Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
2:17 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Hello, everyone. I want to highlight three critical aspects of President Trump's response to the coronavirus that have exceeded the media's expectations and should inspire confidence in every American across this country. Rest assured the Trump administration is working tirelessly to defeat the invisible enemy.
First, contrary to some media pronouncements, the United States did not need the 1 million ventilators thus far that the media said we were in dire need of. In fact, it's encouraging to be able to say that every single American who has needed a ventilator has received a ventilator. And this administration has managed to pe- — procure, excuse me, 100,000 ventilators to be manufactured in 100 days. That's extraordinary. That's three times the amount produced in the average year.
Likewise, there was some concern about N95 respirators, but the Trump administration has now shipped over 90 million N95 respirators. Once again, that is more than three times the average healthcare industry consumption of N95 restorators [sic] — respirators in the typical year.
Finally, the U.S. now leads the world in testing. For weeks, the media cited South Korea as being the gold standard for testing. But as it stands, we are now testing at a higher rate per capita than South Korea. And, in fact, as this chart is going to show you, in all 50 states we are now testing at a higher rate per capita than South Korea. So a state in this country is testing at a higher rate per capita than the entire country of South Korea. That's pretty extraordinary, I would say.
Now I would like to provide the American people with an update on the Trump administration's support for underserved communities. As the President has said, this country is at war with the invisible enemy. And while we all fight the virus as one united American people, it is a fact that this virus disproportionately has affected those in medically underserved communities, and therefore the President has committed to delivering economic support and quality care for individuals in distressed communities.
The Trump administration, as I announced last week, distributed $12 billion in provider relief payments to 395 hospitals across the country that have been harded [sic] — hardest hit by the coronavirus. Many of these hospitals were in underserved communities. And to ensure even more funding to these communities, $2 billion of that overall funding was specifically targeted to hospitals in proportion to the amount of care they provide for low-income and uninsured patients.
Additionally, the Trump administration is investing nearly $2 billion in community health centers to help their 28 million patients in medically underserved areas that receive care and the testing they need. That's what this funding is intended for. And additionally, there's $583 million awarded to 1,385 health centers in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the eight U.S. territories specifically geared towards testing.
These health centers currently provide 100,000 tests per week, and 59 percent of the patients tested last week were from minority communities.
Finally, under the Paycheck Protection Program, the Trump administration has done extensive outreach to the community development financial institution funds across the country. These are known as CDFIs, and they support revitalization in distressed communities. In the second round of PPP, 100,000 loans have been distributed to CDFIs and to MDIs, which are known as minority deposit institutions. These have amounted to about $6.2 billion.
And finally, 570,723 loans have been issued to smaller lenders and non-banks, and these loans have amounted to $29.9 billion. President Trump will continue to fight for the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of all Americans, especially those impacted in low-income communities and disadvantaged communities.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: President Trump yesterday said the U.S. had prevailed on testing, but today we heard from senators, both Democratic and Republican, who say that's not the case. Senator Lamar Alexander, a Republican, says, "What our country has done so far in testing is impressive but not nearly enough." Senator Patty Murray, a Democrat, said, "We need dramatically more testing. It's unacceptable we…don't have a national strategic plan."
What's the White House response?
MS. MCENANY: Well, first, I would note the words of Dr. Anthony Fauci, which is this, "We will have, and there will be enough tests to allow us to take this country safely through phase one."
I've sat in the task force meetings where Admiral Giroir has talked to governors and literally pulled out his chart and said: "Governor X, here is your plan and your request for testing in order to safely reopen. I can assure you that that will be satisfied this month."
So I have seen those meetings take place. I can assure the American people, in line with what Dr. Fauci has said, we do have enough for phase one. By the end of the week, we'll be able to say that we've conducted 10 million tests. You know, we went from doing 150,000 tests per week to now testing about 300,000. That's an extraordinary effort, not to — also note that that's two times what other countries are doing when you look at America's testing. I'd say that that's pretty impressive and that's a testament to the work of this administration and the hard work of the private sector.
