Press Briefing by Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
4:32 P.M. EDT
MS. MCENANY: Good afternoon, everyone. I'd like to direct your attention to a very encouraging graph regarding test results. It'll be over my shoulder and hopefully on the screen for those of you watching on television. As this chart shows, the United States has, to date, completed 7.5 million coronavirus tests. It's an extraordinary number. And, as you can see, the United States leads the world in testing.
This graph is no accident. In fact, this graph is a testament to American innovation, including the work of the Trump administration. For example, the FDA has issued over 70 emergency use authorizations to expand testing capacity to accelerate the development of therapeutics and vaccines. There are nearly 80 clinical trials ongoing with an additional 30 clinical trials expected.
This graph is also a testament to the American people who have been — and it's no exaggeration — American warriors, as they've followed social distancing guidelines and taken steps to ensure that the health and safety of our vulnerable populations is protected.
Finally, I would like to note that this graph indicates that the U.S. has conducted double the number of tests conducted in other countries. The U.S. is providing leadership during this crisis, not only leading the world in testing, but also taking steps to help allies around the world — steps we are able to take only because of this country's incredible ingenuity and work ethic.
As you're well aware, President Trump has consistently sided with the experts and has always prioritized the health and safety of the American people. This includes issuing guidance that meant hardworking Americans had to stay home, social distance, and slow the spread of the virus. The hard work of Americans saved many lives, and we salute the great citizens of this country for your hard work.
As Americans across the country stayed home and businesses temporarily shut their doors, President Trump ensured American employees and employers would receive the help that they needed. The Paycheck Protection Program provided forgivable loans to small-business owners who kept their employees on payroll.
To date, 2.3 million small-business loans have been processed, with the average loan being $76,000. In other words, meaning that the small businesses that needed the help the most got it. I would remind everyone that, of the 1.6 million loans given out in the first tranche of spending, one million of those went to businesses with 10 or fewer employees. So it truly has gone to those who need it most.
Joe Shamess is a small-business owner. Joe, with his co-founder Brian Steorts are two veteran special operators in the military who started Flags of Valor in 2015. It's a veteran-owned, veteran-run manufacturing company located not too far from here in Virginia.
Flags of Valor builds wooden flags, among other products. They've employed, over their years, 65 veterans and have raised over $1 million for veteran charities. Flags of Valor is also proud to have 97,000 hours of American manufacturing labor under their belt. That's a lot of hours.
At the start of this crisis, Joe had to furlough four of his employees, in addition to imposing a 50 percent pay cut. His employees were, of course, disappointed but they were, quote, in his words, "all in," in the fight against the coronavirus.
Everything changed for Joe and his furloughed employees when he applied for the PPP loan. Just this week, he was approved for that PPP loan that enabled Flags of Valor to rehire its furloughed employees and to boost paychecks back to pre-coronavirus levels. "PPP was a huge lifeline for us," Joe told me. He called it a lifesaver.
This is a perfect example of why President Trump fought for additional PPP funding and will continue to fight for small businesses and American heroes like Joe. Joe is here with me today, and I'd like to invite him to come up.
Joe, thank you so much for your service. Thank you for all the great work you've done for our veterans and being a veteran yourself. I wanted to see if you'd take to the podium for a minute or two and share your message of hope with the American people.
MR. SHAMESS: I'd love to. Thank you, Kayleigh, and thank you, President Trump, for allowing me to be here today. I've got a couple props. This is examples of one of our products that we make, and here's another one. This one, my son Gabriel made.
And when — when you talk about hope and what's going on, it's a — it's a challenging time for small business. We lost two-thirds of our revenue like that. Gone. And so trying to get that back, and when you think about a small business that generally is running maybe it's 10 to 20 percent profit margin, two-thirds is a killer.
And so when you think about the Paycheck Protection Program, the two biggest fixed costs for most businesses is people and property. And that's exactly what the PPP focused on.
So, for us, it was a lifesaver. It was an absolute game changer. We went from trying to figure out how we were going to limit our cash burn every single day to stay alive as long as we could, with as many people as we could, to finally bring them back. And when you have to furlough someone, I'm telling you, it is one of the worst things you can do because you're talking about family. These are people. These are their — their wives, their husbands, their children. They're a part of your ethos.
