Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing
The President. Thank you very much, everyone. Thank you. Following the release of our reopening guidelines, Governors across the country are looking forward to phase one and announcing plans for an economic resurgence; we're going to have a resurgence too. At a time when millions of American workers and families are struggling with the financial consequences of the virus, it's critical to continue the medical war while reopening the economy in a safe and responsible fashion.
During this time, Americans must maintain strict vigilance and continue to practice careful hygiene, social distancing, and the other protective measures that we have outlined and that everybody has become very familiar with.
We continue to be encouraged that many of the areas hardest hit by the virus appear to have turned the corner. For example, recent deaths are down very, very substantially. You can compare that with their peak not so long ago, and you have numbers of 30 percent, 25 percent. In Detroit, as an example, it's down by over 50 percent. Congratulations. And, in New Orleans, where they've done a terrific job, they're down 65 percent.
Thirty States have just one case or less per 1,000 people, far fewer cases per capita, as an example, than Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Ireland, Switzerland, Singapore, Belgium, Spain, Norway, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden.
My administration continues to press Congress to replenish the enormously successful Paycheck Protection Program, which has impacted 30 million American jobs. We hope to have an agreement very soon. And hopefully, tomorrow, the Senate is going to be able to vote. A lot of progress has been made on that, tremendous progress. It's a great plan. It's a great plan. It's helped a lot of people. So we hope to have a vote maybe tomorrow in the Senate.
And based on the record-low price of oil that you've been seeing—it's at a level that's very interesting to a lot of people—we're filling up our National Petroleum Reserves. Strategic—you know, the Strategic Reserves. And we're looking to put as much as 75 million barrels into the reserves themselves. That would top it out. That would be first time in a long time it's been topped out. We'd get it for the right price.
We're also pushing for the deal to include an additional $75 billion—our deal; the deal we're talking about—$75 billion for hospitals and other health care providers. Many providers and their employees have taken a huge financial hit in recent weeks. And visits, elective procedures, surgeries, et cetera, et cetera, were canceled. We think that they can all get back on line. They'll get it done. The hospitals have really been fantastic. The hospitals, they've stepped up to the plate. They've really done a great job. We appreciate it so much.
For areas less affected by the virus, we've issued new recommendations about how to safely resume elective treatments. HHS has also distributed the first $30 billion in direct payments to a million health care providers across the country. We've also invested $1.4 billion in community health centers to ensure our most vulnerable communities, including many African American and Hispanic American communities, have access to the services and testing that they need.
Earlier today Vice President Pence spoke with Governors from all 50 States about our unified effort to defeat the virus. He had a great call. It was a great call, very positive in, I'd say, every way. Prior to the call, we provided each Governor with a list of the names, addresses, and phone numbers of the labs where they can find additional testing capacity within their States— many, many labs. We're providing you with the list. We'll show it to you now if you need it. We'll give you the details. But hundreds and hundreds of labs are ready, willing, and able.
Some of the Governors, like, as an example, the Governor from Maryland didn't really understand the list. He didn't understand too much about what was going on. So now I think he'll be able to do that. It's pretty simple. But they have tremendous capacity, and we hope to be able to help him out. We'll work with him and work with all of the Governors.
Similar to the situation with ventilators, States need to assess their complete inventory of available capacity. Some States have far more capacity than they actually understand. And it is a complex subject, but some of the Governors didn't understand it. The Governor, as an example, Pritzker from Illinois did not understand his capacity. Not simply ask the Federal Government to provide unlimited support—I mean, you have to take the support where you have it, but we are there to stand with the Governors and to help the Governors, and that's what we're doing. And they have a tremendous capacity that we've already built up. And you'll be seeing that; we're going to be introducing a couple of the folks in a little while to talk about it.
I want to draw your attention to Governor Cuomo's remarks during his press conference today. He said: "The President is right." The States' testing is up to the States to do, which will implement the test and logistically coordinate the tests. We have about 300 labs in New York, and they do it. And they're great labs, actually. And it's my job to coordinate those 300 labs. "I think the President is right when he says that the States should lead".
