Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing

March 14, 2020

The President. Thank you very much. We just completed a very good meeting of the Coronavirus Task Force. And we're really—they're really doing a great job, our professionals. The results are very, very good. And when you compare this to what's happening around the world, we're very proud of our people.

And there's been a tremendous amount of coordination with States, with cities, and they're a little smaller form of government, and they have things going well. They're coordinating with us. And certain, in particular, I think California has been terrific, the relationship. New York has been really good. We've had some really good relationships in terms of—especially the hotspots. And we're focused on those hotspots. In some areas, we don't have no problem whatsoever, and we hope to keep it that way.

Before I turn this over to our great Vice President to provide an update, I just want to express my appreciation for the hard work done by the people behind me and the people back in the various offices, including the fact that I just left the Oval Office. So we have some people there that are probably watching this, or they're just working. We're using the full power of the Federal Government to defeat the virus, and that's what we've been doing.

Last week, we secured an initial $8.3 billion from Congress for the coronavirus, and that was quickly done and very efficiently done. And I want to thank all Members of Congress. Yesterday I declared a national emergency, which was a very big deal, because it opened up avenues that we would never be able to open up without it. And it will make it more than—it will make more than $50 billion available to us immediately in disaster relief funds. And that's available for States, Territories, and local governments. So that was really, really good.

We also reached an agreement yesterday on a new legislative package that will provide strong support for American families and communities in dealing with the coronavirus. So it was done very, very bipartisan. It was very nice to see it. Probably, the cooperation—I want to thank Secretary of Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, who did a fantastic job and worked with Nancy Pelosi and their representatives. And it was really great. It worked out very well.

And a lot of people are benefitting by a lot of provisions in the bill, which they're going to be discussing with you today. And they're tremendous provisions. So that's something that we should talk about.

I was honored to see that the stock market—you were mostly there with us—set a record in a short period of time—over a 45-minute period that we had the press conference yesterday in the Rose Garden. That was a record. Alltime record. I think we should do one of them every day, perhaps. How about every—how about five times a day? We'll do one five times a day. But that was something to watch. And I had no idea. We walked back, I said, "So how did that work out?" They said, "Sir, you just set a new record in the history of the stock market." So that was pretty good.

And those great companies that were there, they couldn't have been too unhappy either, when you think about it, because they're all very big, publicly listed companies. So they did a good job. And more importantly, they're going to do a good job. When you look at CVS and Walmart and all of the tremendous people that were there yesterday, these are the biggest and the best. And they're opening up their facilities. They're opening up—they're, right now, literally, working right now on opening—doing something that's never been done before, to the extent that we're doing it. And so we're very proud of them also.

The bill provides for free coronavirus testing for all Americans who should be tested. So people that are getting tested are getting this free. They don't have to pay, because a lot of people said, "Gee, it's a lot of money." And it is. It's a—you know, it's a pretty complex test actually, and it costs money. And we're—it's being provided free, so people don't have to worry about that.

It also provides paid sick and family medical leave for those who need it, including for those who have the virus, for caregivers, and those looking after children affected by school closures. So that's all taken care of also. And we'll continue all of these different actions. We have other things planned.

We're going to also be working with companies that are affected financially. Our country is in the best financial shape. We've—so different than in the past, over the years. If you look at some of the real big crises we had, it was financial problems and different things. We now are in very, very strong financial shape with all of the trade and all of the other things that we've been doing. It's been pretty amazing.

We hope the Federal Reserve will finally get on board and do what they should do, because we're doing things that they should be doing, frankly. And we can all do them together, but they should be much more proactive. Other boards and other countries and people representing those countries are taking a much more aggressive action than our Fed, for the most part.

So we'd like to see the—you know, if you look at central banks—yesterday, what they did— we want to see our Federal Reserve be much more proactive. It's important. But in the meantime, we're doing things that are—that have been really well received. Now, I guess you saw that yesterday at the end of the day with what we've done.

We have a lot of things to tell you, in terms of respirators, in terms of all of the different things. Or—the masks are being made by the millions. Millions and millions. We have plenty now, but we're ordering for the millions. We're ordering worst case scenario. Always—we always say "worst-case scenario." And that's where we're going. So I just want to thank everybody.

I think the press has been really—over the last 24 hours, I think the representation has really been very fair. For the most part, been very fair.

We're all in this together. It's something that nobody expected. It came out of China, and it's one of those things that happened. It's nobody's fault. We all will solve this problem; we'll solve it well.