And so what we've experienced has been challenging, sure. But when there hasn't been all the revenue, there's been people helping other people. And the way we approached it was, how can we be better? How can we exit COVID-19 a better version of ourselves? How can we innovate?
And so we saw people like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the SBA step in. We saw our partners at Under Armour step in. We saw innovation — you see companies making respirator masks. You see all kinds of stuff going on. And we created the flag boat kit because families were at home with their kids. They didn't know what to do with their children. And we believe this is our nation's family crest. So, what better thing than allow families to build American flags together and talk about that and what it means?
And then we started a twice-a-day, daily pledge at 9:00 a.m. in the morning on the East Coast and again at 9:00 a.m. on the West Coast. Every day we've got thousands of kids and their families joining us to say the Pledge of Allegiance. It's phenomenal. And all that's happening by people coming together, by people thinking and innovating.
And — and I can't tell you enough how grateful we are to the U.S. government, the bipartisanship that took place to pass the Paycheck Protection Program. It was all hands on deck. It wasn't like — there was no script for this. And they built the parachute on the way down.
And when you think about it, you want to talk about the Lakers got it or somebody else got it — think about the millions of businesses that are being benefitted by this. And it's, I think, 47 percent of U.S. private-sector employees are in small businesses. They work for small businesses.
And so, all the big businesses we love, they started as small businesses. And I hope to be a big business someday, but for now, I'm happy to be alive. I'm thankful for your support. And thank you, Kayleigh, for letting me be here.
So, join us at FlagsofValor.com. Thank you.
MS. MCENANY: Joe, if you want to take a seat with the reporters, you can ask me some questions.
MR. SHAMESS: I'm happy right here.
MS. MCENANY: Joe, it's veterans like you that make our country great. It's small-business owners like you that are going to bring this country back. And employees like the one we heard from last week — Michael Heup, the employee of Bitty & Beau's Coffee — that keep this country going. So thank you so much for the example you've set and to the hardworking business owners across the country, to the employees across this country who are working during this time. So, thank you, Joe. Thank you for your service.
As I said, PPP has changed lives across this country. And as President Trump has said, the American people are warriors and we will fight together to defeat the invisible enemy.
And with that, I'll take questions.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. Just to get back to this decision that was supposedly coming yesterday: Whose idea was it initially to wind down the White House Coronavirus Task Force?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I would just refer you back to the President's comments. He's been asked this, like, four times today, I believe. He decided that Coronavirus Task Force is here to stay. They've done great work. I've witnessed it. I'm in the Coronavirus Task Force meetings and they've gotten our country through this. There were supposed to be 2.2 million deaths, and we're at a point where we're far lower than that. And it's thanks — thanks to the great work of the task force and to the leadership of President Trump.
Q: But whose idea was it initially to wind it down?
MS. MCENANY: Again, I'm not going further. The President has answered this four times today.
Q: I have just a question about masks. I know there was some back and forth over the President wearing a mask yesterday, and want to ask about that. But the White House's view — what is the White House's message to the American people? Does the White House — does the President believe that people should be wearing masks as they try to get back to some semblance of their normal life?
MS. MCENANY: As we put out, it's recommended ,but that's the choice of the individual as to whether they wear a mask or not. The President yesterday — the CEO of Honeywell said that there was no need, and so he followed that — that advice and that guidance. And, you know, I would just note — on the note of masks, 70 million N95 masks have been distributed across the country, 20 million — 25 million, rather, are what's used in the average year for our healthcare workers. So the fact that, in a few weeks, we've distributed nearly three times what is used in a year is extraordinary, and that's not to mention the 120 million surgical masks and the many other supplies that this President has put forward.
Q: And if I could just follow up, what — I'm sure you've seen in a number of polls there's a huge difference between Democrats and Republicans over whether or not they think it's necessary to wear a mask in public. But do you have any sense as to why that would be?
MS. MCENANY: No sense as to why that would be. That's the choice of the American public. That's the choice of the individual, as to whether to wear a mask or not. But again, I'd praise the extraordinary work of this administration in distributing those masks and ensuring healthcare providers get them.