And the Governor is really—they're really getting it together in New York. A lot of good things are happening in New York. And I think the Governor is going to come in to see us tomorrow. He's coming to the Oval Office tomorrow afternoon. Andrew is going to be coming in with some of his people. So we look forward to that.
The—some of the articles that just recently came about—if you remember, I put out a statement today. For a month, it was all "ventilator, ventilator, ventilator." That's all people could talk about was ventilators. And we did a great job with that. We built a lot of ventilators, to put it mildly. We have so many now that, at some point soon, we're going to be helping Mexico and Italy and other countries. We'll be sending them ventilators, which they desperately need. They were a position—they were not in a position to build them themselves.
But we have thousands being built. Every State has had—they have the ventilators. If they don't, we have almost 10,000 in our Federal Reserve—our "stockpile," as they call it. And we did a great job with the ventilators.
Unfortunately, the press doesn't cover it—other than the fair press. But—so then you say, "Gee, I—they need ventilators." We don't need ventilators. And that's a—that's under pressure we did that.
Nobody that needed a ventilator in this country didn't get one. And a story that just came out: "How the Media Completely Blew the Trump Ventilator Story." I'm sure you love to see that.
That's by Rich Lowry, a respected journalist and person. "How the Media Completely Blew the Trump Ventilator Story"—which, unfortunately, you did.
And here's another one that just came out. Kyle Smith. "The Ventilator Shortage That Wasn't." "The Ventilator Shortage That Wasn't"—because we got it fixed. And we're also going to help the States, by the way, stockpile ventilators. So if a thing like this should happen again, they've got them.
The stories on testing are all over the place—that we're actually in good shape. I'm going to have the Vice President and others speak to you about that, but we're in very good shape on testing, and we're getting better all the time. You're going to see some interesting things.
I thought before I went any further though, I'd like to have General Semonite, who has done an incredible job, tell you where we are. You know, we're still building beds and hospitals for people that need them. I guess the hospital business generally is getting pretty much closed out now, but we're creating a lot of space for people, just in case. And in some cases, they probably will be using them.
But I thought the General—he's been so impressive and done such a great job. I thought, on behalf of the services and on behalf of the Federal Government, he'd say a few words about what we're doing right now.
Thank you very much. General.
[At this point, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Chief of Engineers and Commanding General Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite, USA, presented and discussed a series of slides detailing hospital construction projects overseen by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers throughout the Nation. The President then spoke as follows.]
The President. Fantastic job. Thank you very much. Anybody have a question for the general while he's here? Anybody? Because I think he's very self-explanatory. He's done an incredible job.
Jeff [Jeff Mason, Reuters], do you have a question?
Q. Are there—are there more projects, sir, beyond the ones that you've just identified that you'll be working on?
Lt. Gen. Semonite. So, about a week ago, we thought we were about capped at 26. What we're seeing is, as I said, the virus gets a vote. We're seeing some of these curves are stretching out where we might have thought we only had 5 or 6 days. We actually have a couple weeks now.
Other ones, we're seeing exactly the opposite. So where we didn't think there was some— and I'm not going to go into locations here—but we are definitely get requests in. We've got six more requests in just in the last 4 or 5 days. They're a little bit smaller facilities and more remote areas, but our job, we still—if we have enough time to go build, we want to get in there, do the assessment. We work for the mayor and the city and the Governor here. And we can still get them done if the mayors and those elected officials make a fast-enough decision.
The President. You might say, while you're here, we're building—the general is in charge of the wall on the southern border, and we want to build 450 miles of wall, and it's very much under construction. You might give them a little bit of an update: how are we doing with the wall.
Lt. Gen. Semonite. So, sir, I think the most important thing—and you stressed this and Secretary Esper stressed this—there's really several different priorities here. Our number-one priority in the Department of Defense and the Corps of Engineers is to protect the team, protect the force. No matter what we do, we've got to continue to take care of our civilians and our servicemembers out there.