Q: Kayleigh, two about reopening schools and also vaccines, if you don't mind. First of all, reopening schools: There were a lot of questions today up on the Hill about when indeed that can happen. When will the White House, and will the White House, issue guidance, benchmarks for various communities on when that can happen and how soon that can happen? There's a lot of concerned parents, as you know, across the country.
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, well, you know, in our guidelines to safely reopen that are data driven, it is phase three where there is an outline to beginning to open schools. So, currently, I'd direct you to our guidance that currently exists. And there is that CDC guidance that is in the works that is forthcoming that will provide additional details.
Q: Okay. And with regard to vaccines, the question was asked: When and if a vaccine becomes available, regardless of income, can the President ensure that everybody will get the vaccine regardless of income?
MS. MCENANY: Look, the President will go to great efforts to ensure that. I don't want to get ahead of any announcement on his part, but I would say this: that when it came to testing, there was that same question, "What if I'm uninsured and don't have the ability to afford a test?" This President, before it was even addressed in Congress, called in the private sector and got companies to say, "Yes, we will cover both treatment, and we will cover testing." And then, eventually, that was inscribed into law.
So this President, before it was even an issue on the Hill, took great measures with testing, and he will do the same for vaccines. And I would just note, as Dr. Fauci said on the Hill today, there are eight vaccine candidates. And on January 10th, we received the genetic sequence. The 11th, there was a plan developed. The 14th, development began. And 62 days later, we entered phase one clinical trials for a vaccine, which is the fastest ever — in Dr. Fauci's knowledge, at least. So that's a pretty good pace that I think we're on to getting that vaccine.
Q: Is the President working with pharmaceutical companies? He met with executives back in April. Will he work with them, encourage them, to make sure that vaccines are affordable to everyone?
MS. MCENANY: Absolutely. There's no doubt about it.
Q: Kayleigh, thank you and welcome. I haven't had a chance to —
MS. MCENANY: Thank you.
Q: — say that in this room. I have a couple of questions. First, reopening. Dr. Fauci today stressed many times that reopening without following the federal guidelines and the gating criteria could lead to more outbreaks and could turn back the clock. Does President Trump still believe in these federal guidelines? And if so, why isn't he urging states to follow them instead of asking them to move quickly to reopen?
MS. MCENANY: Well, he has encouraged states to follow the guidelines. That's still consistently our recommendation today, that you should follow the phased approach to reopening as outlined in the data.
I do want to stress, as the President has stressed, that we do want to reopen this country because there are consequences that run the other way when we stay closed down as a country, and I want to run through a few of those with you.
A hotline run by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services saw a 1,000 percent increase in responses during April, as we kept this country closed. Epic's data said appointments for screening for cancer of the cervix, colon, and breast were down 86 percent and 94 percent in March. There are real consequences for that.
I'm a BRCA2 — I carry a BRCA2 mutation, so I was someone who was regularly screened for breast cancer until I got my mastectomy. And when I went to my cancer hospital for screening, I didn't see as many people in the halls.
And that is quite frightening because the consequence of that is this: According to the IQVIA Institute for Human Data Science, a total of 80,000-plus diagnoses of five common cancers in the United States are protected — are projected to be missed or delayed during the three-month period of early March to early June, which is why this President has always said, "Go to your doctor. Do your screenings." There's a way to safely do this. If you feel chest pain, go to your doctor. We can't scare people from going to hospitals. It's a consequence of staying closed, though, when people are scared. They're scared to even go to their doctor, and there are consequences for that.
And finally, I would just point out a recent CNN article from Friday noted a national public health group that warned as many as 75,000 Americans could die because of drug or alcohol misuse and suicide as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.
So there are consequences to us staying closed. And it's why I believe it was eight medical groups came out with a statement — eight medical groups noted concerns that some people with symptoms of heart attack, stroke, and cardiac arrest are avoiding hospitals.
So it's why I've said from this podium, I think at least two times — today is the second or third — you've got to go to your doctor. We've got to encourage this country to safely reopen.
Q: And on testing: Last week, you said it would be nonsensical to test all Americans. And yesterday, the administration celebrated testing 2.7 percent of the population. In order to reopen 100 percent of the country, what amount of testing does make sense to you? And what's an alternative to testing to track and contain the virus to make people feel confident to get back to normal?
