Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing

March 24, 2020

The President. Thank you very much. Been a very busy day. I want to thank the American people for the incredible sacrifices that they're making on behalf of our Nation. And I want to encourage everyone to keep following our guidelines on social distancing: avoiding large gatherings and hand-washing and all of the other things that everybody knows they're supposed to be doing.

Ultimately, the goal is to ease the guidelines and open things up to very large sections of our country as we near the end of our historic battle with the invisible enemy. Been going for a while, but we'll win. We'll win.

I said earlier today that I hope we can do this by Easter. I think that would be a great thing for our country, and we're all working very hard to make that a reality. We'll be meeting with a lot of people to see if it can be done. Easter is a very special day for many reasons. For me, for a lot of our friends, that's a very special day. And what a great timeline this would be. Easter, as our timeline, what a great timeline that would be.

My first priority is always the health and safety of the American people, and we want everyone to understand that we are continuing to evaluate the data. We're working with the Task Force and making decisions based on what is best for the interests of our fantastic country.

In order to defeat the virus, we must continue to be very strong. Your resilience and spirit has been inspiring to everyone. Right now this virus is attacking 149 countries, but everybody looks to us, and they're watching us.

And I'm very proud to be your President, I can tell you that. There's tremendous hope as we look forward and we begin to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Stay focused, and stay strong, and my administration and myself will deliver for you as we have in the past.

Let me provide you an update on critical preparations and supplies in our war on the virus. Through FEMA, the Federal Government is distributing more than 8 million N95 respirators, 14 million surgical masks, and many, many millions more are under order, and they'll be arriving soon; 2.4 million face shields, 1.9 million surgical gowns, 13.5 million gloves, and more than 4,000 ventilators to the areas of greatest need have already been sent. And we have 4,000 being delivered to New York.

The Federal Government is using every resource at its disposal to acquire and distribute critical medical supplies. The core element of this strategy is my Executive order authorizing the use of the Defense Production Act, which has, as you know, already been activated, actually, a long time ago—quite a long time ago.

Private companies are heeding our call to produce medical equipment and supplies because they know that we will not hesitate to invoke the DPA in order to get them to do what they have to do. It's called leverage. You don't have to use it from the standpoint of—actually, it's been activated, but you don't have to use it. But the threat of it being there is great leverage. And companies are doing as we ask, and companies are actually—even better than that, they're coming through, and they're calling us. And it's been, really, something to see.

This morning Ford, 3M, General Electric Healthcare are making tremendous numbers— they've already started—of respirators, ventilators, and face shields. They're working together. We didn't have to exercise or utilize the DPA in any way. The fact that we have it helps, but we didn't have to. And for the most part, we won't have to. We're receiving full cooperation from companies with the understanding that the Federal Government stands ready to compel cooperation if need be. We haven't found that to be the case.

It's been really amazing to see these big, strong, powerful—in some cases, very small companies, family-owned companies, step up and make a lot of great product for what we're going through and what we will continue to be going through for a while.

The Army Corps of Engineers and the National Guard are building four hospital facilities in New York City at the Javits Center, which will be operational very soon. They've already started. In addition, they're building four separate medical facilities in different parts of the State. We're dealing with Governor Cuomo on that. So you're going to have four hospitals and four medical facilities at the highest level too. Really incredible facilities. Temporary, but incredible.

We're also deploying the U.S. Navy hospital ship, and that will be arriving in New York Harbor in the not-too-distant future. It's finishing its maintenance. They're doing a very big maintenance, and what we did is, we condensed it very seriously. And, as you know, the other hospital ship—and these are incredible ships—it's already on its way to Los Angeles.

So we're in frequent contact with State and local officials and getting a lot of work done.

We're, likewise, building hospitals in Los Angeles. We're working also—the State of Washington. We're working with the Governor of the State of New Jersey. We're building a medical facility, a hospital facility, and doing a lot of work. I want to thank the people from FEMA—the great people from FEMA—and also the Army Corps of Engineers.

Secretary Mnuchin and the members of my administration continue to work closely with Congress. I'm pleased to report that we are working to pass the biggest and boldest financial relief package in American history. Senators will soon, hopefully, vote on a $2 trillion bill that will deliver direct cash payments to struggling Americans. No fault of their own. This came out of nowhere. Nobody can imagine this even happened. But it's not their fault.

We want to protect, and we will, all of the things that a person needs protected and a family needs protected. We're working on job-retention loans for small businesses, and extended unemployment insurance for laid-off workers.

The legislation will also include billions of dollars for additional resources for our, really, heroic—these are incredible doctors, nurses—brave—and hospitals, as well as support for hard- hit industries such as the airline industry and the cruise ship industry, which employ tremendous amounts of people and obviously serve very important functions beyond that.

