Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing

April 02, 2020

The President. Okay. Thank you very much. Good to be with you all. We're in a very critical phase of our war against the coronavirus. It's vital that every American follows our guidelines on the "30 Days To Slow the Spread." The sacrifices we make over the next 4 weeks will have countless American lives saved. We're going to save a lot of American lives. And we're in control of our own fate very much so. Maintaining social distance, practicing vigorous hygiene, and staying at home are your most effective ways to win the war and to escape danger.

While you're fighting this battle from home, we're working with the best scientists, doctors, and researchers anywhere in the world. We're racing to develop new ways to protect against the virus, as well as therapies, treatments, and ultimately a vaccine. And we're making a lot of progress. I think, medically, a lot of progress.

At the same time, we're also racing to get relief to American workers and small businesses, as you know. I want to remind small-business owners across America that the Paycheck Protection Program is launching tomorrow. Nearly $350 billion in loans will be available to small businesses, including sole proprietors. These loans are up to 100-percent forgivable as long as employers keep paying their workers. Got to take care of your workers.

Furthermore, we want Social Security beneficiaries to know that if they are typically not required to file a tax return, they don't have to file one in order to receive the direct cash payments that will soon be distributed to American citizens. The Treasury will deposit the money directly into the bank accounts. And don't forget, I will always protect your Social Security, your Medicare, and your Medicaid. We're protecting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and I always will.

I'd like now to invite SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza, who's doing a fantastic job—she's going to be very busy in the next little while—and Secretary Steve Mnuchin to say a few words about these vital initiatives. And then, we'll get on to the attack of the virus itself.

And please, if I might, Steve and Jovita.

Small Business Administration Administrator Jovita Carranza. Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President and Mr. Vice President, Secretary Mnuchin, Ivanka Trump, and all who I have been working closely with in this effort. Small Business is the backbone of the American economy, and the President has put the Nation's 30 million small businesses front and center in the response effort, and we are working hard to get money to them quickly.

[At this point, Administrator Carranza continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]

I want to reiterate the importance of patience in this process as we work together to ensure that businesses are able to access needed credit. We will continue working around the clock, as we've done, with our Federal and private sector partners, expanding capacity and working to make our systems as robust as possible to meet the needs.

Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you, Jovita. Very good. Thank you.

Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin. Thank you, Mr. President, thank you, Mr. Vice President, thank you, Jovita. Mr. President, you've made it clear to us we now need to execute.

We need to get money to small business and American workers, and that's what we're doing.

The SBA and Treasury committed to get this program up and running tomorrow. And when Jovita says people are working around the clock, they literally—we had both teams working until 4 o'clock in the morning and start working again today.

[Secretary Mnuchin continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And I'm also pleased to report the employee retention credit, it's up and running. The first $10,000 of wages, you get a 50-percent credit; that's $5,000 per person. And for everyone who's kept someone, you can immediately get that money; you can deduct it from what you owe the IRS immediately. If you don't owe us money, you'll get a refundable tax credit. So that is up and running. I'm also pleased to report we have the program up and running. We're taking applications from the airlines, from the cargo companies, and from national security companies.

So thank you very much, Mr. President.

The President. Thank you, Steve. For Jovita or Steve, any questions, please?

[Secretary Mnuchin and Administrator Carranza responded to several questions from reporters. The President then spoke as follows.]

The President. Okay? Thank you all very much.

Secretary Mnuchin. Okay. Thank you, everybody.

The President. Thank you, Jovita. Thank you, Steve. Great job. Thank you.

Okay, so that begins right away, and they start handing out checks. And a lot of people are going to have their businesses built back up quickly, I hope. And we'll see. It's complicated, big. Small business is actually big business. So I thank them both.

And please—good. We have some great gentlemen. And let me see. Great gentlemen. That's correct. Thank you very much.

Today my administration is also issuing new guidelines to protect elderly Americans who remain the most vulnerable. By now, nursing homes should have suspended the entry of all medically unnecessary personnel.

Today we're further recommending that all nursing home facilities assign the same staff to care for the same group of residents consistently to minimize any potential spread. And we're also urging facilities to designate separate areas for healthy and sick residents. And this is a practice that we probably will be recommending into the future, long after the enemy is gone—this particular enemy is gone.

We're also making every effort to provide relief to our great veterans. We take very good care of our veterans. At my direction, Secretary Wilkie will use any authority at his disposal to extend deadlines for benefits and to postpone debt collections.

We're now conducting well over 100,000 coronavirus tests per day. It's over a thousand— 100,000 tests a day—and these are accurate tests, and they're moving rapidly—which is more than any other country in the world, both in terms of the raw number and also on a per capita basis. The most.

The FDA has also authorized the first coronavirus antibody test developed by Cellex, a key step that will help identify people who have recovered and to understand their immune response and their immune system.

Moments ago, I directed Secretary Azar and Acting Secretary Wolf to use any and all available authority under the Defense Production Act to ensure that domestic manufacturers have the supplies they need to produce ventilators for patients with severe cases of C–O–V–I–D–19. You know what that is, right? Become a very famous term: C–O–V–I–D—COVID.

This action will help General Electric, Hill-Rom, Medtronic, ResMed, Royal Philips, and Vyaire Medical overcome obstacles in the supply chain that threaten the rapid production of ventilators. We have over 100,000 being built right now or soon to be started. We anticipate issuing more orders under the Defense Production Act in the very near future.

In addition to the one that I've just signed against 3M for facemasks—we just signed an element of the act against 3M. And hopefully, they'll be able to do what they are supposed to do. I just spoke to Mary Barra of General Motors, and she said they're very soon going to be ready to start production of the ventilators. They have a lot of ventilators that they've committed to build, and they'll be starting very, very quickly.

FEMA continues to deliver resources to areas most affected by the virus, including New York. On top of the 3,000 beds we're already providing to the Javits Center, the Department of Defense is adding another 48 ICU beds. Governor Cuomo has asked that this facility go—and it's a big, beautiful facility—it be converted to a COVID hospital. And we hadn't done that yet. We hadn't thought in terms of doing that. But their use is—their real demand is for that. And we had meetings on it with the Task Force. We had meetings with the military. And I've decided to say, "Yes, I'm going to do that," that I will be signing and agreeing to a "yes" answer.

So that—we will be doing that, and also, we will be staffing it. So the Federal Government is doing a lot of things that wasn't anticipated that it do. This is a 2,500—and/or 2,900 can easily be set up—hospital built in Javits Center. And so we're going to be converting that to a COVID–19 hospital. And it's going to be staffed by the military and by the Federal Government.

And based on the fact that I agreed to that, we had two other facilities that were likewise asking for it, and that would be in Louisiana and also in Dallas. And we'll be doing those. We spoke to the Governor of Louisiana, spoke to the Governor of Texas. And we've told them that we will be staffing those hospitals, again, above and beyond, but that's okay. We have to do that.

In addition, the USNS Comfort is docked in New York to accept patients. That is a non- COVID.

To date, FEMA has delivered more than 4 million N95 mask respirators. And it's—think of that: 4 million. Four million.

Don't forget, we're a secondary source. The States are doing it, and we're backing them up. But we've gotten 4 million N95 respirators, 1.8 million surgical masks, 460,000 face shields, 1.4 million gloves, and 4,400 ventilators just to the city and to the State of New York. And some of them now are being sent. I spoke with both Governor Cuomo and Mayor de Blasio a little while ago, and some of them are being sent to the city.