MS. MCENANY: Sure. We have to engage in strategic testing, which is what our experts have always said. Look, you know, you had Admiral Giroir, who said it's a bad strategy to say that you need to test everyone because testing a person now just means they're negative at this moment — a point also emphasized by Dr. Fauci. If you get a test today, that does not mean that tomorrow or the next day or the next day or the next day you might get exposed, which is why we acknowledge testing is not preventative.
What is preventative is wearing this mask. What is preventative is social distancing. What is preventative is washing your hands. These are the measures we need to take to safely reopen, and then we'll use testing strategically for contact-tracing purposes, for example. So that's the way it should be used and deployed, and I stand by the comment that I made earlier.
Q: Kayleigh, could you speak just a bit about the next round of coronavirus funding — the bill that the Speaker is releasing today? What provisions are no-go for the administration? What can you get behind?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I won't get ahead of the President in negotiating, but — and I certainly won't condition any future legislation on a certain proposal, but I will say that the President has noted a payroll tax is something that he's looked at — not conditioning it on that, but noting that's something he desires to see, and it's smart policy. In fact, according to Stephen Moore and Art Laffer, this means, quote, "Every worker in America would get a substantial pay raise."
And what is so promising about the payroll tax is that it's a regressive tax, so the lowest-wage workers are, in fact, the ones who would be most helped because they pay more payroll tax than they do income tax.
So that's something the President has mentioned, not necessarily as a condition. I won't negotiate here with Speaker Pelosi, but I encourage her to work with the President to help these low-income individuals get this tax cut that they deserve.
Q: One — just one follow-up.
MS. MCENANY: Yes.
Q: I'm sorry. Michael Pack has a confirmation hearing on Thursday. Could you speak to what the President wants him to do, if confirmed, to change the way the Voice of America operates?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I won't get ahead of that hearing, which is later in the week, as you noted.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. I wanted to ask you about the task force. The President and the Vice President said last week that there'll be some new additions to the task force and that those would be announced on Monday. We haven't seen those names yet. Do you have any update on that and whether there are going to, in fact, be people added to the task force?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, there will be additions, but no announcements on that just yet.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. There were some deaths in St. Petersburg today from ventilators — Russian ventilators — that exploded. I'm wondering whether you can tell us what happened to the Russian ventilators that were sent to the United States and whether those ventilators have been used, and if not, if there — or if so, if they're being taken out of commission.
MS. MCENANY: Look, that's the first I'm hearing of that story, so I don't have any updates on that other than to note that we are way ahead of where we should be on ventilators, as I noted in my opening remarks. A hundred thousand ventilators in 100 days is really good, and no one has died for lack of a ventilator. But that's the first I'm hearing of that story.
Q: And let me just ask you one other question if I can, then. Yesterday, the President indicated that he might be communicating with Vice President Pence by phone for a while, while the Vice President keeps some distance. Can you give us an update on whether or not those two men are going to see each other in person or whether — I know the Vice President has been working at the White House. Is he keeping his distance from the President for a while?
MS. MCENANY: The Vice President has made the choice to keep his distance for a few days. And I would just note that that's his personal decision to make that. As to how many days he does it, again, that's a decision for the Vice President.
Q: I have a related question. When is the next time that we might see Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci here in this room, giving us an update on, kind of, the status of the public health regarding coronavirus?
MS. MCENANY: Look, we've heard from Dr. Fauci pretty much the entirety of the day. He had a hearing, as you noted, so you've probably heard from him more hours today than — than you've ever heard from Dr. Fauci. You hear from these experts regularly out on television. And, you know, we'll see the next time they're up here in this capacity, but they — we certainly have valued their time and we continue to value their time.
Q: It has been a while since we've seen Dr. Birx, though, for example. I mean, she is the coordinator of the Coronavirus Task Force. When might we see her and be able to get an update from her and be able to ask questions of her?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, again, you know, I don't know when in this capacity you will see her, but I talk to Dr. Birx regularly. In fact, I talked to her just before I came out here because I had some questions about some funny numbers I heard from Senator Elizabeth Warren, and she helped me to correct those numbers, which I'd like to correct here, because I think it's unfair to the American people to give inflated case numbers and mortality numbers because it leads to those same Americans making the decision to not get a mammogram, to not have the cancer screenings they need. So I'd like to just reveal to you some information Dr. Birx just shared with me.