[Lt. Gen. Semonite continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
Construction is going very, very smooth. What we're seeing is, our contractors are extremely focused. Now that we've got a good clear path—both on the CBP program, as well as some of the DOD program—we are, I think, very well postured. It's a very, very aggressive build, but we're well postured to be able to meet your expectations, sir, of 450 by the end of December 2020.
The President. And we're over 160 miles.
Lt. Gen. Semonite. A hundred and sixty-four as of today, sir.
The President. A hundred and sixty-four miles. And we'll have it done sometime pretty early next year. Very exciting.
Lt. Gen. Semonite. Yes, sir.
The President. And you might just say one thing: the quality of that wall, in terms of its power for stopping people that shouldn't be coming into our country.
Lt. Gen. Semonite. So, same thing. If you have a standard design that you trust in and it works very well—I've got to pat on the back Commissioner Morgan; he was very adamant to continue to be able to make sure that it supports his agents.
[Lt. Gen. Semonite continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
We're trying to make sure that we're protecting all of the things that we need to protect and try to find that balance where we can both meet the administration's directive, while at the same time making sure we're doing this so that everybody gets a vote and everybody has a fair shake.
The President. Okay? Yes, please.
[Lt. Gen. Semonite responded to two questions from reporters. The President then spoke as follows.]
The President. Okay? So, General, you have a choice: You can stay and watch—watch these wonderful people ask us really nice questions—or you can go back to building beds.
Lt. Gen. Semonite. Sir, I've got a lot of building to do. I'm going to leave, if you don't mind.
The President. Okay. Go ahead. I had a feeling you were going to say that.
Lt. Gen. Semonite. Thank you, sir.
The President. Very impressive. That's an impressive job, isn't it? Seriously. That's really great. Thank you very much. He's a terrific gentleman. We have a lot of great people doing that kind of thing that—they really have to get recognition for the incredible job they're doing, because I don't think anybody else could do it. Nothing like that. And that's on top of thousands and thousands of hospitals. And you know, he built—just in New York alone—four hospitals and 2,900 beds and got them done so quickly. Nobody saw anything like it.
Fortunately, we haven't had to use too many of them, and that's okay. That's probably better news than having to use them all, right? Because a lot of good things are happening in New York and elsewhere.
So through the public-private partnerships and deregulation, the Federal Government has already made immense testing capabilities available, but some states need to take action to fully utilize it. To date, the United States has conducted millions more tests than any other country. You can add them all up, and they don't catch us. And our numbers are doubling almost on a— certainly on a monthly basis, but almost on a weekly basis. We're moving very rapidly, far—at a number nobody thought possible.
And we'll be doubling our number of daily tests if the Governors bring their States fully on line through the capability that they have. We have tremendous capability out there already existing. And we explained that to the Governor today. Mike and all of the people explained it very strongly to the Governors. They really get it now, I think.
As the experts have explained, this capacity is sufficient to allow States to conduct diagnostic testing to treat patients as well as contact tracing to contain outbreaks and monitoring to pinpoint potential hotspots during phase one.
And there are some hotspots, and we have them pinpointed, and they can really cover it very, very nicely when they know exactly where to go, and they're being told where to go. And also, these locations where they're going—and some of them are Federal; some of the Governors didn't realize they were allowed to use Federal locations. They are.
And we have a booklet of the Federal locations. We can hold it up. I think you'll show that.
Maybe we'll hold it up now.
White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah L. Birx. I'll have the locations.
The President. Yes. Okay, fine. But you see the number—thanks. Thanks. These are all locations where they can go, which is really pretty amazing. This is just 1 page out of many.
Ambassador Birx. Over 5,000, sir.
The President. Look. Look at this. This is—these are all locations. [The President displays a document.]
Vice President Michael R. Pence. Five thousand labs.