Q: Kayleigh, we were just talking about masks. You said, at Honeywell, that the President was told by the folks at Honeywell, as was the team, that they didn't need to wear masks. The reason he was told that was the people who would be interacting with him had all been tested and had been shown to be negative before that took place, I guess. So the President had those circumstances. Obviously, he's the President. But why shouldn't all Americans who go back to work be able to get a test before they do to feel comfortable in their own work environment to be interacting with other individuals?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, well, let's dismiss a myth about tests right now. If we tested every single American in this country at this moment, we'd have to retest them an hour later, and then an hour later after that. Because at any moment, you could theoretically contract this virus. So the notion that everyone needs to be tested is just simply nonsensical.
The people who need to be tested are vulnerable populations. That's why Dr. Birx has repeatedly emphasized we need to surge nursing homes with the testing, meat-processing facilities. That's where the testing is needed. We have to be strategic with our testing and we have done that so far.
And again, you know, if we want to talk about testing and the volume of testing, the fact that in South Korea there are — we always hear about South Korea and their tests. There are 11 tests per thousand here in the United States. That's 17 tests per thousand. Our hotspots per capita are higher than other countries. We have two times — we've conducted two times another — the number of tests of other countries around the world.
We're at a very strong place in this country with testing. But rest assured we'll deploy it strategically because that's what the American public expects of us.
Q: So just to follow up, to be clear: Should people — I guess, should people accept the risk that they could become ill if they go back to work?
MS. MCENANY: Look, each and every state has put into place — this is a governor-led effort, first of all. Let me emphasize that. The President has said that governors make the decisions as to how to move forward and we encourage them to follow our phased approach. Each state has submitted to us a list of testing that they need in order to safely reopen. I was sitting in the meeting when Admiral Giroir pulled out the list for several states and said, "Here's the testing you requested to open safely. Here's the testing I'm giving you to meet that need."
It's pretty extraordinary, this wide-scale effort by the Trump administration to ensure states have what they need. So as states reopen, they'll do so safely and they'll do so with the supplies of the Trump administration.
Q: What does it say that so many of those states — what does it say that so many of those governors of those states aren't following the guidelines dictated from this podium?
MS. MCENANY: We encourage every single governor to follow the guidelines that we've put forward, the — to a phased reopening approach. We have this beautiful concept called federalism, which means that the states lead on this, and that's what — that's what we're doing; it's a governor-led decision. But we encourage everyone to follow the expert, written guidelines that we've put forward.
Q: Thank you, Kayleigh.
MS. MCENANY: Francesca.
Q: I do have a question about — about reopening. But first, some of the areas that have been hardest hit by coronavirus have been urban areas. What is the White House doing or is there any targeted effort to help stop the spread in minority communities?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, it's a very important question because we know that some of our underserved communities are hit most by the coronavirus. Absolutely, we've done quite a bit. Invested, first of all, $1.4 billion into our nation's 13,000 community centers. That ensures that 28 million people living in medically underserved areas receive funding. Also that announcement I had for you last week about hospital funding — $2 billion of that was geared towards specifically ensuring that men and women in underserved communities and those hospitals got that money.
And I would also note just that the President has directed Secretary Ben Carson to focus the White House Opportunity and Revitalization Council on underserved communities. So very important, this is a community that's been very hard hit. And rest assured we are laser focused on making sure that these communities are assisted.
Q: Can I ask about the reopening as well?
MS. MCENANY: Sure.
Q: Okay, so the task force has put out phased guidelines for states to reopen and individual guidelines, but it hasn't said very much about businesses specifically. Does it plan to put out any detailed guidelines for businesses like retailers and restaurants to reopen?
MS. MCENANY: Well, in the phased approach, there are some recommendations for how, for instance, restaurants should reopen and the distancing that's required. And as you go through the phases, that distancing is shrunk and there are other mechanisms that are outlined for restaurants and movie theaters and sporting venues. So I would argue that our phased approach does take that into account.
And each and every state, by the way, the governor is welcome to reach out to us. We're constantly communicating with the governors. And when I say we — the administration, meaning Dr. Birx and others. So we are happy to consult with — with regard to specifics.