Elizabeth Warren erroneously said there were 25,000 new cases today. In fact, there were less than 20,000. Senator Warren said there were 2,000 deaths. In fact, there have been less than 1,000. I spoke with Dr. Birx about that.
So I'd encourage our Democratic colleagues and all Americans to make sure we're putting out their good information, because it does have consequences.
Q: Thank you. The Justice Department is considering bringing federal hate crime charges against the two men charged with murdering Ahmaud Arbery. Does the President think that's appropriate?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I'd refer you to the Department of Justice's statement, which is this: That "we are considering the request to the Attorney General of Georgia and have asked that he forward to federal authorities any information that he has about the handling of that investigation. We will continue to assess all information, and we will take any appropriate action that is warranted by the facts and the law." And the President — I've heard him say it to me personally — his heart breaks for the family of Ahmaud Arbery. And we want to see justice in that case, as the facts lead us to that place.
Q: Yeah. White House staff yesterday were asked to wear masks around the West Wing, except when you are seated at the desks. I can't help but notice you're not wearing a mask. What's the reason for that? Is that a television thing? Or —
MS. MCENANY: No, it's because I'm distanced from you. You'd probably have a hard time hearing from me right now, should I have a mask on, and I'd be muffled. I'm delivering information to the American people. I'm an appropriate distance away. I had a negative test today, I had a negative test yesterday, and I'm in an okay place.
Q: (Inaudible.) Go ahead.
Q: On Afghanistan, if I may, President Ashraf Ghani has put his troops on an offensive footing. Has President Trump spoken to him about that? And what does it mean for the U.S.-led peace process?
MS. MCENANY: Not that I'm aware of. And I don't have any new information on that.
Q: Thank you. We're seeing a White House report on locations to watch who have increased cases. Can you hear me okay?
MS. MCENANY: You said locations to watch?
Q: Locations to watch who have increased cases.
MS. MCENANY: Okay.
Q: We're seeing rates spiking in several spots in the Midwest, including Kansas City. Is this a concern of yours? And can you address it?
MS. MCENANY: I did speak with Dr. Birx about this just before coming out. And I think you're referring to a document that was put out. That wasn't a White House document; it was a FEMA document that looked at what was going on in the Midwest.
And she made the point to me — she showed me a document that showed that these are isolated outbreaks that, where there are specific instances in, let's say, a meat-processing facility or a prison, where we isolate that there's a problem, we're able to contact trace and pretty quickly resolve the situation.
She pointed out that, in Des Moines, there was a dairy county meatpacking facility, and that was a good example of where we were able to do that. So I would just say that — and this was a quote — this is proof that the system is working, that we're able to identify what the President said are "embers" and put them out. It's the system at work.
Q: Yeah. You mentioned, as an example of the risk of not closing, people not going to medical appointments. How do you extend that argument to restaurants, nail salons, you know, barbershops, and beauty — are those the kind of the essential things you're talking about?
MS. MCENANY: What I'm talking about is we have a phased plan to reopen, and you can follow those guidelines. And the restaurants are in phases, and the entertainment facilities you noted are in phases, as accordance with declining cases.
But as a whole, with the totality of the circumstances, when you have a society that's shut down and people are locked in their homes and they're isolated, it leads to the very suicide-line increased calls that I noted. It leads to drug abuse. There are consequences to eternally staying shut down, which is why you have to find the balance, which the President does in consultation with expert advice from Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx and the task force, and he makes the best decision for America going forward.
He made the right decision to shut down the country at the time he did because there were 2.2 million lives at stake, and a lot of American lives were saved because of that decision. But at the same time, it's a balance, which is why we put out the phased guidelines to reopening.
Q: And I'd also like to ask you about a statement that Dr. Fauci made today. He said, "I think we are going in the right direction, but the right direction does not mean we have, by any means, total control of this outbreak." How does that square with the President's statement yesterday that we have prevailed over the outbreak?