The President. That's a lot of locations. And they can all—what is it? Five thousand——
Ambassador Birx. Five thousand pieces of equipment.
The President. So that's—thank you very much. That's more than anybody thought, but— and it's already there. They have to use it. That's all. They have to use it. Some weren't aware; some were very much aware. Some weren't aware.
My administration also continues to support states with our massive operation to deliver masks, gowns, gloves, and other vital supplies. Admiral Polowczyk and his team at FIFA [FEMA; White House correction.] are really—what a job they've done. And Pete, what a job he's done. They're calling on Easter Sunday to make sure everyone is okay. But they're using detailed data about supply chains to track the deployment of 1 billion pieces of protective equipment through private distributors every 2 weeks. So what we're doing is, we're delivering a number that nobody anywhere in the world is delivering.
FEMA is working closely with Dr. Birx and the distributors to prioritize supply of resources where they are most needed. We're finding the location that they have to—they have to get to that location. We have locations that are very important to get to and get to them fast. And that's where they're going. So we have a very strong priority.
This pandemic has reaffirmed the importance of keeping vital supply chains at home. We cannot outsource our independence. We cannot be reliant on foreign nations. I've been saying this for a long time. If we've learned one thing it's: Let's do it here, let's build it here, let's make it here. We've got the greatest country in the world. We've got to start bringing our supply chains back.
Somebody, years ago, got this crazy idea: Let's build all over the place ,and let's have parts—let's have a screw for a car delivered and made in a country that's far away, and let's have a fender made someplace else, and let's do this, and let's do that, and let's put it all together. And I like making it right here in the U.S.A. And I think we've learned a lot about that and especially, maybe when it comes to pharmaceutical products.
We've also conducted major military operations, providing cities and states with additional medical capacity and the incredible 1,800 men and women from the Army Corps of Engineers. You just met with Todd. He's—the job they've done is incredible. But we have nurses, doctors— we have experts in every field, all over.
I spoke with Governor Cuomo, spoke with Mayor de Blasio, spoke with many of the other Governors that I'm both friendly and—yes, I think I'm friendly with just about all of them, if you can believe it. But I've gotten friendly with a lot of them. I've gained a lot of respect for a lot of the Governors, both Republican and Democrat, during this process. Some really good people, some really good talent.
But we're sending a lot of our medical people, not only our construction people like Todd Semonite, but a lot of our medical people are being sent all over the country to different locations: New York City, New York State, New Jersey. I spoke with Phil today. He's doing a terrific job in New Jersey, but New Jersey got hit very, very hard—Phil Murphy, Governor.
From the day this crisis began, America launched a scientific mobilization of colossal size and scale. Someday, they'll be able to write the true story, because nobody has seen anything like it. The fake news just refuses to cover it correctly, but that's okay. But the people are understanding, and that's what matters to me.
There are now 72 active trials underway across the United States researching dozens of therapies and treatments, and another 211 are in the planning stages. They're getting—I mean, they're literally mobilizing on therapeutics and also on vaccines. A tremendous progress is being made on vaccines and, I must say, on therapeutics.
I mean, frankly, if I had my choice: Give me the therapeutics right now, because that would help people right now. And we have some things that I think are working. Not only working, but we have some incredible things that look like they could be an answer. But we'll know soon.
Being tested. Working out right now.
This includes therapies designed to attack the virus, as well as others that would hinder its replication, reduce the rate of infection, control the immune response, or transfer lifesaving antibodies from the blood of recovered patients.
And one of the incredible things that we've seen—and Mike and I were talking about it before—is the fact, oftentimes, somebody gets very ill from the plague—okay?—from this horrible scourge. And they get better, and they recover, and the first thing they say is, "I want to give my blood." That's happened. The doctors have told me it's happened so much. "I want to give my blood. I want to give my blood." And they're doing that.
But tremendous things are happening. You'll be seeing about—you'll be seeing that over the weeks. I think we'll be talking about it in the not-too-distant future.
