Photo of Donald Trump

Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing

April 09, 2020

The President. Thank you very much, everybody. I'd like to begin by saying that we just completed a meeting with the Secretary of Treasury Steve Mnuchin and Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao on proposals regarding the airlines and the airline business.

And we're very—working very closely with a lot of different people. We'll be probably putting out a proposal and giving them some of the details—some of the very powerful details over the weekend. It's moving along quickly. The airline business has been hit very hard, as everybody knows. And we are going to be in a position to do a lot to help them so that they keep their employees and they save their businesses.

And that will be taking place, I think you can say, over the weekend. We may even have discussions with some of the airlines or all of the airlines over the weekend. And I think it's going to be a very acceptable package. It's a very big package and a very acceptable package. It will be good for our country, good for the airlines, good for a lot of people.

Likewise, I just spoke with the President of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the King of Saudi Arabia, King Salman, and we had a big talk as to oil production and OPEC and making it so that our industry does well and the oil industry does better than it's doing right now. It's—the numbers are so low that there'll be layoffs all over the world. There'll be certainly layoffs in this country. And we don't want that to happen.

We built a great, great energy business in the United States. So we have tens of thousands of jobs. We had a very good talk; we'll see what happens. But as you know, OPEC met today, and I would say they're getting close to a deal. We'll soon find out. So that was a conversation we just had, so we had a busy hour and a half.

And let me begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to the American people. Millions of Americans are making profound and difficult sacrifices in their own lives because they know it will save the lives of countless others. And that's exactly what it's doing. You see what's happening and where we are and where we stand. And hopefully, we're going to be opening up— you can call it "opening" very, very, very soon, I hope.

Together, our people are writing one of the most noble chapters in the proud history of our Nation. Americans are also encouraged to learn that Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, has been moved out of intensive care. That's a tremendous statement. And we continue to pray for him and his fast recovery. That's a very, very positive development.

As the New York metropolitan area continues its battle against the outbreak, the full power of the Federal Government is there to support them. As you know, the Javits Center has now been fully converted into a 3,000-bed hospital—one of the largest anywhere in the country—and by the incredible professionals.

I have to say, the Corps of Engineers, what they can do is just incredible. They've done a fantastic job, and they're building, nationwide, 21 temporary hospitals and care facilities, adding 17,000 hospital beds. And they did that all within a very short period of time. It's incredible what they've done. Army Corps of Engineers. And FEMA has been fantastic.

Our sweeping airlift operation to keep doctors and nurses supplied with protective equipment, Project Airbridge, continues to expand with more than 24 flights already completed, and 49 additional flights now scheduled in the near future. So that's been very successful. And that gear and those outfits are being handed out. As they arrive, they're going directly to point.

The American medical system continues to perform beyond our highest expectations, reminding us that the United States is blessed with the most advanced health care and the most skilled health care workers anywhere in the planet. Other countries are looking to what we're doing. And our testing operation has now become far and away the most sophisticated and the best anywhere.

And we want to thank all of the heroes on the frontlines as they fight to save American lives.

We're at the top of the hill. I'm pretty sure we're at the top of the hill, and now we're going downward. In some cases, we've already started that process.

Earlier today I spoke with hundreds of mental health leaders and advocates from around the country to discuss the vital work and the vital work they're doing. We had the top doctors in the country, some international doctors. Mental health—big factor. Not only has the virus inflicted immense physical suffering on many people, but also mental and emotional suffering as well.

Even though we're staying physically apart, no American is alone, and we're all in this together. But the mental health doctors and experts, it was a very great call. It was a very interesting call. They're working very hard.

We're also seeing encouraging signs in our race to develop breakthrough treatments and therapies. Pfizer revealed today that it has found a promising new treatment that might prevent the virus from replicating. And that hopes—it hopes to begin testing in clinical trials very soon. It's going to be very, very soon. They have great, great feelings for this particular therapy, and they think that a lot of good things are happening.

Through the FDA's Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program, 19 therapies and treatments are now being tested, and 26 more are in the active planning or [for; White House correction.] clinical trial. So we have 19 therapies being tested currently, and 26 more are in the active planning for clinical trials. That's a big statement. That's a lot.

Trials for Gilead's antirival drug, remdesivir, continue. And the company has also expanded emergency use for new patients getting good, early results, by the way. The companies that manufacture hydroxychloroquine are massively ramping up production.

As you know, many people are recommending, strongly, Z-Pak be added—the Z-Pak—and also zinc. And the Federal Government continues to build our stockpiles and distribute millions of doses for doctors to use as they see fit.