With very tough protections for the American taxpayer, the loans will be very secure and they will be very profitable and, at the same time, they'll bridge—they call them bridge loans. In many cases, they'll be bridging these companies back into very good health. And some of them are very important companies that 4 weeks ago didn't have a problem.

I'm also confident that the Democrats will do the right thing. I feel very confident. They're working very hard together right now—Republicans and Democrats—and they're getting very close to a very fair deal and a great deal for the people of our country.

Today, as you probably saw, the Dow surged over 2,100 points. That's the alltime record in history of the exchange. This is very encouraging. And I think part of the reason is, they are looking at what is close to being passed, and I think a very big part of it is they see that we want to get our country opened as soon as possible. They see we're working very hard on that. That's a very big factor, I think, in today's historic gain.

The legislation developed in the Senate is the first step to restoring confidence and stability to America's economy as we look ahead to the time when we can carefully and responsibly reopen our country for business, and we hope that's going to be very soon.

I want to assure Americans that we have a team of public health experts. You've gotten to know them as well as I know them; they're great people, incredible, talented. They love our country. Also, economists and other professionals working to develop a sophisticated plan to reopen the economy as soon as the time is right, one based on the best science, the best modeling, and the best medical research there is anywhere on Earth.

Our great people have been—especially when it comes to our public health experts and officials—have been helping other countries, dealing with other countries, constant touch with other countries, helping them out, because many of them have never seen anything like what's happening.

But our decision will be based on hard facts and data as to the opening. I'm also hopeful to have Americans working again by that Easter—that beautiful Easter day. But rest assured, every decision we make is grounded solely on the health, safety, and well-being of our citizens.

This is a medical crisis; this isn't a financial crisis. But it's a thing that nobody has seen for many, many decades. Nothing like this. Marshaling our economic strength is a key feature of defeating the virus, producing the material, supplies, and equipment that we need. And they're doing a really fantastic job.

We're helping the Governors. We had a conference call the other day with Governors, and we allowed the press to join us in the call. And the spirit between us and the Governors has been really great.

We should never be reliant on a foreign country for the means of our own survival. I think we've learned a lot. We've learned a lot. This crisis has underscored just how critical it is to have strong borders and a robust manufacturing sector.

For 3 years, we've embarked on a great national project to secure our immigration system and bring back our manufacturing jobs. We brought back many jobs, records numbers—record numbers of jobs. And this really shows—this experience shows how important borders are.

Without borders, you don't have a nation.

Our goal for the future must be to have American medicine for American patients, American supplies for American hospitals, and American equipment for our great American heroes. Now, both parties must unite to ensure the United States is truly an independent nation in every sense of the word. Energy independence, we've established that. That's something incredible that we have established. We're energy independent, manufacturing independence, economic independence, and territorial independence enforced by strong, sovereign borders.

America will never be a supplicant nation. We will be a proud, prosperous, independent, and self-reliant nation. We will embrace commerce with all, but we will be dependent on none.

Above all, we know that the best thing for our economy and the world right now is a very, very powerful victory over the virus. Every day, the American people and showing the unity and resolve that has always defined the character of our Nation.

In New York, citizens are using 3–D printers to make hundreds of the face shields. They're making them by the hundreds. In Texas, businesses and churches are uniting to collect gloves and thermometers for hospitals.

In the selfless actions of our amazing citizens, we're seeing enduring strength of our magnificent Nation, a spirit that can never be broken, and a victorious future that can never be denied. It never will be denied.

Now, what I'd like to do is, perhaps, ask a person who has really established herself as maybe the world's great expert on what she does—if I could ask Deborah to come forward and say a few words. And then, I'll ask Tony to come up and speak, and then our Vice President. And then we'll take a few questions, and we'll do it quickly. And we'll probably see you again tomorrow.

So, Deborah, please.

White House Coronavirus Coordinator Deborah L. Birx. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. I think those of you who heard at the town hall, we are continuing to accelerate testing at a record rate. We now have 370,000 tests that have been done, the majority of those over 220,000 in the last 8 days, which, those of you who have been tracking the South Korea numbers, put us equivalent to what they did in 8 weeks that we did in 8 days.

[At this point, Ambassador Birx continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

So if they already are 4 days out, then it's just 10 more days. So I thank you if you helped get that message out to others.

Dr. Fauci.

National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci. Thank you very much, Mr. President, Deb. I want to just talk very briefly about two or three things.