All of America stands with the people of New York in this time of need. It's definitely a hotspot, but we have other hotspots also. And we're taking them—taking care of them very, very strongly, very powerfully. We have the finest people in the world in those locations. And I think the Federal Government has not only acted early, but acted quickly, professionally. There's no people like this.

Doctors, nurses, first responders, and other health care providers who want to help New York at this critical time should visit website They need help now. They need people to help them.

We have great facilities, and we've built some brandnew facilities, big ones, but we need help. We need help for professional people. So if you're in an area that isn't so affected and you're a doctor, a nurse, a health care worker, please get to that website. And we would really appreciate your help. New York City needs it. Louisiana, by the way, needs it. Michigan needs it. Whatever you can do. Those are very strong hotspots; they need help.

In recent weeks, as the virus has spread and economic hardship has followed, we have seen Americans unite with incredible selflessness and compassion. I want to remind everyone here in our Nation's Capital, especially in Congress, that this is not the time for politics, endless partisan investigations.

Here we go again. Have already done extraordinary damage to our country in recent years.

You see what happens. It's witch hunt after witch hunt after witch hunt. And in the end, the people doing the witch hunt have been losing, and they've been losing by a lot. And it's not any time for witch hunts. It's time to get this enemy defeated.

Conducting these partisan investigations in the middle of a pandemic is a really big waste of vital resources, time, attention. And we want to fight for American lives, not waste time and build up my poll numbers, because that's all they're doing, because everyone knows it's ridiculous.

So we want to focus on the people of this country, even the people of the world—we're going to be able to help them—because, right now, as an example, we're building so many ventilators, very, very hard to build—but we're building thousands. Thousands of them. And a lot of them will be coming at a time when we won't need them as badly, because it takes time. Very complex, very expensive. And we'll be able to help outside of our country. We think we'll be able to help. That's something that you cannot easily produce.

As citizens, we're linked together by the shared bonds of national love, loyalty, and affection. There's no earthly force more powerful than the patriotic pride that stirs in our hearts. And that is so true. It's incredible the job that everybody has been doing. Everybody. They don't sleep. They don't go to bed. Sometimes, they get nothing. I said to somebody recently on the Task Force, "How many hours' sleep have you gotten over the last couple of days?" The answer was "none." None.

In one Massachusetts neighborhood, citizens come out of their homes each night at 8 o'clock from their porches, and they sing "God Bless America." Others have joined in spreading from house to house, down one street, up to the next, until their little town with a spirit of patriotism, and reminding all Americans that we're all in this together. We'll fight together and we will win together. We're going to win this.

Now, what I'd like to do is—I'm going to step out. We have a meeting on this subject. And I'm going to step out just for a few moments. I'll be right back. We'll answer some questions.

But you have some very hardworking people who have done an incredible job, led by Vice President Mike Pence, head of the Task Force. And then, Jared Kushner is going to say a few words. And Admiral Polowczyk, Peter Navarro, Dr. Birx, and myself. I'll be right back.

So I'll see you in a little while.

I did take a test; it just came out. This is from the White House Physician. You may have it. It just came out. I just took it this morning. And I took it. It took me literally a minute to take it. And it took me, I guess it was 14 or 15 minutes. I went to work. I didn't wait for it, but he said it took 14 minutes, or something, to come up with a conclusion. And it said, "The President tested negative for COVID–19." So that's the second one.

I think I took it, really, out of curiosity to see how quickly it worked and fast it worked, and it's a lot easier. I've done them both. And the second one is much more pleasant, Jeff [Jeff Mason, Reuters], I can tell you that. Much more pleasant.

So I'll be back in a little while. And, Mike, please take over. Thank you. Thank you all very much. I'll be right back.

[The President left the briefing room, and the briefing continued with remarks by Vice President Michael R. Pence, White House Senior Adviser Jared C. Kushner, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Director for Logistics Rear Admiral John Polowczyk, USN. The President rejoined the briefing as Rear Adm. Polowczyk responded to a question from a reporter as follows.]

Rear Adm. Polowczyk. Yes, it will. Mr. Navarro will talk about that. We're on line to receive several thousand ventilators in the month of April and several thousand more ventilators in the month of May——

[The President reentered the briefing room.]

Rear Adm. Polowczyk. ——ramping up to a big number in June.

Again, going from, you know, an industry that produces about 30 annum—30,000 annum to a very big number.

Q. Admiral, are you confident that this system means the States with the greatest need are getting the supplies?

Rear Adm. Polowczyk. Yes, so——

Q. Because a lot of Governors are saying that they can't get what they need and different States have more pressing urgency, obviously, depending on the caseload.

Rear Adm. Polowczyk. So we marry up—we're marrying up where CDC—where the demand for COVID is to what's in the commercial system. We're providing that to these—to the commercial system. And we are making allocations to those of most pressing need.

Thirteen days—we now have the data. We now can make informed decisions. And so all of the "I need, I need, I need," I now know the volume that has been happening and needs to be happening.

Q. So, Admiral, with that—and, Mr. President, I'd love for you to weigh on——

The President. Sure.

Q. ——weigh in on this as well. You talk about—well, you alluded to the fact there is possibly some shady business going on, that the product is here in the United States and——

Rear Adm. Polowczyk. And coming here.

Q. Yes, and it is coming here. It's coming from China. It's in warehouses. It's being made here in the United States. It's in warehouses. But it's going to the highest bidder. So what can be done to keep those products here in the United States, not go overseas where companies are making a lot of money, and——

Rear Adm. Polowczyk. Yes. I'm going to let Mr. Navarro talk about that.

Q. ——and get it distributed to the most critical places here in the U.S.

The President. Yes. Sure. Peter, go ahead.

Q. I would love to hear from—how is that being done? Because doctors—I've talked to surgeons——

White House Office of Trade and Manufacturing Policy Director Peter K. Navarro. That's great. Great—great question.

Q. ——on a regular basis.

Director Navarro. Let me give you the bigger view of the DPA, and we'll directly address that. What we have, essentially, is a nation at war. We have a wartime President standing behind me. The Defense Production Act is one of the most powerful weapons this administration can use to fight the invisible enemy of the virus.

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

So we are going to crack down unmercifully. And I would say to the hoarders out there and the brokers that are trying to make money off of the misery of people in this country, around the world: That's got to stop. And if you've got inventory, what you need to do is pick up a phone and not call somebody out in—around the world. You call FEMA and say: "We've got some stuff.

We'll give it to you at a fair price," and be done with that, because that stuff has absolutely got to stop.

Q. [Inaudible]

Director Navarro. So that's that's—hang on. Hang on. So that's what we're going to be looking for. And when we hear cases like this, we're going to aggressively issue order after order to crack down on it.

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

And my promise to you is that the President is going to use that DPA to make sure that the American people, particularly our health care professionals, get the PPE, the medicines, everything we need. So let me stop there. I don't think it's my place here to field a bunch of questions.

The President. No, you're doing a good job. Thank you.

Director Navarro. Thank you.

Q. Just one question for clarification——

Availability of Medical Supplies and Equipment/U.S. Exports of Vital Supplies

Q. Mr. Navarro, what's the status of the "Buy American" Executive order?

The President. Go ahead. Go ahead. Answer——

Director Navarro. Sure.

The President. You go ahead.

Director Navarro. Okay——

The President. Come here. Come here. Come. [Laughter]

Director Navarro. One of the things that this crisis has taught us, sir, is that we are dangerously overdependent on a global supply chain for our medicines, like penicillin; our medical supplies, like masks; and our medical equipment, like ventilators.