And I'm pleased to inform you—we're just having—a lot of good things are happening, but we'll have to see how that all works out. But we have—we've purchased and we have stockpiled millions and millions of doses, and we're distributing it. Some States want it very badly.

Michigan—we just sent a lot to Michigan and other areas.

I'm reporting today that we passed 2 million tests completed in the United States, first time—most anywhere in the country. It's a milestone for our country. It's a milestone anywhere. Nobody has done anywhere close. Our tests are highly sophisticated and highly accurate.

At the same time, we're making important progress on the economic front of this war. In a few moments, Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia will explain new steps that we're taking to ensure American workers swiftly receive unemployment and paid leave benefits and that employers protect the health and safety of all workers, including essential workers on the job, working very, very closely with workers and with employers.

To provide further economic relief, the Federal Reserve announced this morning that it will provide up to $2.3 trillion in support to businesses, States, and local governments. Six hundred billion dollars in loans will be available for mid-sized businesses with up to 10,000 employees. And $500 billion will be available for States, counties with over 2 million residents and cities with a population of over 1 million.

My administration is also working with Congress to replenish the very successful— incredibly successful, the way it's going—Paycheck Protection Program, which is allowing hundreds of thousands of small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll, meaning it will keep those businesses open.

We need both Democrats and Republicans to come together to get this—the legislation completed. And it looks like it's on its way, but we need both. And it should be for people that are working for the workers. And if you look and you see, we have a lot of people that are affected by that, and it's a very positive development. So we have to get a bipartisan approval of that. And hopefully, that will happen.

Today the Department of Education is also announcing the availability of more than $6 billion in emergency grant funding to assist college students impacted by the cancellation of classes and the suspension of housing. A lot of people had a lot of things suspended; housing is one of them.

Previously, we waived student loan payments for 6 months. So student loan payments have been waived for 6 months, and we'll discuss it after that. It may go further.

Although this medical war has separated our citizens for a period of time, it's also united our entire Nation, I think I can say, like almost never before. Americans are moving forward with common purpose and shared resolve, determined to vanquish the virus and lift our Nation to even greater heights. We are supremely confident in the magnificent future that awaits the American people.

And with that, before I invite our Vice President—our great Vice President—and Gene Scalia to speak, we'll take a few questions. And then, I'm going back into negotiations on oil and on airlines.

Yes, please.

Russia/Saudi Arabia/Global Oil Markets/Domestic Oil Production

Q. Could you tell us a little bit more about your conversation with President Putin and the King?

The President. Yes, I had a very good conversation.

Q. Did you organize that call? And do they understand the problems they're causing———

The President. Yes.

Q. ——with the oil output situation?

The President. Yes. Yes. No, there's a lot of—there's so much production, nobody even knows what to do with it. That's how it's working.

And Saudi Arabia and, as you know, Russia—it's well known that we're producing a lot, and they were perhaps fighting with each other over the production and the amount of oil being produced. And frankly, there's not enough room to even store it. Our storage is now full—going to be very soon. Our Strategic National storage is—I said this is a great time to fill it up, load it up with oil that, frankly, is—had pricing that nobody has ever seen before. I don't think we've seen this probably since the 1950s. That was with big dollars. So we'll see what happens.

The conversation was very good. They're getting close to a deal; that's OPEC and many other countries outside of OPEC. And we'll see what happens.

Q. Are they still fighting with each other?

The President. No, I think they were getting along very well. We had a very good call. I think it was a very good call. We're going to see what happens, but it was a very good call. They'll probably announce something either today or tomorrow, one way or the other. Could be good. Could be not so good. But I think one way or the other——

Go ahead, Jim [Jim Acosta, CNN].

Coronavirus Testing Access

Q. Yes, Mr. President, how could the administration discuss the possibility of reopening the country when the administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus? Don't you need a nationwide testing system——

The President. No.

Q. ——for the virus before you reopen the economy?

The President. No. We have a great testing system. We have the best—right now, the best testing system in the world. But there are certain sections——

Q. But people can't get the test right now. I mean——

The President. There are certain sections in the country that are in phenomenal shape already. Other sections are coming online; other sections are going down. And we, in addition to that, are giving out millions of tests. And every day, we're doing it exponentially. We're picking up. And what we'll be doing in the very near future is going to certain areas of our country and do massive testing. It's not necessary, but it would be a good thing to have.

Go ahead.

