shelter in place.
    • We did not put a timeline on any of the phases. We want the Governors, with the data that they have, community by community, to be set up the timelines.
    • We’re asking for the public to continue to maximize physical distance; however, we increased social settings to be able to now have 50 individuals, and non-essential travel can resume.
    • For employers, we still encourage telework, and the common areas should remain closed or be physically distant. All non-essential travel for employees can resume. Special accommodations for vulnerable.
    • Schools, daycares, and camps can reopen in Phase Two. Visits to senior-living facilities and hospitals should remain prohibited.
    • Large venues can operate but solely under moderate physical distancing. 
    • Elective surgeries can resume on an outpatient and inpatient basis.
  • Phase Three: It’s essentially returning to our new normal, with all of what we talked about through all phases: continuing the good hygiene practices, continuing the respect for spaces between individuals, because we know that we still have an issue with asymptomatic spread. 

National Institute of Health Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci

  • As you’ve seen just now from the detailed presentation from Dr. Birx, this is a rather robust program for re-entering into normality.
  • I told you that when we get to the point where we’re going to take those steps towards trying to get back to some form of normality, that it would not be a light switch that you could turn on and off. I meant that in two different components.
  • First, we are a very large country and we have different dynamics in the country. We have areas of the country that have gone through a terrible ordeal, and others that fortunately have gone and gotten through this rather lightly.
  • Second is that light switch. On and off is the exact opposite of what you see here, which is a gradual gradation. The dominating driver of was to make sure that this is done in the safest way possible.
  • In order to even consider getting into the phasing, you have to pass a hurdle we refer to as “gating in.” You don’t get to phase one until you get through the gating.
  • In order to make sure that safety and health is the dominant issue, the design of the phases were just that. You go into phase one. If you get no rebound and you satisfy the gating for yet again a second time, then you go to phase two. If you have no rebound and you satisfy the gating criteria for a third time, you go into phase three. There are multiple checkpoints of safety there.
  • We feel confident that, sooner or later, we will get to the point with safety as the most important thing where we can get back to some form of normality.
  • If you are in phase one, two, three, it’s not, “Okay, game over.” It’s not. It’s going to be a way that we protect ourselves because, as we know, it may very well be a cycle that this virus can come back to us.

Full remarks and topics covered in the answer and question portion of the briefing can be found here: April 16 Briefing


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