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

So be patient with that, sir. It's—the other priorities we have right now are to DPA and what the Task Force is doing. But if we learn anything from this crisis, it should be never again. Never again should we have to depend on the rest of the world for our essential medicines and countermeasures.

The President. And by the way, we've cut them out also, to be honest. We've stopped orders going from certain places. And in a couple of places—like, we had a big order going to Italy on important outfits and some ventilators, and it was going to Italy. They made the order a long time ago. And I said, "You've got to let it go." They had an order. And I could have cut it, under the act. I could have cut it. I said: "Nope, you can't do that. You've got to let it go." You know, they have big problems.

We had an order going to Spain, and I said, "Let it go." I could have stopped it. I said, "Let it go." We're going to be fine. I said, "Let it go." So it works that way also.

One other thing, as to your question: Oftentimes—and we've told this to the Governors— Mike, we've been very strong on this—have—if you think there's bidding between Federal Government and State, let us know, and we'll drop out immediately, or you drop out, and we lower the price.

Availability of Medical Supplies and Equipment/Federal Assistance to States

Q. But States are bidding against each other.

The President. No, no. If we're bidding against each other, I said find out who it is. And usually, they know. Everyone knows. And we're notified, and we get notified, and we'll either drop out, or they'll drop out. But we have another problem: There are 151 countries out there, beyond the States. There are 151 countries that have this problem. And they're ordering too. It's really a mess.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. Now, in a little while, the hardest thing to get are the ventilators, because they're—you know, it takes a while to build them. And we have a lot. We have thousands of them being built right now. In a little while, they'll be worth about $5. But right now they're very valuable. And we're going to have a lot of them being shipped.

And, in fact, that's why General Motors called up before—Mary. That's why others called up 2 days ago. They called up that they're all in production. And they'll start—they're starting to arrive in a week and a half. But there'll be a time when we're going to build stockpiles.

By the way, the States should have been building their stockpiles. We have almost 10,000 in our stockpile. And we've been building it, and we've been supplying it. But the States should be building.

We're a backup. We're not an ordering clerk. We're a backup. And we've done an unbelievable job. Like, for instance, who ever heard of a Governor calling up, "Sir, can you build us a hospital of 2,500 rooms?" And we built it. "Can you build us four medical centers?" We built it. "Can you deliver a ship—a hospital ship—with 1,000 rooms?" And we did it. And we did it in Los Angeles too.

We've been an unbelievable—we've done an unbelievable job—these people. And so—and thousands of people behind them. But we're a backup. Ideally, those hospitals would have had all this equipment. Ideally, those States should have had all this equipment, and I think they will the next time.

You know, you heard the case where thousands of ventilators could have been had at a very inexpensive price 3 years ago. And a certain State decided not to exercise that right, because they wanted to build a road or they wanted to build something else because it's big money. You're talking about—I think it was a billion dollars.

But you're talking about a lot of money for something that may never happen. Because normally, on a ventilator—other than a pandemic or an epidemic—you wouldn't need anything like this. Hospitals have three ventilators—big hospitals—and they get by with it. And now they want thousands. I mean, they want thousands of ventilators. You call up a Governor, and he'll say, "Sir, could you send us 40,000 ventilators?" Nobody has ever heard of a thing like this.

So they've done some job. Let me just tell you, when Secretary Mnuchin spoke, they want you to call not ".com" but—okay?—for the application and for information. Okay? So it's SBA—small business—, okay? If you don't mind.

Yes, let's go. Please.

Health Insurance Reforms

Q. Thank you, sir. Thank you, Mr. President. I want to follow up from a question yesterday regarding, I think, your administration's denial of the expansion of Obamacare special enrollment period in the wake of this pandemic.

In your own words—VP Pence gave a 5 minute nonanswer—but people facing this pandemic—illness and even worse—most experts say that having health care is critical to our Nation's health and financial well-being.

The President. Right.

Q. Can you assure Americans tonight that you will reopen Obamacare marketplace so that they can be covered in this time of combined health——

The President. Well, we're doing better than that.

Q. ——and financial crisis?

The President. Yes. No, I understand the question. And we're doing better than that. We're going to try and get a cash payment to the people. And we're working out the mechanics of that with legislature.

So we're going to try and get them a cash payment, because just opening it up doesn't help as much. So we're going to work it out. So we're going to try and get for that certain group of people—it's a certain group of people—a cash payment.

Go ahead.

Availability of Medical Supplies and Equipment

Q. I really want to ask you about masks, but I also just wanted to follow up on a couple of hanging threads there. On just the question earlier about the bidding, what happens though when States are bidding against each other on those markets?

The President. Well, they have that, and they have to work that out. What they should do is, they should have—long before this pandemic arrived, they should have been on the open market just buying. There was no competition. You could have made a great price.

The States have to stock up. It's like one of those things. They waited. They didn't want to spend the money, because they thought this would never happen. And their shelves, in some cases, were bare. And by the way, in some cases they weren't. They were beautifully serviced. They did a good job. But in some cases, their shelves were bare.

So the best thing they can do is, when times become normalized—and they will, hopefully, soon—and actually, you're going to have a lot of excess material because so much is being done right now in terms of protective gear, protective outfits. A lot is being done. It's going to be— within 6 months, it's going to be sold for the right price. They've got to stack up for the next time.

But we are doing that. And the admiral has done a fantastic job. Senator Schumer wrote a letter today, and he says, "You should put a military man in charge." I said, "Well, Chuck, if you knew a little bit more, we have one of the most highly respected people in the military: the admiral." This is what he does too, very professionally. And he's in charge. But Chuck didn't know that.


Q. Sir, can I ask about masks?

The President. Jeff, please.

Saudi Arabia/Russia/Global Oil Markets

Q. Mr. President, you tweeted this morning about your call with Saudi Arabia's MBS.

The President. Yes.

Q. We've had some people say that the figures that you cited, between 10 thousand—10 million and 15 million barrels per day, is not what they're agreeing to. Can you be more specific about what exactly they told us?

The President. I don't know what they're agreeing to. I think they might agree to more than that.

Look, Russia—Russia——

Q. Did he tell you that, sir?

The President. Yes. He did say that actually. Russia talked about 10 million barrels. Russia and Saudi Arabia are fighting over this. And as everybody knows, it's, you know, really killing an industry; hurting Russia badly, hurting Saudi Arabia badly.

I said, "This is an easy one." It should be an easy one. And it may be 10, and it may be more than that. I was actually told it may be 10. As I told somebody before, it may be 10, and it may be more than that. Maybe it's 15. Maybe it goes up to 15. Could be as high as 15.

And you know, there's a tremendous oversupply right now. That industry was—it was oversupplied before the virus. And when the virus came along, they lost 35, 40 percent of the world. And there's an unbelievable—you can't get a ship now. Every ship is loaded to the gills, sitting out someplace in the ocean. They're storage tanks. They're not even ships; they're storage tanks.

So it would be great for Russia, it would be great for Saudi Arabia. I hope they make that deal, but that's what they told me they said—

Q. [Inaudible]—15 million be——

The President. ——they said it's——

Q. ——enough to address the oversupply issues?

The President. Well, I think it will be, hopefully, soon. I think hopefully they'll announce something soon. Now, can a deal be broken? Can something happen where it doesn't happen? I guess. In which case there's another alternative. But I'd rather not see that other alternative. I hope they can make a deal.