Q. Don't you have need, though, Mr. President, to make sure people are safe going back to work? You don't want to send people back to the workplace——

The President. We want to have it, and we're going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No.

Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We're talking about 325 million people. And that's not going to happen, as you can imagine. And no—it would never happen with anyone else either. Other countries do it, but they do it in a limited form. We'll probably be the leader of the pack.


Economic Recovery Efforts/Coronavirus Mortality Projections

Q. Mr. President, what do you say to the 16 million Americans—more than 16 million Americans—who have lost their jobs in the last 3 weeks in fear that the economy won't just bounce back, like you said?

The President. Well, I think the economy is going to do very well. Now, that's just my feeling. It's a strong feeling. I've had good, proper feelings about a lot of things over the years. And I think we're going to do well.

We're doing very—it looks like we're at the lower end of the curve in terms of death, which is a terrible word, a terrible, dark word that we've experienced like nobody has ever seen before in this country. We—I mean, we have numbers that are terrible. But when you look at the lower levels of a hundred—lower prediction levels of 100-, 120,000 to 220,000—or, if we did nothing, up to 2.2 million people—we're looking at a much lower level than the level of—I hope than the level of 100,000. So we're going to see.

We're going to have to—you can never—look, you can never do anything about the people that lost their loved ones and love their—lost their friends. And I mean, the great friendships. And I'm not sure a lot of people will ever be the same.

But I think our country, from an economic standpoint, will end up being stronger than ever. We have tremendous stimulus. We have tremendous stimulus plans. We have things in the works that are going to really, I think, fire the country.

I think that what's going to happen is, we're going to have a big bounce rather than a small bounce. But we will be back. And I think—honestly, I think our country is going to be back, from an economic standpoint—again, you can never replace the people that were lost. And to their families, certainly you can never do a thing like that.

But we will have succeeded in many ways, hopefully, keeping the number way below our minimum numbers. And also, from an economic standpoint—you know, we met with the mental health people today, and that takes a—this is taking a tremendous toll, mentally, on a lot of people. And I think we're going to open up strong. I think we're going to open up very successfully and, I'd like to say, even more successfully than before.


Global Oil Markets/Strategic National Petroleum Reserve/Domestic Oil Production

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Oil is trading today at about $23 a barrel in New York.

The President. Yes.

Q. What would you want to see the price? Do you want it at $30, $40, $50 a barrel?

The President. Well, I want to see it where there's a certain market, but I also don't want—I don't want to see it where people are—have no idea—you know, we're opening up—we'll be opening up areas for storage of oil—massive areas for storage of oil—because oil today is not selling.

And what happened is the virus knocked out 40 percent of the market immediately—you know that; you know the number. Forty percent.

Now, there was a lot of oil, but it was very controllable. All of a sudden, they lost 40 percent. You look at the roads, you look at the car—you look at what's going on; there's nobody driving. There's no reason for it right now. That will start coming back.

But we are storing millions of barrels of oil that nobody thought would even be possible.

Frankly, ships turned out to be a good business for some people, because they're filling up tankers, sending them out to sea, and not saying where to go. They're just sitting out there loaded up with oil.

So we want to save our energy. In this country, we want to make sure that our energy companies, businesses, and employees, workers remain strong. So that's how I'm involved. And I think that's going to happen.

So right now, if you look, you're probably talking $23, $25. If they announce a deal, we can get it up. We need a minimum number so the companies don't go out of business, so they're not going to lay off all of these energy workers who are important to our country.

And you know, we're now energy independent. We could do something where we only used our oil. But I think the long-term benefit is to be able to just go with the market. And it's going to

work out. It's all going to work out. If you looked at 3 weeks ago, as you know, because we talked about it, 3 weeks ago and 2 weeks ago, this was catastrophic. I think it's really hitting bottom, and I think that—I mean, we've had a bottom. But now at $23 and $25 and probably heading up. At the same time, we save our energy, and we also produce great, cheap energy, and we save our jobs.


Federal Assistance to Small Businesses

Q. Mr. President, I want to ask you about the Paycheck Protection Program, because every day, we're hearing from small-business owners who are telling us that their banks don't know how to access this money, they're trying to apply, they can't figure it out. So where does the fault lie? Does it lie with the banks?

The President. I don't think there's a fault. We're—they're doing record numbers of—of dollars. They're dealing with many community banks. They're dealing with Bank of America, Citibank, a lot of—Wells Fargo, as you know, is very much involved. And they're dealing with the bankers. It can't go that quickly, but I'm hearing it's a very, very successful rollout.