[Director Fauci continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

I don't want anybody to forget that simultaneously with our doing that, we're also doing randomized clinical trials on a number of candidates. You've heard about candidates, but there are others in the pipeline, where we'll be able to design the study, and, over a period of time, particularly since we have so many infections, we'll be able to determine definitively are these safe and are they effective. We're talking about remdesivir, other drugs, immune sera, convalescent serum, monoclonal antibodies. All of these are in the pipeline now, queuing up to be able to go into clinical trial.

So I'll stop there and throw it——

The President. Well, thank you, Tony. Great job.

Larry, how about just a quick few minutes on how we're doing over at the Hill, please?

National Economic Council Director Lawrence A. Kudlow. Thank you, sir. We're making— we're gaining great progress on this phase three legislation. Negotiations continue. We've had continued reports. I've been up there with Secretary Mnuchin. Secretary Mnuchin continues today, with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows checking in with the President. They're getting closer and closer. They expect a vote as soon as possible.

[Director Kudlow continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

We're headed for a rough period, but it's only going to be weeks, we think. Weeks and months. It's not going to be years, that's for sure. And hopefully, pave the way for a continued economic recovery after this crisis departs.

Thank you, sir.

The President. Thank you, Larry. I've been hearing that voice for so many years— [laughter]—like 30 years or more, maybe. And it's a great voice, and it's a great man. So Larry Kudlow, thank you very much.

Director Kudlow. Thank you, sir.

The President. I want to say that that package—and we went over parts of it, but pretty big parts—it really sets us up to, I think, even supersede where we were a month ago. I think we can get up there quickly, and I think it allows us to supersede. It allows us to help these great companies that need help, like Boeing, which is—you know, it had a problem, and then, on top of that problem, it had the virus come in. But we'll be helping Boeing. We'll be helping the airlines. We'll be helping the cruise lines. We'll be doing a lot of things, and the money will all come back to us, and it will come back to us in a very strong form.

And before we take some questions, I'd like to ask our great Vice President to say a few words, if you would, Mike. Please.

Vice President Michael R. Pence. Thank you, Mr. President. The White House Coronavirus Task Force met again today. And on behalf of the President of the United States, everyone on our team, and our State leaders, let me just say: Thank you, America. People across this country, businesses large and small are responding to the threat of the coronavirus in ways that are deeply inspiring.

[Vice President Pence continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

The President has made it clear that he hopes—in weeks, not months—to be able to open up the country. But let me make one last encouragement to every American: We will get to that day quicker if every American will put into practice the President's coronavirus guidelines for our Nation: "15 Days To Slow the Spread." If every American will do this, I have no doubt that we will slow the spread, we will protect our most vulnerable, and we will heal our land.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you very much, Mike. Thank you. Kaitlan [Kaitlan Collins, CNN].

Coronavirus Containment Efforts in U.S.

Q. Mr. President, you just reiterated that you hope to have the country reopened by Easter, and you said earlier you would like to see churches packed on that day. My question is—you have two doctors onstage with you—have either of them told you that's a realistic timeline?

The President. I think we're looking at a timeline. We're discussing it. We had a very good meeting today. You know, if you add it all up, that's probably 9 days plus another 2½ weeks. It's a period of time that's longer than the original 2 weeks.

So we're going to look at it. We'll only do it if it's good. And maybe we do sections of the country; we do large sections of the country. That could be too. But no, we're very much in Tony and with Deborah on everything we're doing.

Q. Who suggested Easter? Who suggested that day?

The President. I just thought it was a beautiful time. It would be a beautiful time, a beautiful timeline. It's a great day.

Q. So that wasn't based on any of the data?

The President. It was based on a certain level of weeks from the time we started. And it happened to arrive—actually, we were thinking in terms of sooner. I'd love to see if come even sooner. But I just think it would be a beautiful timeline.

Jon [Jonathan Karl, ABC News].

Coronavirus Outbreak/Containment Efforts

Q. Mr. President, if you look at what we've just seen in the last day or so, you've seen the number of known coronavirus cases in the country double in just 2 days. Another 95 people have died just in the last 24 hours. New York—New York's Governor is saying this is spreading like a bullet train across the country. And the Governor of Louisiana is saying that his country—that his State may not be able to handle the cases that they're facing by the—by early April. So what are you seeing in all of this that leads you to think that——

The President. Jon, we're working with all of them.

Q. ——we could reopen by Easter or even earlier?

The President. Sure. Sure. We're working with all of them. We can be talking about large sections of our country, because there are sections of our country that you didn't talk about that are doing unbelievably well; they have very little incidents or problem, very small numbers. It's very possible that they won't be ever subject to what's happening in New York.