Q. What do you mean when you say the "alternative"?

The President. They both want—I think they both want to make a deal. And they're both smart. They love their countries. They want to make a deal. It's good, but it's also good for the world if they do, because you save an industry.

Q. Mr. President——

The President. Yes, please. Go ahead. Go ahead, in the back, please.

Q. What do you by "cash payments"?

The President. I'm going to let Mike, because we went over this very specifically. And I'll let you talk about it, Mike, because you responded last time.

Vice President Pence. Right. Thank you, Mr. President. As I said yesterday, the President has put a priority on ensuring that no American has to worry about the cost of coronavirus testing. And we've been working every day to make sure that Americans don't have to worry about the cost of treatment.

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

But for those some 30-odd million uninsured Americans, the President has directed the Coronavirus Task Force to find a way to make sure that they know, we will find a way to pay for your coronavirus treatment. And the President will be addressing that and announcing that tomorrow.

Q. Can I follow up on that?

Q. Mr. President——

The President. Go ahead.


Q. ——a point of clarification and then a follow-up question. Yesterday you said that you spoke to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis before he issued his stay-at-home order. Did you advise him to issue that order?

The President. No, but I talked to him about it. And he wants to do what's right for the people of Florida. He's been a great Governor. You could see that just by his popularity, which is extraordinary. We're proud of him. He's done a fantastic job, and he made the decision.

But we spoke before he made the decision, yes.

Q. And he had also said that he is considering putting people who are suspected of having coronavirus, or who have tested for positive for it, in isolation centers, and that he would potentially use——

The President. That I haven't heard. No, that I haven't heard.

Q. So he hasn't consulted with you? The President. I haven't heard that. Yes, please.

Protective Face Masks

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Ebony Bowden from the New York Post. A few hours ago, Mayor de Blasio, the mayor of New York, said that New Yorkers leaving their homes should wear masks. They should also wear masks when they're with other people. Are you considering that kind of recommendation on a Federal level? And if you are, how would you prevent a rush on N95 masks?

The President. Well, I think they're going to be coming out with regulations on that. And if people want to abide by them, frankly, I don't think you—I don't think there'll be mandatory, because some people don't want to do that. But if people wanted—as an example, on the masks, if people wanted to wear them, they can. If people wanted to use scarves, which they have—many people have them—they can. In many cases, the scarf is better; it's thicker. I mean you can—if you—depending on the material, it's thicker. But they can do that if they want.

Now, a recommendation is coming out. We'll see what that recommendation is, but——

Q. Is that a CDC recommendation, sir?

The President. But I will say this, they can pretty much decide for themselves right now.

Protective Face Masks

Q. Would that be nationwide? And can I also just ask——

The President. Nationwide.

Q. Nationwide——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——not just for hotspots.

And then, I think this is best for Dr. Birx, but we've heard some differing guidance here. The WHO and even the Surgeon General have talked about various studies that show that masks, in addition to maybe not even being helpful to protecting people, may actually increase the rates of illness because people touch the masks, then they touch themselves.

The President. Sure.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about, just the evolution of——

The President. All right, maybe I will ask——

Q. ——your thinking on this?

The President. ——Dr. Birx. And you might mention that other point also.

Q. Yes.

The President. Thanks.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah L. Birx. No, no, thank you. So I hope you got from the conference today that we're triangulating data that we know from the case numbers, the testing numbers, the supply chain numbers to create an integrated picture so that we can really support hospitals in their needs. And I think that level of granularity is really critical.

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

Now, we know there are people waiting for tests, and they're waiting for tests because when these areas became very—when they got onto the logarithmic curve, we prioritized people whose decisions—where the test decision would make it critical for their care. And so we prioritized hospitals, and we prioritized nurses and doctors and frontline workers. So that means if you went through a drive-through or you went through your doctor, you could have that delay.

So the masks: So what I tried to give you is how we're using data in a very granular way.

And so there are—there is experiential data. When you look at communities that have oftentimes utilized masks—in general, for personal protection—from when they particularly are themselves sick and have used their mask in public. And we've looked at the rate of this COVID–19 in those populations. And then, we're looking at the scientific evidence to bring those two pieces together.

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

So in the—when the advisory comes out, it will be an additive piece if it comes out, rather than saying, "This is a substitute for"—and we want to make sure everybody understands, it is not a substitute for the Presidential guidelines that have already gone out, and to be absolutely clear about that.

Q. Dr. Birx, can I ask a follow up about the testing, please?

The President. Go ahead.

Q. Dr. Birx, there's a lot of evidence we're seeing—that the experts are saying that a high number of these tests could be producing false negatives. So——

Ambassador Birx. Of the Roche and Abbott tests?

Q. That as many as one in three tests might be providing false negatives. And I was wondering, maybe you could explain or——

Ambassador Birx. That would be almost be impossible with——

Q. ——tell a little about the science.

Ambassador Birx.—having 35-percent positives. You—if that was true, you would have 100-percent positive——

Q. Are you concerned about the underlying data——

Ambassador Birx. ——or 66 percent positive.

So what I can tell you is, the number of positive tests is tracking very closely with the number of cases diagnosed. So I don't—I will look into that. I look at the Roche and Abbott numbers every night. They're trending exactly in the same way. And that's important when you're validating data to really validate, "Does this same site"—in other words, I'm looking between testing sites to see, are there consistencies? Is there an anomaly? To make sure for what you just very specifically asked. So I will go back and look at it more carefully. I haven't seen that kind of anomaly.

This is—this same platform is being used across the country, and that's a range from what I reported: 3-percent positivity up to 35-percent positivity. And that range reflects also what we're seeing with the hotspots and the number of cases. And frankly, I mean, we hate to talk about it, but it also tracks with the hospitalizations independent of diagnosis and the mortality that we're seeing. So all of those pieces validate together.

Q. There's no concern that there might—people might be getting a false sense of security or that we might not be seeing all of the data here on—and who has it?

Ambassador Birx. Well, I'm telling you I'm still missing 50 percent of the data from reporting. I have 660 tests reported in; we've done 1.3 million. So there is—and it could be those sites, so we do need to see all—the bill said you need to report. We're still not receiving 100 percent of the test.

Q. Dr. Birx——

Q. Dr. Birx, with regard to the test, the President's sample collection took 1 minute, results reported back in 15 minutes. I realize you're the President of the United States, but when will everyone get to take a test that works that quickly and you get results that quickly?

Ambassador Birx. So these are new tests, and we have prioritized the groups that we think have the least access to testing now. And who do we mean by that? We mean the Indian Health Service—they're often in remote areas; rural areas; the Governors of the Northwestern States that may not have the advantage of these high-throughput machines that are often across the East Coast and in high metro areas—Colorado—and then across the West Coast.

So we've prioritized the Presidential 15-minute test to the Indian Health Services and public health labs so that they can support nursing home testing and other areas where we think surveillance is absolutely key. So at this moment they're prioritized in that way.

Vice President Pence. It's thirteen to twelve hundred.

Ambassador Birx. Yes, 1,200 of them are going out that way.

Coronavirus Testing Access

Q. So do more of those tests need to be made in order for more people——

The President. They are being made.

Ambassador Birx. Yes.

Q. Okay. So in a matter of——

The President. They're moving very quickly—it's happening—in this case.

[Ambassador Birx and Vice President Pence responded to several questions. A reporter then asked the President a question as follows.]