They did want changes in applications. They want changes in loan requirements, et cetera. But they're taking billions and billions of dollars' worth of loans. And in the very near future, the banks will be relieving the money. They'll be paying out the money.

Yes. Please.

U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement/Economic Impact of the Coronavirus

Q. Thank you very much, sir. Are you still expecting the USMCA to take effect on July 1? And considering the fact that the auto industry is hurting these days, are you ready to postpone the—[inaudible]—on the new rules?

The President. Well, we have a deal. Yes. The deal is with Canada. We're deal—with Mexico, we have a deal. And obviously, the deal is different from the standpoint that production will be lower. But we have a deal. It's a signed deal. It's a deal that's a—one of the worst deals that we've ever had was NAFTA—one of the worst trade deals ever made by any country anywhere—and we'll be terminating that. And the new deal is a great deal for our country. So that's something.

Now, again, we got hit by the virus, and we'll see where that all goes. But certainly, car production is going to be down for a little while. But ultimately, good for our farmers, great for our farmers. We'll be helping our farmers, by the way. We have money going out to our farmers in the pretty near future, having to do with—you see what's happened. The farmers got hurt very badly by all of this. People are eating less from the standpoint that there's—no restaurants are open, no businesses are open, no hotels are open. They'll start to come back. But we're going to be helping out our farmers.

Yes. Please.

Q. Will you postpone the new auto regulations?

Q. Thank you, sir.

The President. Go ahead.

Availability of Medical Supplies and Equipment

Q. Thank you, sir. Philip Wegmann of RealClearPolitics. Earlier, you mentioned Project Skybridge——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——and we're hearing that, through that project, a lot of the PPE that was sent out to other countries is coming back to this country. Do you know when we'll be able to bring a majority of that back? And then, are you frustrated that USAID allowed a lot of that aid to go out the door in the first place?

The President. No.

Q. Should they have brought it back before?

The President. No, I'm not, because we're in very good shape. You'll be speaking with Mike Pence about this in a little while.

You look at the hospitals, you look at what's going on—I spoke to—yesterday I spoke with the Governor of Louisiana. I'm saying, "Do you think we need that extra thousand beds that we're in the process of building?" And we are really in good shape. You're not hearing people are needing ventilators much. In fact, we're going to start helping other countries with ventilators.

We're going to end up having a lot of ventilators for future, should something happen for hospitals—ideally to keep and have.

But no, I think we're in very, very good shape. We have calls with Governors all the time. And the Governors are in very good shape now. We have helped—we have sent billions and billions and billions of dollars between ventilators, equipment, protective equipment, masks. We have 500 million masks coming—500 million from one group. Five hundred. It will be 300 million and 200 million over a short period of time.

No, I think we're in very good shape. Please.

Coronavirus Testing Access

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Speaking of testing, some experts, including Scott Gottlieb, have talked about 750,000 tests per week being needed before the economy is opened. Can you address that? Do you agree with those numbers? If not, how many tests per week——

The President. Yes.

Q. ——do you think we should have before the economy is open, sir?

The President. Yes. I don't like using the word "needed," because I don't think it's "needed," but I think we're going to try and hit a number like that. That's a very high number, but we're going to be trying to hit it, and we probably might be able to do that.

Please. Go ahead.

Q. When would you be able to do that, sir?

The President. Go ahead. Please.

Economic Stimulus Legislation

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Today the Democrats pushed for more rescue money for States and hospitals, which are complaining that they needed to fight the coronavirus pandemic. Do you think hospitals and States need this money? Would you support something like that?

The President. I do. And I do support something, but I support it for the next phase. It's much simpler in the next phase, whether that phase is infrastructure or whatever.

So I'm going to leave you now with Mike Pence and with Eugene Scalia. And if you would—I look forward to seeing you tomorrow. We'll see you tomorrow. We have a lot of—I think a lot of very big news to report. We've had a tremendous day between, I believe, what's happening with the energy industry and I believe what's happening with airlines.

I look forward to seeing you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you.

Q. Sir, can you tell us if you have evidence of widespread voter fraud? We still have not gotten the evidence of widespread voter fraud.

[The President left the briefing room, and the briefing continued with remarks by Vice President Pence and other Task Force members.]

NOTE: The President spoke at 6:24 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom; and Gov. John Bel Edwards of Louisiana. A reporter referred to former Commissioner of Food and Drugs Scott Gottlieb. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary included the entire briefing.

Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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