Q: (Inaudible) referring to something really detailed. Some other organiz- — outside organizations have put, you know, very detailed, step-by-step — "Here's what you should do. You should require masks. You should require them to sit this far apart. You should only have half of it open in phases." Anything like that coming?
MS. MCENANY: We've put together a phased approach. Many of those guidelines are within. We've consulted individually with states.
But as I said, it's a government — governor-led effort. It's a state-led effort, in which the federal government will consult, and we do so each and every day.
Q: So, you've used the phrase "warriors" to describe everyday Americans. The President is using that phrase as well. What's the thinking behind using that description? And is that basically asking Americans to put themselves in harm's way — harm's way like warriors do?
MS. MCENANY: Not in the slightest. It's actually the opposite. You know, the President has been clear that, at this moment — you know, we're at a wartime moment, where we're fighting the invisible enemy — and, by that, I mean COVID-19. And on the contrary, the — the notion that the American people are warriors — they're warriors because they've stayed home. They're warriors because they've social distanced. They're warriors because this mitigation effort is something that could only be done by the American people coming together and making really hard sacrifices.
And the American public has done that, and we salute each of you around the country that have listened to these guidelines. I know it's been difficult. I know it's been hard. But it's because of you that we're at this place where we can reopen the country.
Q: But just to be clear, that's the opposite of what the President says, specifically because he says Americans must be warriors to reopen the economy. You're saying they've already been warriors by staying home. Those seem like different things.
MS. MCENANY: We're saying the — we're saying the exact same thing. The President says they're warriors to reopen, because guess what? In order to get to reopening, you have to social distance. You had to put it together — those very hard choices that allowed us to get to a point where we have the — one of the lowest mortality rates in the world. And that's because of the American people. So it took the American people being warriors to get us to the point of reopening.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. I want to ask you about best practices. But first, on China and some of the comments that the President made in the Oval Office: He said that there will be a report coming out next week — 10 days or so — as to whether or not they're living up to the deal — China is. As it stands, though, right now at this moment, how does the White House view the U.S. relationship with China right now?
MS. MCENANY: Right now, it's a relationship of disappointment and frustration because the President has said how frustrated he is that some of the decisions of China put American lives at risk.
I'll share just a few: that China, for instance, did not share the genetic sequence until after a professor in Shanghai did so on his own. And after that genetic sequence was shared, the next day, the lab was shut down for, quote, "rectification." The World Health Organization slow-walked information on human-to-human transmission; that was not adequately provided by China. China didn't let U.S. investigators in.
And, look, that — those decisions put American lives at risk. And the President is certainly not happy about that. And as the President said, you'll be hearing more about that next week.
Q: Can they be trusted business partners?
MS. MCENANY: Sorry?
Q: Can they be trusted business partners?
MS. MCENANY: Look, but the President has worked with China and stood up to China and got the phase one China deal — a huge win, $250 billion. The President managed to get that done. And the President appreciates that, that China got us to that point of the phase one China deal.
So, you know, I'll leave it to the President as to how we move forward, and I certainly won't get ahead of him on that.
Q: And on best practices, we heard the President say, as it relates to schools, that he wants to see schools open, but maybe teachers who are older than 60 not necessarily come back into the classroom. When you talk about reopening the economy, reopening the country again, there's a lot of people out there wondering, "Well, my school-aged child — should they come back into contact with a family member who might be older than 60, per se?" What is the White House advice on that and families who are all over the country saying, "Is it time to meet up again?"
MS. MCENANY: Well, the President and the task force have been clear that vulnerable Americans, our senior citizens, need to shelter in place and they need to take extra measures of precaution because, as we know, they've been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus. So I certainly would include the senior community to continue to follow the guidelines we've put forward.
Q: Thank you. Dr. Birx has mention an influx of asymptomatic coronavirus cases. And without more widespread testing, how do you get a handle on something like that? And how do you keep people without symptoms from spreading the disease around the country?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, so it's an important question. We get information on asymptomatic spread when we test in the meat-processing facilities and other facilities. Again, you know, we can do tests strategically. And it's important that once we test and we find an example of someone who has coronavirus, that we can contact trace and ensure that it's not spread to other members of the community. So contact tracing is an important measure, and we're testing strategically and in line with governors.