Johnson & Johnson is very well along on vaccines. Again, the vaccines have to be tested. The therapeutics are for now, but a lot of good things are happening on both. But ultimately, we also hope to prevent infection through a safe—a very safe vaccine. And that will be a great thing when we have that. And we will have that.
So with that, I'd like to introduce Admiral Giroir and Brad Smith to discuss some of the incredible things that have been done. And we have—they really are—what they've been able to do in a very, very short period of time with—and equipment. You're going to see equipment that you haven't seen before.
Any if you'd just come up, Brad. If you guys would come up, you could give us a little display of some of the equipment that we have and some of the things that are happening, having to do with testing, because "testing" is a big word.
Remember, it was all ventilators. And the reason it was all ventilators—they said, "There's no way he'll ever be able to catch this one." And not only did we catch it, we are now the king of ventilators all over the world. We can send them anywhere. We have thousands being made a week. And they're very high quality. And that's—it wasn't playing well, so then they said: "Testing. Testing. Oh, we'll get him on testing." Well, testing is much easier than ventilators.
Ventilators are big machines that are very complex and are very expensive. You need real— real—you need a group of people that really know what they're doing. We took auto lines. We took a lot of different people, and now we've done that. But it used to be "ventilators, ventilators, ventilators." Now it's "testing, testing, testing."
And I think the admiral and I think that Brad will show you some things that you haven't seen that are, really, very spectacular having to do with testing. We're way advanced. Way advanced.
The list I showed you, these are places you can go if you're in the States: 5,000 different machines. Five thousand. They're all over the country. And we have international also, but these are all over the country. But you'll see something now that's really eye-popping in terms of what they've done.
And they've done this under great pressure. They've come up with things under great pressure that are absolutely amazing.
So, please, if you would. Thank you, fellas.
Assistant Secretary of Health and Human Services for Health Brett P. Giroir. Well, thank you, Mr. President. I want to talk about a couple things today a little bit different than I've spoken about before. Since early March, we've really been focusing on two key concepts for testing.
Number one: to assure and expand supplies in the U.S. market. This is really critical, because we were talking about, really, a cottage industry with very minimal suppliers that we were asking to supply, over a 2-week period of time, the normal production that would be for at least a year.
[Assistant Secretary Giroir continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
We needed an innovation. That innovation was to be able to test out of the anterior nose with a completely different kind of swab. It sounds very mundane, but if you don't do that, you can't get the testing to scale. That allowed us to really go to widespread testing last week, moving to polyester swabs, which is going to open up millions of new swabs onto the market. But that's a regulatory, science, and innovation step that had to co-occur with this.
And with that, I'm going to let Brad talk about some of the details that he has really shepherded over the past weeks in ways that have truly been amazing and incredibly impressive to me.
The President. Thank you. Thanks, Admiral.
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Deputy Administrator and Director Brad Smith. Well, thank you, Mr. President. It's an honor of a lifetime to be here and serving in this way. I've been working under Dr. Birx's and Admiral Giroir's leadership over the past several weeks to help increase the supply of testing across the United States.
As you all know, there's really three parts that you need to make the test work. First, you need the machine—which as Dr. Birx will share more, and the President spoke to, we have a very, very large number of those across the United States. It's about making sure that we're taking advantage of them.
[Deputy Administrator Smith continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
In addition to when they come together, they also sometimes come separate, and we see significant ramping up of production there from our manufacturers through our public-private partnerships. And we're seeing both several million more over the next few weeks of both the RNA extraction kit, as well as the PCR test kit.
So, with that, thank you.
The President. Mike, please. Thank you, Brad.
Vice President Pence. Thank you, Mr. President. And I share your admiration for this remarkable team, from the Army Corps of Engineers, to Brad, to Admiral Giroir. They're doing a remarkable job every day.
As the President mentioned, today we had our weekly conference call with Governors across the country, States and Territories. And I was able to convey to them our appreciation for the leadership that every Governor of every State and Territory has provided.