Saudi Arabia/Russia/Global Oil Markets

Q. Mr. President, can I have a quick follow-up on oil, please? In your conversations with Russia and Saudi Arabia, did you have to make any concessions to get them to agree to cut their production?

The President. No.

Q. Like, did you agree to cut U.S. production of oil?

The President. No, No. We didn't discuss that. They want to do that, that's good for their countries, and we did not discuss that now.

Coronavirus Impact on USS Theodore Roosevelt Crew

Q. Mr. President, NBC News has learned that the Navy is set to fire the captain of the USS Theodore Roosevelt after he raised red flags about the COVID–19 outbreak on his ship. It appears as if he's being punished for trying to save the lives of the sailors in his command. What's your assessment?

The President. Oh, I don't think so at all. But we're going to wait a little while because I understand there's a news conference by the Secretary of Defense about that. But you know, I don't agree with that at all. Not at all. Not even a little bit.


Restrictions on Foreign Travel to the U.S.

Q. Mr. President, thank you. This morning you said, once again, that New York got off to a late start and they should have pushed harder. But Governors and other State leaders say they rely on the Federal Government to assess the situation and how risky it is. And they want to know, how would they have known to start sooner without your guidance?

The President. Well, they have experts. And frankly, long after, we came out and talked about it—look, how would I have known to cut off China? I cut off China very early. And if I didn't, we would have a chart that you wouldn't believe. So how would I know to do that? How would I know to cut off Europe? I cut off Europe very early. I mean, you have to make a decision. People knew that some bad things were going on, and they got off to a late start. And some others got off to a late start also. But we cut off China. If we didn't cut off China, we would have been in some big trouble. And we cut it off.

Q. But do——

The President. And you know what? We cut it off way early. Go ahead.

Insurance Coverage for Coronavirus Patients

Q. Mr. President, to follow up on the insurance point, and a separate question that came in from a colleague who can't be in the room——

The President. Too bad.

Q. On the insurance point, is there going to——

The President. Who are you with? Who are you with?

Q. Roll Call. Is there going to be an opportunity for insurance companies—if in fact hospitals are compensated for uncompensated care——

The President. Right. Right.

Q. ——are the insurance companies going to also get compensated for its extraordinary expenses that they may have? Or are they assuming that cost?

The President. So, we haven't discussed it, but we're talking to them. You know, getting them not to pay copays, in the case of the big ones, was a tremendous thing. That's a lot of money they gave up. But we're discussing that with the insurance companies.

Q. Okay.

The President. We'll let you know. It will be pretty quickly. Yes, go ahead.

Restrictions on Foreign Travel to the U.S.

Q. On—I have a question on Japan, sir. They are expanding their entry ban to include the United States. Are you planning to take any similar action to ban Japanese nationals from coming to the U.S. as a result of this crisis?

The President. Well, we're looking at a lot of things and a lot of different bans. We have more bans than anybody. We had bans when bans weren't fashionable if you remember, right at the beginning of this administration; it was for different reasons. But we've had bans long before people thought of bans.

When I did China, it had never been done before. I was the first one to do it. Remember that.

It had never—according to what I read in all the papers, this had never been done. This is a terrible thing to do. And 4 weeks later, they were all saying, "We're lucky we did it." So we're looking at it. No, we heard that. And I think it's fine that they do that. They're trying to protect their country, and we have to protect our country.

Yes, please.

Q. Mr. President——


Q. Mr. President, I asked you yesterday about stay-at-home orders——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——and if that, you know, decision should be left in the hands of Governors or if you're considering telling the entire Nation, "Stay at home."

The President. Yes.

Q. So, just today the—Georgia's Governor finally issued a stay-at-home order——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——saying that individuals could have been infecting people before they ever felt bad, but we didn't know that until the last 24 hours. Is that ignorance, gross incompetence?

The President. He's a good Governor, Brian Kemp. He's a very good——

Q. You've been having calls with these Governors.

The President. He's a good Governor, and he has to make his own decision on that. I let the States—I think we're about 85-percent positive on that, if you look. I think it's about 85 percent of the States have got the stay-at-home. Brian is a great Governor. We'll—it's his decision. He made that decision. Ultimately, he decided to go along with it.

Q. Do you think it was smart decision to wait?

The President. And they're doing well. And the State is doing well, in many respects. Yes, go ahead, please.

Medical Supply Assistance From Russia/U.S. Exports of Vital Supplies

Q. This is another question from a colleague who couldn't make it in today. From Emily Goodin at the Daily Mail. I had a question in regards to the Russian plane that landed at JFK with medical supplies. Did the United States ask Russia for this aid or is it just accepting it?

The President. We're accepting it. It was a very nice offer from President Putin. I spoke to him the other night, as I told you. And they had excess medical equipment, things. And I'll take it. I'll take it.

Q. He just offered you——

The President. I think it's very nice. We've had some from China. We also help other countries. We like doing that. Like I said before, if we have excess stuff, we let it go out. We let some go out where, frankly, they had orders for it and I didn't want to stop orders. It was a very nice gesture on behalf of President Putin. And I could've said, "No, thank you," or I could have said, "Thank you." And it was a large plane of very high-quality medical supplies. And I said, "I'll take it."

Q. Is he offering any further aid in your conversation?

The President. I think he would, if we asked for it. But he was very nice. It was part of the call. He suggested—he said: "We have it. It's additional." They have very big difficulties with this virus also, as you know—Russia. I thought it was a very nice gesture on behalf of President Putin. I could have said, "No, I don't want it," or I could have said, "I'll take it." And you know what I said? "I'll take it."

Q. And would you accept further aid?

The President. I think so, yes. If they sent things that we need, I'd take it. Sure. Nice gesture.

Russia's Motivations in Providing Supply Aid

Q. Are there concerns about Russians using it as propaganda?

The President. I'm not concerned about Russian propaganda, not even a little bit. He offered a lot of medical, high-quality stuff that I accepted. And that may save a lot of lives. I'll take it every day.

Please, in the back.

Iran/Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action

Q. Mr. President, you said—in January, you tweeted that you stand with the people of Iran since the beginning of your Presidency and you'll continue to stand with the people of Iran.

Given the fact that they're so hard hit with the coronavirus——

The President. Oh, they're very hard hit. They're very hard hit.

Q. But would you consider——

The President. In a lot of ways, they're hard hit. They're hit in—with their economy, with their military, and with, obviously, the virus. They're very hard hit.

Q. Would you consider easing sanctions to allow medical supplies to get in?

The President. Well, they haven't even asked us to do that, okay?

Q. But we know that sanctions hit the people, not the Government.

The President. You know what? They haven't even asked us to do that.

Q. But how does a person——

The President. If they want to meet, we'd love to meet, and we'd love to settle the whole thing out. But I doubt they'll be——

Q. But how does a—realistically, how does a person in Tehran pick up the phone and call you? I mean——

The President. I think they love America. I think the Iranians love America. I think they'd love to be free. I think they'd love to have just some of the things that we have.

You know, I remember Iran, many years ago—friends of mine were always in Iran. They were doing real estate deals in Iran. They were building beautiful buildings all over Iran.

Apartment houses. It was—they were very successful. And then, one day, that came to an end.

But you know what? The people of Iran, they remember that. It was a long time ago, but not so long ago. And they remember it. And I'll tell you, they love America. They love what we stand for. And we're not looking for change—we're not looking for government takeover, government change. You know, this country has been through that many times. That doesn't work.