Q: What's the process, Kayleigh, for the distribution and access to remdesivir?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, remdesivir is a great example of innovation in this country. I would note that remdesivir is a drug that the President mentioned quite often. And as it turns out, there's a lot of hope and a lot of promise when it comes to remdesivir. Gilead Chairman announced last week — and CEO Daniel O'Day announced that they would be donating 1.5 million vials of remdesivir and working with the federal government to distribute to patients across the nation.
So this will get out there. And we thank Gilead for the great work they've done and for giving these 1.5 million vials, which will help a lot of Americans around the country.
Q: But what's — but what's the process for distributing it and giving access to patients?
MS. MCENANY: I don't have any information on that as of now. But if — once I get that, I can share that with you.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. The President said yesterday he does not want Dr. Fauci testifying before the House because it's filled with "Trump haters." How is that consistent with oversight and transparency?
MS. MCENANY: Well, first of all, what the President noted was specific to the House. It's important to note that Dr. Fauci will be testifying before the Senate, which means he will be fielding questions from both Democrats and Republicans. The House, however — and specifically Chairwoman Nita Lowey's committee — did not act in good faith.
Mark Meadows had three calls with Chairwoman Nita Lowey three nights ago, when she called to ask if Dr. Fauci could testify before a subcommittee hearing. And Chief of Staff Mark Meadows has made clear he wants to make the best use he can of the task force members' time. Of course, they're working hard to save American lives, so that's very important.
So to that end, he said, in the three phone calls, "You know, what is the purpose of this hearing? Can you give me the subject matter?" And Lowey was unable to tell the Chief of Staff what the subject matter was.
The last phone call they had was at 10:46 p.m. on that evening, and Lowey agreed to follow up in the morning with details. Those details were never received. Instead, we got a press release. So that's what we call a publicity stunt. We encourage the House to act in good faith, but — much like the Senate did.
And as I noted, Dr. Fauci will be speaking in a — in a week and a half before the Senate. So the notion that he's being blocked is just farcical.
Q: Let me ask you on just one another — can I ask you one other topic, Kayleigh?
MS. MCENANY: Someone I haven't heard from. Back there.
Q: All right, thank you. Does the President have doubts about the way the death toll is being calculated? Does he think, perhaps, the — the true toll is lower?
THE PRESIDENT: So the President answered this, and he said, "No," just a few moments ago in the Oval Office.
On the mortality rate, I would note, as I noted just a few moments ago, we have one of the lowest in the world — mortality rates. It's because of the hard work of the American people.
Our mor- — our mortality rate — excuse me — is currently 218 per million. You compare that to Spain's, at 548 per million; Italy, at 485 per million. This country is in a place where, because of the work of the American people, we have escaped that 2.2 million number because of the extraordinary social distancing effort put in place by the American people.
Yeah. Way in the back.
Q: Thank you. The President has said many times that he has received praise in phone calls with foreign leaders because of this administration's response to the coronavirus outbreak. Who exactly are those heads of states and heads of government who are praising this administration for its response?
MS. MCENANY: Well, I — I won't reveal any contents of his private conversations with world leaders, but I will certainly share some of the very public comments from Democrat governors — like Gavin Newsom, who said, "Every single direct request that President Trump — that he was given, President Trump was capable of meeting. He has met them."
Governor Phil Murphy, Democrat from New Jersey: "The President knows New Jersey. He and his team have been extremely responsive in our hour of need, whether it was ventilators. We got a huge amount of supplies to test."
And, of course, I — I love the ones from Governor Andrew Cuomo, who praised this administration's phen- — response as phenomenal, saying: "He's delivered for New York. The Army Corps of Engineers, we built thousands of beds, he sent the Navy ship Comfort to New York — he has delivered for New York." President Trump has delivered for this nation.
Q: Thanks, Kayleigh. The President was talking earlier about Dr. Bright being a disgruntled employee. One of the allegations in that whistleblower complaint is that, in January, when there was still a huge shortage of N95 masks, that he had — excuse me — been in contact with a company that was offering up to a million of those masks, and he couldn't get anybody at HHS willing to engage with that company, which then subsequently exported one million N95s to China. Is that something that you're looking into or concerned about?