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President made clear he was talking about testing. The fact that we can say we're doing double that of any other country, the fact that we can put up that graph that shows South Korea as a small, little red bar of testing per capita, and every bar beside it is an American state or territory outdoing what South Korea has done — and let's note that South Korea was the gold standard for testing.
In fact, on March 13th, The Washington Post headline was: "South Korea is doing 10,000 coronavirus tests a day. The U.S. is struggling for even a small fraction of that." And here we are on May 11th with a Washington Post headline: "The administration keeps bragging that the U.S. testing now is better than South Korea's was" a month ago.
So you can't demand that we reach South Korea, and then say that we're "bragging" when we do. This is a moment where the American private sector succeeded. This administration mobilized that testing. Every state is better off than South Korea at this moment, and that is a very good thing and something to be celebrated because it's American innovation at its best with 92 emergency use authorizations, and it's this administration under President Trump working.
Q: But does the President agree with Dr. Fauci that we do not have total control over this outbreak?
MS. MCENANY: The President believes in the phased guidelines to reopening, which Dr. Fauci signed off on along with Dr. Birx, and we encourage every state and governor to follow.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh. The President said on Monday that Florida has so much testing that testers are literally sitting around waiting for people and that there is a, quote, "great overcapacity." Yet, the reality in the state is there are still widespread criticism, reports of not enough testing. And the Kaiser Family Foundation ranks Florida 24th in the country per capita when it comes to testing. So is the President being overly optimistic about the situation in Florida?
MS. MCENANY: Not in the slightest. I was actually in the Oval Office when that discussion transpired and the Governor of Florida, Governor DeSantis — who's doing a phenomenal job — talked about that there were — there was over-testing ability at these sites. So there were extra tests. There wasn't enough demand. There weren't people showing up to use them all.
He said that that had happened around some sites in the state. He saw it firsthand. He's the governor of Florida — and that's a good thing — and we're able to fulfill Governor DeSantis's plan in full that he has laid out as necessary to reopening the state of Florida, which happens to be my great home state.
Q: But overall, the data does not support that, Kayleigh. So is the President just listening to the governor or is he looking at the data?
MS. MCENANY: Oh, he's looking at the data. As I noted to you, Admiral Giroir has a chart of every single governor's plan and has said we will fulfill every single governor's plan. Governor DeSantis was reporting what he had seen at distinct facilities that are drive-through testing sites.
Q: With the restarting of the economies on both sides of the Canadian and U.S. border, you know how much trade between the two sides are essential for communities. Can you update us on the plans for reopening and also a timeline for reopening the border?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, no announcements on that front today.
Q: Thank you. With the release of the transcripts related to Adam Schiff's Russia probe this week, do you have — is there any information you can share with us as to what the DOJ has shared with the White House on whether it is investigating Obama administration officials on this matter?
MS. MCENANY: So I don't have any updates on that front because that's currently a DOJ matter. But you did refer to transcripts, and I do think it's an important moment to talk about what was in some of the transcripts that were released prior to today, so not the specific ones that you're asking about.
But we learned from newly released transcripts a few things: We learned that what some Obama officials were saying publicly was much different than what they were saying privately. James Clapper was out there saying that he had evidence that this was worse than Watergate when, in fact, a few weeks later he was saying privately, "I never saw any direct empirical evidence that the Trump campaign or someone in it was plotting [or] conspiring with Russia."
Samantha Power said, "I am not in possession of anything — I am not in possession and didn't read or [any] absorb any information that came" out of the intelligence community, suggesting collusion. Ambassador Rice: "I don't recall…intelligence or evidence to that effect." Former Attorney General Loretta Lynch: "I can't say that — [if] it existed or not. I don't recall that being briefed up to me."
So it rings the question — it brings the question to light: Why then did we have many years of investigating collusion that these Obama administration officials — never existed, they never saw any evidence of, but for three years the American people were dragged through the mud and told that their choice for the President of the United States might have been a Russian asset based on no evidence of all — at all?
This President was exonerated by the Mueller reports, and there are some real questions for these individuals who are saying one thing publicly and another thing privately.
Thank you so much. I think I got to all of you, and we'll be back soon.
2:41 P.M. EDT
Kayleigh McEnany, Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/341863