I think the American people have been incredible in the way they've acted. There's been— and if you look at companies and sports leagues and all of the things, what they've done is just something very special, without being told, necessarily. In some cases, perhaps, they were told, actually. But for the most part, they want to get it over with. They want to get it over with quickly and with very little death.

As of this moment we have 50 deaths, which is—a lot of good decisions were made, or that number could be many times that. But that's based on a lot of good decisions, one or two in particular. You know that Europe was declared the hotspot yesterday, a big hotspot and number one. And we made a decision quite a bit prior to that, but we saw what was happening.

But if you have any questions, this group will be very happy to do it. But I just want to say they have been—led by Mike Pence—they have been incredible, the job they're doing. They're working 20 hours a day. This man is working 20 hours a day or maybe more. Is it more? I think it's more. Tony has been working—I'm just looking at this whole group. I mean, we've created a number of new stars, including the gentleman right behind me. I watched him the other day. It was such a fantastic job you did, and I really appreciate it.

But they're going to be answering questions. And we have a lot of new information, so I think you'll find it very interesting. And I'll be going back to the Oval Office.

Thank you very much.

Q. Mr. President, one question for you, sir. Do you still plan to get tested?

Q. Mr. President, have you been sending mixed messages, sir?

Q. I'm sorry——

Retail Store Closures Due to Coronavirus Concerns/The President's Coronavirus Testing Status

Q. Mr. President, there are so many people right now that are rushing to Costco. They're rushing to grocery stores all over the country. They're filling up their baskets. Is that the right move? Do you think that people should actually be saying, you know, maybe conserve as opposed to buy?

Also, overnight, Apple, sir, they announced that they're going to be closing all of their stores for 2 weeks. Do you want to see other retail outlets, restaurants, stuff like that, do the same thing?

The President. I think it's fine if they do it. I think it's—frankly, it's good if they do it. I think what Apple did is fine. And—want to keep people away for a little while. Just keep them away.

Q. Well, at Costco——

The President. And you know, when it gets better—well, people are going and buying things, and I understand that.

By the way, I had my temperature taken coming into the room.

Q. So did we. [Laughter]

The President. You did? Good.

Q. Yes, sir.

The President. Let's compare. Do you want to compare?

Q. They did all of us.

Q. Yes.

The President. Good. Well, we're—that means we're all looking good. I also took—I also took the test last night.

Q. You did take the test?

Q. You took the test?

The President. Yes. And I decided I should, based on the press conference yesterday. People were asking that I take the test.

Q. When will we have the result, Mr. President?

The President. I don't know. Whatever it takes. A day or 2 days. Whatever it is. They send it to a lab. But I've been——

Q. Why did you decide to take it?

Q. Sir, you've been sending mixed messages——

The President. Only because the press is going crazy.

Handshaking/The President's Personal Health Precautions/Influenza Deaths

Q. Mr. President, respectfully, you've been sending mixed messages. We watched as you shook hands with people yesterday. You have talked about 5 million tests being available; probably won't need that many. Has your own sense of urgency evolved? And are you changing what you're doing?

The President. No, I've been urgent. This is urgent for me, right from the beginning. You know that because I closed up our country to China.

Q. But why are you shaking hands, sir?

The President. Because it almost becomes a habit, and you get out of that habit. And frankly, I was a nonhandshaker, for the most part. I've never believed that shaking hands—once you become a politician. And I notice it too: Political people walk up to me, they want to shake my hand. I said, "Well, you know"——

Q. But is it a mixed message, sir?

Q. [Inaudible]—stop?

The President. Just wait a minute. Wait a minute. Just take it nice and easy, okay? Just relax. People come up to me, they shake hands, they put their hand out. It's sort of a natural reflex, and we're all getting out of it. All of us have that problem. Somebody comes up to you, they put their hand out, you probably tend to just shake it. And we're all getting out of that. Shaking hands is not a great thing to be doing right now, I agree. But people put their hand out. Sometimes, I'll put the hand out. You don't think about it. People are thinking about it more and more. We have to think about it; it's important.

Somebody said yesterday I touched the microphone. I was touching it, because we have different-height people and I'm trying to make it easy for them, because they're going to have to touch, because they wouldn't be able to reach the mic; they wouldn't be able to speak in the mic. So I'll move the mic down. And they said, "Oh, he touched the microphone." Well, if I don't touch it, they're going to have to touch it. Somebody is going to have to, so I might as well be the one to do it.