Q. So—[inaudible]—health of the people, would you encourage other countries to—who are maybe concerned about running afoul——

The President. Well, what I did—yes. What I did, as you know——

Q. ——of sanctions to——

The President. ——I put it out very publicly, with respect to Iran. I said if they need help with respect to the virus, we'd love to send—we have the greatest medical professionals in the world. We'd love to send them over.

Q. So what countries are you encouraging, perhaps, to lend their support? Because there are many countries that feel——

The President. I'm not encouraging or discouraging. They've been a very hostile country.

They made a deal that President Obama should have never made. It was a short-term deal giving them $150 billion, giving them $1.8 billion in cash. Green. Fill up this room five times. Look——

Q. But your administration, do you have a moral responsibility to——

The President. No. Not at all. Nobody has even asked me about it. I have a moral responsibility to help them if they ask. If they needed help, I would certainly consider different things.

Q. Well, the United Nations says they need help.

The President. Well, that's up to the United Nations. I'm talking about us. And what happens is, if they wanted help—because they have a very big case of virus. A very, very big case. It—one of the worst on Earth, if you believe what you're reading. And I happen to believe what I see and what I know. And if they wanted help, we'd give them help.

Yes. You had one, in the back, please.

Q. Yes, Mr. President, and a question for Jared too. The—you talk about a granular approach to receiving data from these different States and regions to try and figure out what they need. The President—you just enacted the DPA on ventilators and masks. Are there are any signals from across the country that might indicate there are other things besides masks and ventilators that are slowly, kind of, rising in terms of need—like hand sanitizer, for instance?

The President. Go ahead.

Senior Adviser Kushner. Sure. So the first issue that we've been dealing with was really the ventilators. That was the number one, number two, and number three from all the States. What we've been finding is that people have a lot of these requests based on the models. And what we've been trying to do over at FEMA is say to the States, "Well, if you would like ventilators, we need to see—first, look in your States." Right? So, for example, in northern Jersey, they're going down to Southern Jersey, and they're finding ventilators and trying to relocate them to where they have their hotspots.

[Senior Adviser Kushner continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

Unlike other countries, a lot of the medical system in America is a private—it's not a—it's not a public, government-controlled. So you have to get the data from what's in their State, look at it in that way, and then make sure that they're being resourceful in a way to do that. And also ask them what their utilization percentage is, because if one Governor is asking for more ventilators and if the Federal Government sends them more than they need, the goal here is not to have ventilators sitting in a warehouse where you have another State or you have people who need them. So what we're trying to do is make informed data-driven decisions, both on ventilators, masks, any other supply we can get to make sure it's going to the people who need them.

Q. Jared—to follow up on that—what triggers——

News Media

Q. I wonder if you could weigh in on the reports, of which I'm sure you're aware, where unnamed White House officials have described your role as being something of running a shadow task force. How do you describe your role? How do you describe the qualifications you bring to your role?

The President. You do not have to answer that.

Senior Adviser Kushner. Yes. I would just say very simply—look, the President asked the Vice President to run the Task Force. The Vice President asked me to assist. I've been serving really at the direction of Vice President, and he's asked me to get involved in different projects.

The Vice President and I speak probably sometimes 5, 10 times a day. But everything that I'm doing is at the direction of the Vice President. If some people are talking to you, that means they're probably not informed as to what's going on. But I can assure you that I'm speaking with Dr. Birx, Dr. Fauci, the Vice President, and the President multiple times a day to make sure that I'm accomplishing and focusing on the objectives that the Vice President deems a priority.

Q. Jared, a followup on the ventilators——

The President. Or they don't exist.

Q. ——and the National Stockpile.

The President. Or the sources don't exist. They're fake persons, okay? A lot of fake sources out there. They don't exist. I read about it—for a long time, I've been reading. A lot of them fake sources, they don't exist.

Go ahead. Please.

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Jared, what triggers sending a ventilator from the National Stockpile to a State? In other words, how sick does somebody have to be to get one of these national ventilators?

Senior Adviser Kushner. Well, that's not the issue that we're—that's not the criteria. You have the States basically putting in the requests, and they're giving us their utilization—their utilization percentages. So it's a very simple formula. The States should know how many ventilators they have in their States. And by the way, some Governors you speak to or Senators, they don't know what's in their State. You know, some Governors I'll speak to, and they'll know, to the number, how many ventilators they have in their State because that's the first thing a good manager will do.

[Senior Adviser Kushner continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]

And so we prepositioned a lot of things because most Governors, off the bat, didn't know what they needed. But FEMA has a joint command with Admiral Polowczyk, Admiral Giroir, and Pete Gaynor, where every couple hours, when their requests come in, they evaluate the request, they all vote on the request. And then, if there is something that they want to elevate to the Task Force, they bring it to the Vice President to make a recommendation.

Vice President Pence. And, Jared, if I may, you might ask Deborah to—we're literally tracking hospitalization cases on a daily basis, interacting with Governors and health systems, and that informs our supply chain decisions.

Ambassador Birx. Yes, I really—I want to thank the health commissioners and all of them that have been sending hospital data. And I think it's really critical and important to all of us.

New York City has been providing information, New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and certainly Louisiana, in these hotspots. And that allows us—we can see where they are with the rising number of cases, where they are in their curve, what can be predicted, and really ensuring that people get what they need as they need it.

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

But that means all of us have to work together. And I think that's what's been really important over the last few weeks, is people are not making generic requests anymore. They're making data-driven requests because they know precisely what's happening in their hospitals.

Q. Dr. Birx——

Variation in Coronavirus Impact on Different States/Global Coronavirus Pandemic

Q. Dr. Birx, when you are up here a little bit ago, you talked about the curve and what you're seeing, and you're concerned that people are not abiding by the social distancing guidelines. I mean, you seemed, in your voice, to be quite concerned about that. Has the curve changed enough at this point, where that 100,000 to 240,000 people likely to die, has that shifted upwards at all?

Ambassador Birx. No. It's just when I look at what—so we're in week 2.2 in our guidelines. And I guess what I expected when the President put out guidelines that said: "Don't go to bars. Don't be in groups more than 10 people," when we said that, now over 16 days ago, that was serious. And then, you could see what happened subsequently, and you can see the number of individuals have been infected since then. Because the people we're seeing infected today and in hospitals today were infected after the guidelines went out.

So that's what we're worried about, and we're worried about that we're not—we're still in this.

[Ambassador Birx indicated a steep upward slope with her arm.]

And that's why the President extended it for 30 days. But we have to get out of this. We have to start seeing this.

[Ambassador Birx indicated a flattening curve with her arm.]

The President. But, Deborah, aren't you referring to just a few States? Because many of those States are dead flat. I mean, so——

Ambassador Birx. Yes.

The President. So it's hard to get—it's tough to be——

Ambassador Birx. Yes. There are States that are dead flat. But you know, every—what changes the curve is a new Detroit, a new Chicago, a new New Orleans, a new Colorado. Those change the curves, because it all of a sudden spikes with the number of new cases. Because you have a certain projection of new cases, and then a whole other city comes on top, where they're in their logarithmic phase.

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

But we're watching very carefully, because we see that you can go from this to this very quickly.

[Ambassador Birx indicated a flat line spiking upward sharply with her arm and hand.]

And what—this should not be happening any longer in new places if people are doing the social distancing, washing their hands, not getting together in large groups more than 10.

Q. Dr. Birx——

The President. Deborah. Again, so I look at the graphs all the time.

Ambassador Birx. Yes, you do.

The President. And you have many, many——

Ambassador Birx. Yes.