New York is definitely a hotspot. There's no question about it. And you know what we're doing in New York to try and help, and I think we're doing an incredible job. We're going to have the hospitals up quickly—the medical centers, also, quickly.

But we'll just have to see. We have to follow it. We have to see. We're going to look at that curve. We're going to see when it starts coming down. And we'll do the best job that can be done.

John [John Roberts, Fox News], please.

Coronavirus Containment Efforts in the U.S./The President's Decisionmaking Process

Q. A question for you, Mr. President and Dr. Fauci, if we could. This would—looking at this idea of an Easter timeline—and I know that's probably flexible—what are the metrics by which you will make the decision as to whether you can say, "Yes, we can open up this area of the country" or "No, we can't open up that area." I mean, will you be looking at disease numbers?

The President. Yes.

Q. Will you be looking at possible containment, isolation? What will you be looking at?

The President. I think we'll be looking at a lot of things. We'll also be looking at very large portions of our country. And I will be guided very much by Dr. Fauci and by Deborah and by some of the other professionals that work with both of you.

And we're going to see what—what will be, but that would certainly be—I think that's a goal that perhaps can happen, or at least for a very large portion of our country.

Q. Dr. Fauci, since, as the President said, you and Dr. Birx and others will be guiding him in making the decision, where are you now with this timeline of 19 days from now?

Director Fauci. So, I mean, that's really very flexible. We just had a conversation with the President in the Oval Office, talking about—you know, you can look at a date, but you got to be very flexible. And on a literally day-by-day and week-by-week basis, you need to evaluate the feasibility of what you're trying to do.

[Director Fauci continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

So it's looking at information that, up to this point, John, we never had. So it's a flexible situation.

Global Coronavirus Outbreak/Coronavirus Testing Access

Q. So is New York becoming our Wuhan? Is New York becoming the epicenter— [inaudible]?

The President. Well, it certainly is, by far, the—if you call it "hot," if you call it any word you want to use. It is at a level that—I was speaking to Tony before—it's a level that no place else is close. It's very unfortunate.

You know, one of the things that's happened—that we've done, I think, a really good job on—I think that it's something special what's happened is, I learned from Dr. Birx, a little while ago, when she said—I learned it actually this afternoon: In 8 days—because we kept hearing about South Korea. And they had a very tough time at the beginning, if you remember. In 8 days, we're doing more testing than they've done in 8 weeks. That's a tremendous turn. And with our testing, it's going exponentially; it's going up, up, up every day.

So we're going to be able to do things with this very highly sophisticated testing. And it's also—the test itself is considered the best test. So, on top of doing now more than anybody else, we have a very high-quality test. That makes a big difference. It also makes a big difference, even in terms of opening, because we're going to see those areas like the hotspots. But New York City definitely is a very hot spot.

Steve [Steve A. Holland, Reuters].

Economic Impact of the Coronavirus Outbreak/Economic Stimulus Legislation

Q. When you talk about areas that you could open up, what specifically are you looking at? What States? Are you talking about out west or the Midwest or the Southwest? Where exactly?

The President. Well, you can talk about the Farm Belt. Take a look at the Farm Belt. Take a look at the areas out west. Look at big sections of Texas. I was talking to the great Governor of Texas. They have done a fantastic job out there. But they have very big sections of Texas where—you know, it's like numerous States, frankly.

But we can have large sections of—if we want to do it that way, we can have large sections of the country open. But I think it's very important that we start moving on that and start thinking about it, because our country wants to be open, our people want it to be open, and they want it— they want—they're raring to go. And I think it's one of the reasons that we're going to have a tremendous bounce back. I think it's going to go very quickly.

Also, I want to thank—while I'm here, I want to thank Larry for the job he's done, Steve Mnuchin for the job he's done. If you look at Peter Navarro, he's sort of doing different things. He's really—he's a force, in terms of getting masks and getting all of the ventilators and all the things. He's been fantastic—Peter.

But I also want to thank Congress because whether or not we're happy that they haven't quite gotten there yet, they have been working long hours. I'm talking Republicans and Democrats—all of them. The House, the Senate. I want to thank Congress because they are really trying to get there, and I think they will.

And I'll see you all tomorrow. Thank you very much. Thank you.

Coronavirus Containment Efforts in New York City

Q. Did you give the Governor Cuomo a heads-up, Mr. President, about the quarantining for people who left New York?

The President. Beg your pardon?

Q. Did you give Governor Cuomo a heads up about quarantining people?

The President. We're talking to them about it.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:43 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Gov. Philip D. Murphy of New Jersey; Gov. Gregory W. Abbott of Texas; and Director of the Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Peter K. Navarro. A reporter referred to Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana.

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

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