But no, we all have to get away from—I mean, getting away from shaking hands is a good thing, and possibly, that's something that comes out of this. Maybe people shouldn't be shaking hands for the long term, because it does transmit flu and other things. You know, we have flu in our country that kills, on average, 36,000 people a year—36,000 people. And you know, that's something that we're not talking about. But as of this moment, we've lost 50—possibly a little bit less than 50—but probably 50 people. And we're going to try and keep that number as low as possible.

Q. Can you tell us, how did the test go, Mr. President?

The President's Opinion on Domestic Travel Precautions/Federal Coronavirus Response/School Closures

Q. Mr. President, the Pentagon is telling servicemembers and their families not to travel domestically. Should all Americans follow that same advice?

The President. Well, if you don't have to travel, I wouldn't do it.

Q. No nonessential travel?

The President. If you don't have to travel—we want this thing to end. We don't want a lot of people getting infected. We want it to end, and end as quickly as possible. So far, I think we've done a fantastic job. I really think that the people behind me have not been given the credit that they deserve, because they have done a fantastic job.

When you see all these school closures, when you see—the school closures are very important but it causes a lot of problems. The bill that we signed yesterday takes care of a lot of those problems with children staying at home and the parents are working. They get—now we take care of that issue with what we passed last night. Now, it has to go through the Senate. I have to sign it. But that will happen.

But I'm now going back to the White House. You have great professionals. And if there's anything that comes up—if there's anything——

Q. Just a follow-up——

Q. Mr. President——

[At this point, several reporters began asking questions at once.]

Potential Domestic Travel Restrictions Under Consideration

Q. Mr. President—thank you, Mr. President. I just wanted to follow up on that. Are you considering other travel restrictions, perhaps domestically——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——in that regard?

The President. Yes.

Q. Can you describe what type of——

The President. Specifically from certain areas. Yes, we are. And we're working with the States, and we are considering other restrictions, yes.

Restrictions on Foreign Travel to the U.S.

Q. Reuters is reporting that you're going to extend the European travel ban to the U.K. and Ireland on Monday. Is that accurate?

The President. We're looking at it very seriously, yes, because they've had a little bit of activity, unfortunately. So we're going to be looking at that. We are—actually already have looked at it, and that is going to be announced.

Q. Mr. President——

[Several reporters began asking questions at once.]

Federal Reserve System/Stock Market Volatility/Economic Stimulus

Q. You just criticized the Fed yet again. If I could just get a little clarity on your thinking on this.

The President. Yes.

Q. It's been a hallmark of your Presidency. You're always going after the Fed. If you feel so strongly about it, why don't you dismiss the Chairman? Or do you think you're powerless to do so?

The President. No, I think I have the right to do that or the right to remove him as Chairman. He's—he has, so far, made a lot of bad decisions, in my opinion. We had this great—and we will soon have again, because I think you're going to have a tremendous bounce when this is over. I think there's a pent-up bounce that's going to be tremendous. I think you saw that yesterday with the stock market.

No, I'm not happy with the Fed because I think that they are following, not leading. We should be leading. I'm not happy because, if you look at the central banks of other—you know, other central banks—largely, they're lower than us, their rate. And their equivalent of the Fed rate is lower, in some cases by 2 points. In some cases—that's a lot. In some cases, very substantially.

And I thought that the Fed would be and should be much more proactive as opposed to following. Our Fed is following. We have the number-one currency in the world by a factor of many times, as you know. We have the currency; we have the power. We have, by far, the strong currency. Also, you look at the dollar, the strength of the dollar. Our Fed is not doing what they should be doing.

We shouldn't have a Fed rate that's higher than our competitor nations. You look at Germany, they're essentially under zero; they're negative. There are many countries negative. Japan is negative. Germany is negative. Others are negative. And we're paying higher interest rates.

And what I'd like to do is, frankly, refinance our debt. We could refinance our debt very easily at a much lower rate. We have a—we have some tremendous opportunities right now, but Jerome Powell is not making it easy.

No, I have the right to remove. I'm not doing that.

Q. So are you considering that?

The President. No, I'm not doing that. I have the right to also take him and put him in a regular position and put somebody else in charge. And I haven't made any decisions on that.

Thank you.

[The President left the briefing. As he departed, a reporter shouted a question as follows.]

The President's Temperature

Q. Was your temperature normal, Mr. President?

The President. Totally normal. [Laughter] I wouldn't be here if it wasn't.

[The briefing continued with remarks by Vice President Michael R. Pence and other Task Force members.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 12:19 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci; and U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams. He also referred to H.R. 6021.The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary included the entire briefing.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/341502

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