The President. ——flatliners. I call them "flatliners." I'm amazed at them. And you have a couple that are up. It's hard to blame the flatliners for not doing a good job.

Ambassador Birx. No, no. I don't want to say that. No. I don't—no. Thank you, sir. I don't want—in fact, I want to praise the States that—and I think I want to be able to call them out and show you their graphs so you can see.

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

And it's the metro areas that are absolutely crucial in this. And so, if you're in a metro area or you're in a small city, please make sure all of your friends and family are following the guidelines. That's the best thing we can do.

The President. No, because I saw those pens going 5 minutes ago. They were so—they were thrilled. And the fact is—yes, we compare them to Italy. One place.

But we have many places that are——

Ambassador Birx. Yes.

The President. ——really doing great. And I think that's what Deborah meant. She didn't mean all of them. So when you write your story tomorrow, maybe you'll write it correctly. She was talking about one State. And another State is, you know, having a hard time. It's—and they're closely associated.

And by the way, the people are doing a very good job, including the people that live there. But when Deborah was talking about Italy, she was talking about the one, and then the other was lower. And then, you have mostly States that have been unbelievable.

So she wasn't talking about the average of everything; she was talking about an individual State, which is, I think, still better than Italy. Italy is having a hard time. By the way, Spain is having a hard time. France is having a hard time.

But our States, generally speaking, it's like lots of different countries all over. We have— many of those countries are doing a phenomenal job. They're really flat. And I think that's what you meant.

Ambassador Birx. Thank you, sir.

The President. I don't know. I don't want to—I don't want to speak for—but I thought—that's what I understood she meant.

Yes, please.

Variation in Coronavirus Impact on Different States

Q. Can I ask a question about that though? Because coronavirus is present in all 50 States. You said before that you—when you implored mayors and Governors to be serious about this, you said, "Once it shows up, mitigation efforts are too late."

So how do you then square that with this notion that some States are doing well? I mean, the virus doesn't abide by State law.

The President. Because some States, they stay in better. They're not touching. They're not— whatever it is. They're not going out. They're not in groups. And some States are not probably as good, or for whatever reason. Or they also live a lot closer. You know, New York is very dense.

And you know, California is pretty dense too. And they've got a very good record going so far. We hope it doesn't spike up, but it's very flat. We have States that are doing incredibly well. I mean, when I looked at some of them, I looked at some States that I would have thought maybe wouldn't have done as well, and they're really flatlined. Hope they stay that way. I hope they stay that way.

Vice President Pence. Right.

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Isn't that the point, Mr. President?

The President. Say it, Jeff .

Variation in Impact of Coronavirus on Different States

Q. Sir, isn't that the point, that you want those States to stay flatlined?

Ambassador Birx. Yes.

The President. I want them—yes, that's what I'm saying.

Q. I mean, it seems like you're——

The President. No, no, no. But when Deborah mentioned about Italy and our country, she wasn't referring to our country; she was referring to one State.

Q. But she's encouraging people to do a better job of following these social distancing measures. That's what I'm understanding it.

The President. Okay. So my understanding—I'm going to let her say it. But I think that everybody would have to be thrilled with the way most States are doing. Thrilled.

Q. Really?

Q. I don't think she—is that what you meant?

The President. The flat-line—the flat-line States—States that have almost no bump. I mean, I would think. Now, then you have others where, for whatever reason, they're higher. That's different. But you can't condemn people living in a flatliner with people living in something where there's the big bump or the bigger bump or more akin to Italy, where they have some very unique problems. In all fairness to Italy, they have some very unique problems.

But if you'd like to come up and——

Q. So how many flat-line do we have?

The President. A lot of them.

Q. And how many do we have—how many? How many do we have?

Ambassador Birx. So why don't I bring you the whole deck again, and we'll divide out the States so you can see them.

Vice President Pence. We'll do it tomorrow.

Ambassador Birx. Because you really have to see each State separately. That's why I started with there are States where you've heard me talk about how concerned I was. These are States that before the guidelines went out or right after the guidelines went out—I mean, you can look at—it's on the website if you go to the about when Governors made clarity about closing their States, as far as the social distancing, the washing of the hands, the bars, the taking—doing takeout. And you can line that up with the Presidential guidelines.

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

What I am saying is: Even one of those curves in one county, in one city, is one curve too many. So I am passionate about everyone following the guidelines, because of the outlier curves. Maybe that was a better way of putting it.

The President. Yes. That's exactly—— Ambassador Birx. The outlier curves—— The President. I think that's perfect.

Ambassador Birx. ——in specific counties, is to make sure that doesn't happen anywhere else.

Variation in Impact of Coronavirus on Different States/Louisiana/Michigan/Federal Assistance to States

Q. So would you feel better if every State did a stay-at-home order? Would you feel better?

Ambassador Birx. Well, I think most of the States have done that. I think if you—one death from this is one death too many. I mean, I come out of epidemics and pandemics. We know what to do. I know we don't have a vaccine. And I know we don't have a therapeutic. But we know what can be done, and others are doing it, and most of the people in the United States are doing it. It's our communities, it's every American that has to make these changes, and I know they're really hard.

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

And I believe everybody is trying really hard, and I'm just asking them to try really, really hard for these next 28 days, because they will make a tremendous difference. We see that evidence. And so it's like having a vaccine or a therapeutic, because we know what works, and we're asking everybody to apply what works. And I know it takes amazing attention to detail, because you know the minute you forget or do something, you're, like, "Oh, my gosh, I should have never done that." And that's the level of attention it takes.

Q. If covering our faces could help us do that and guidelines are coming out——

The President. So I just want to say—look, many States have started low and slow, and then they stayed at a good level. Some really stayed at a great level. Some—Louisiana, as an example: It was low and slow, and they were looking great. I was watching it, because you know, it's kind of a place people go to with Mardi Gras—which, sort of, is an interesting point, because after Mardi Gras, it was low, and then all of a sudden it went up very rapidly. And now it's one of our true hotspots, right? Certain areas of Michigan—Detroit was—it looked like it was doing pretty good, and then all of a sudden, it went up. So you have that too.

But I'll tell you what: We have States that have been really incredible in the fact that they have kept so—so low. They have not—you haven't seen the bump, and I hope you don't. I hope you don't. And you have a couple that, for a lot of different reasons—and that's not to blame anybody, but they are at a higher level. But very few.

I think, Deborah—I mean, I may say: I think most people have actually followed the Presidential—you can call them whatever you want. I would never use the word "dictates," because if I used that word, I would be in such trouble. In fact, you'll put me in trouble just that I even mentioned the thought of it. Okay? But we make a recommendation. And I think they've done a good job, and maybe they started a little later, but maybe they're also more difficult States.

But we've done, I think, on average, really phenomenally as a country. I think we've done phenomenally. Because when you looked at that graph the other day—I don't know if you saw it; I assume you saw it. Everybody in the world saw it. But you look at all those lines on the bottom—one color after another, all different, representing different States—it's all crowded at the bottom. And then, you had two that were up. But you had—I don't know, almost every one of them was down low. Very low. So there were a lot of people listening.

And I just did—I want to be clear, because I don't need headlines tomorrow, and neither does the country, because I don't want this country working so hard and then have press that is, in this case, maybe misinterpret something. Because I might have—when I heard it, I was surprised at first too, but I understood what Deborah meant.

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Can you clear something else up again?

The President. But I think it's very important—because I think it's very important for you to be accurate.