MS. MCENANY: Look, I — on issues of Dr. Bright, I'd refer you to HHS. I'm not going to get involved with the personnel issues or the substance of that complaint. But I will, once again, note — you mentioned masks — 70 million-plus delivered. And again, that's three times the amount used by healthcare providers in any given year. So we've done a — a rather good job when it comes to supplies.
Q: Back to the question about teachers and what the President said earlier about keeping those who are 60 or older out of the classroom: What is the message to older Americans? Should they not do anything, not leave their homes until there is a vaccine? Or what would the President have them do if they're — they're not allowed to teach because of their age?
MS. MCENANY: Well, our — our task force has said that vulnerable communities, like our seniors, should shelter in place. That being said, we encourage every American: If you have a — a symptom that is pressing, that you need to go to your doctor. I've been disturbed to read many quotes from doctors, stories of people who are staying home with chest pain and don't go to the hospital when they could be on the verge of having a heart attack; who are missing on important appointments like mammograms, screenings like colonoscopies.
It's important that we, as Americans, continue to go to our doctors, to get medically necessary procedures, and when we have symptoms that are — that need to be addressed, like chest pain, that you do go to your doctor.
So seniors need to go to their doctors. Make sure to call your healthcare provider, go see your healthcare provider, go to the hospital, should you have a symptom like that.
Q: Thank you, Secretary McEnany. To — going back to a topic about the House: In a separate chamber, Acting DNI Rick Grenell has stated this week that he is prepared to release about 6,000 pages worth of transcripts relating to Adam Schiff's probe. Can you confirm whether or not the executive branch is conducting any kind of investigation into House members or potential of wrongdoing? Or is that something you can comment on yet?
MS. MCENANY: Yeah, I don't have any information on that subject matter. That's the first I'm hearing of that.
Q: If I could just go back to Jeff's question about Dr. Fauci and then the President's statement that — that there are too many "Trump Haters" in — in the House. I mean, does — does the White House really believe that you can decide to have officials testify in the Republican-controlled Senate, but not testify in the Democratic-controlled House? Doesn't the House have legitimate oversight and — and legitimate responsibility, not just — not just the, you know, authority, but responsibility to have somebody like Anthony Fauci testify?
MS. MCENANY: Will Dr. Fauci be questioned by Democrats in that Senate hearing?
Q: Yes, he will be. So what — so why —
MS. MCENANY: Yes he will.
Q: But — but are you saying — so the Senate is fine? The House has no role in oversight?
MS. MCENANY: The House needs to act in good faith. We don't have time, in the middle of a pandemic, for publicity stunts. It's not the time for that. It's not the place for that. In the course of —
Q: This is a congressional testimony. This isn't a —
MS. MCENANY: In the course of three phone calls, you should be able to give the subject matter to ensure it's the best use of Dr. Fauci's time. As you yourself noted, in the Republican-controlled Senate, Dr. Fauci will indeed be asked questions by Democrats.
Q: Is the subject matter a mystery? I mean —
MS. MCENANY: Jeff?
Q: Kayleigh, in a previous life, before you were Press Secretary, you worked for the campaign. And you made a comment, I believe, on Fox, in which you said, "President Trump will not allow the coronavirus to come to this country." Given what has happened since then, obviously, would you like to take that back?
MS. MCENANY: Well, first, let me note I was asked a question on Fox Business about the President's travel restrictions. I noted what was the intent behind those travel restrictions, which is: We will not see the coronavirus come here. We will not see terrorism come here — referring to an earlier set of travel restrictions.
I guess I would turn the question back on the media, and ask similar questions: Does Vox want to take back that they proclaimed that the coronavirus would not be a deadly pandemic? Does the Washington Post want to take back that they told Americans to "Get a Grippe," the flu is bigger than the coronavirus? Does the Washington Post, likewise, want to take back that our brains are causing us to exaggerate the threat of the coronavirus? Does the New York Times want to take back that fear of the virus maybe spre- — spreading faster than the virus itself? Does NPR want to take back that the flu was a much bigger threat than the coronavirus? And finally, once again, the Washington Post — would they like to take back that the government should not respond aggressively to the coronavirus?
I'll leave you with those questions and maybe you'll have some answers in a few days.
END 5:00 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/341872