One other thing. Just a quick thing. So, what I found is when Governors call me—I mean, I think in every case, they've always been so nice. So nice. And I've seen them and heard them say: "Thank you very much. You have done a great job."

"A fantastic job," in one case. "Thank you. Thank you. Thank you." Then, I'll see the Governor, usually of the opposite party. In almost all cases, except maybe one—but in almost all cases, they're very generous, they're very nice. They thank me. Everything is great. We're doing a great job.

And then, I'll see them on television, and just like a different person. And I realized there are some people, because of politics, that if they say, "We want 1,000 ventilators," and I'll say, "No, Jim, I want to give you 5,000 ventilators," they'll say: "Thank you. You are the greatest President that's ever lived." And then, I'll see them quoted in a paper or see them on a show, and they'll say: "The President didn't come through for me. I'm very disappointed in the President."

And we have a lot of that. They're very happy when they talk to me, and then I see them. But there are some people, if they asked for 500 of something, and if I gave them 5,000, they will say—you'll say, "How's the President doing?" "Well, we don't like the job." To my face, they're very nice, but then sometimes—I guess, they assume I don't watch them or something, but I watch very closely.

Yes, please.

Release of Prisoners Due to Coronavirus Concerns

Q. Mr. President, one especially vulnerable population is the prison population, and that's— especially with Jared here, I wondered if you could address what the Federal Government is doing to protect inmates.

The President. Well, it's vulnerable in that it's close together, really. I—I can't tell you about age, but a lot of young people in prison.

Some people—some States—I have not done that at all, but some States are letting people out of prison. Some people are getting out that are very serious criminals, in some States. And I don't like that. I don't like it. But it's a city or State thing in certain cases, as you know. I think maybe Philadelphia comes to mind. So we'll see. You have to see what what's going on. And we don't like it. The people don't like it. And we're looking in to see if I have the right to stop it in some cases, okay?

Q. Mr. President——

Q. Can I follow-up on that?

Economic Impact of the Coronavirus/Spanish Flu Pandemic/Coronavirus Containment Efforts in the U.S./Economic Recovery Efforts

Q. Mr. President, 6.6 million Americans filed for unemployment last week. We haven't heard you talk a lot today about what they're going through. So what's——

The President. Oh, I think it's——

Q. ——your message to them? And——

The President. I think they're going through—I think it's terrible.

So look, 4 weeks ago, we had the greatest economy in the history of the world. The greatest in the world—greatest in the history of the world. We had the most jobs ever in the history of the United States. Almost 160 million jobs, right?

And then, one day, I get a call from Deborah, who's fantastic, and from Dr. Fauci. And he said, and she said, "We have a problem." I said, "What's the problem?" And they said, "We may have to close it up." I said, "Close what up?" They said, "Close up the country." And I said, "What's that all about?" And we discussed today—and probably not since 1917; we came to that conclusion—and she is a fantastic person, a brilliant person, and this is what she knows. I said, "Has it ever been this bad?" And I think I can represent that you said "no." And part of it—it's a contagion. It's so contagious.

It's like, if you sneeze, I probably get it. Whoever heard of a thing like that? Okay? And this very talented reporter is bailing out. Okay? He's out of here. I don't blame you. But it's a very contagious thing and probably the likes of which we've never seen in terms of that.

But 1917—so that's over 100 years ago, but that was—you know, it's been written about many, many times. That was a horrible—whether it was 75 or 100 million people—I've heard from 50 to 75; I've heard 75 to 100—but it was tens of millions of people.

Now, we have the advantage of communication. This could have been just as bad. I mean, here we can read on the internet. We can see what to do. We can have these meetings; they can watch on television, which they do. A lot of people are watching. A lot of people are watching. And they say, "Gee, social distancing."

But in 1917, they didn't have that option. You know, they didn't know what to do. They just noticed, people were dying all over the place. Think of it: 75 to 100 million people died. A lot of people in this country died.

I always—to me, it's a great question: How come more people didn't die in this country?

And they say it actually started in this country and went to Europe. I mean, we lost a lot of people, but relatively, we lost very few compared to Europe. So this is a terrible thing that happened.

And what's happening now, with people and jobs—so think of the position I'm in. We have built all together, everybody—not me, everybody—the greatest economy in history. And all of a sudden, people come in that we respect and we know. And here's the thing: They were right.

Everybody questioned it for a while. Not everybody, but a good portion questioned it. They said: "Let's keep it open. Let's ride it." If we did that—you saw the other graph.

And whether it's true or almost true or maybe not true enough—the number was 2.2 million people would have died. 2.2 million people would have died in a short period of time. In fact, the graph could have been even shorter. I always noticed that that horrible one—where it goes high— it actually comes down a little bit faster. It might have been over faster, and you would have lost 2.2 million people.

So they come in, and they say, "We have to close up the country." And I say, "You know what that does to this—to the fabric of this country, to people that had great jobs, great family, no problems with money?" Their 401(k)—everything is perfect, then all of a sudden, they go from that to having no job in 1 day. They never even thought of it. And then, you see 6 million people unemployed. Unemployment numbers get released, and you see 6 million people.

And it's an artificial closing. It's not like we have a massive recession or worse. It's artificial, because we turned it off. Think of all we're doing. We're saying, "Don't go to work, and we'll pay you." Everything is the opposite. It was always, "Go to work and make a lot of money and do well, and the American Dream." Because of a hidden enemy, we're saying, "Don't go to work, and we're going to pay you."

Look at the money: $2 trillion. And we will probably do more. I think infrastructure would be a fantastic thing to do. You want to get the restaurants back? You give deductibility. You understand what that is. You give deductibility for businesses where they go and they use the restaurants. The restaurants will be bigger and better than they were before.

You know, people don't know: A lot of restaurants closed when they ended deductibility.

And then they started doing well, but they had fewer restaurants. But the boom of the restaurants is when they had deductibility, where corporations could use them. So—and entertainment. That was a great thing. But they closed it, and then they closed it again. And it wasn't the same. But you want to get them back, you do that.

But infrastructure: We borrow our money now at zero. You know, if were paying 5 percent, 4 percent, 3 percent, it's a different ballgame. We're borrowing—we can borrow long term for zero—literally zero; you know that—because we're considered the safe investment. All over the world, they want money in the United States. That's where they want the money.

So I know better than anybody. I just—I know what they're going through, and it's horrible. But you know what I want to do? I want to be able to get them back fast. When this is over, it's going to be a day we're going to celebrate, because everyone is going to go to work, and I think we're going to have boom times. I think it's going to be great.

And we've learned a lot. We've learned about borders. We've learned about reliance on other countries. We've learned so much—so much—that I think we really have a chance to be bigger and better and stronger. And I think it's going to come back very quickly, but first we have to defeat this enemy.

So we will see you tomorrow. Thank you very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President spoke at 5:22 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf; Mary T. Barra, chief executive officer and chairman, General Motors Co.; Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana; Gov. Gregory W. Abbott of Texas; Physician to the President Sean P. Conley; Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman bin Abd al-Aziz Al Saud of Saudi Arabia; and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Anthony S. Fauci. Administrator Carranza referred to Adviser to the President Ivanka M. Trump. Senior Adviser Kushner referred to Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Health Brett P. Giroir; and Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Peter T. Gaynor. Reporters referred to U.S. Surgeon General Jerome M. Adams; and Capt. Brett E. Crozier, USN, commanding officer, USS <i>Theodore Roosevelt</i>. The transcript was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on April 3 and 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

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