[Vice President Pence continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
But we assured the Governors today that we're going to continue to work around the clock to expand the testing capacity, support supplies, and to support their efforts to encourage social distancing and the very mitigation efforts that the American people have been doing that have brought us the progress that we see all across the country today.
With that, Mr. President, I'll just let Dr. Birx describe what we distributed today.
The President. Okay. Thank you very much. Thank you, Mike. Deborah.
Ambassador Birx. Thank you, Mr. Vice President, Mr. President. I just want to show you a couple of additional slides, but also to remind all of Americans that we still have a significant number of cases, both in the Boston area and across Massachusetts and Chicago. To really—that our hearts go out to those cities as they continue to struggle with coronavirus and the consequences at the hospitalization—to all the health care providers that are on the frontlines.
[Ambassador Birx presented and discussed a series of slides detailing coronavirus testing capacity in various States. She concluded her remarks as follows.]
So we wanted to show, both in States that have large populations and in States that have lower populations. You can see that, in general, the number of machines match their population. And we're working with the Walter Reed group and the American Society of Microbiologists and all the lab directors to really create a web of understanding of what the capacity is currently, what the capacity can be, and how the Federal Government can support them in developing their strategies linked to the overarching Federal strategy of testing, as outlined in our guidelines.
Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. Thank you very much. That was great.
Q. A question for Dr. Birx, please.
The President. Yes.
[Ambassador Birx responded to two questions from reporters. A reporter then asked an additional question as follows.]
Coronavirus Testing Access
Q. Dr. Birx, I was hoping you can comment—the Vice President mentioned that there's enough testing capacity right now to proceed to phase one. But what about phase two or phase three? Is there—are there enough machines or enough cartridges, are there enough reagents right now for this sort of reopening the administration is envisioning taking place over the next month or two?
Ambassador Birx. So you can see the current machine outline. And you can see that both of these gentlemen have prepared to have everything ready for phase two and preparing it now for what we will need in the future. And I think that's what you saw with the ventilators. That's what you're seeing with PPE. It's not just for today, it's for tomorrow. And as our Federal planning is not just for this instant—it's making sure that we meet the needs of this instance, but we're planning for 30 and 60 and 90 days ahead.
The President. Admiral, go ahead on that one, if you'd like.
Assistant Secretary Giroir. I would just agree with Dr. Birx completely. We are ready right now to enter phase one. And we are ramping up all our capabilities across the board, not just to achieve what's necessary for phase two, but two x, three x, four x, so that we will be absolutely over prepared when the Nation is ready to go into those phases.
Q. President Trump——
The President. And by the way, not everybody agrees that we have to do that much testing.
We're going maximum. You understand. There's some people that don't want to do that much testing, but we're going maximum. We're going to the outer limits. And I think that's the way, probably, it should be.
Jeff [Jeff Mason, Reuters], go ahead.
Global Oil Markets/Saudi Arabia/Russia
Q. Mr. President, to return to a topic that you opened the press conference with on oil: U.S. crude futures today went below zero, went into negative territory.
The President. It went negative.
The President. Like interest rates, they go negative.
Q. Does that make you want to see Saudi Arabia and Russia and OPEC Plus do more to reduce supply?
The President. Well, it's for short term. Much of it has to do with short sellers, much of it has to do—if you look a month into the future, I think it's at $25 or $28 a barrel. So a lot of people got caught. They got caught. And there are a lot of people that are not too happy, because they got caught.
So if you take a look at it, you'll see it's more of a financial thing than an oil situation, but— because you take, I believe, in a month or so—in other words, go a little bit out, it's at $25 and $28 a barrel. So it's largely a financial squeeze, and they did get squeezed.
Q. So would you like to see, however, Saudi Arabia and other countries make more cuts?
The President. Well, we've already done that, where Saudi Arabia is cutting back, Russia is cutting back, Mexico is cutting back, and the OPEC Plus—they call it OPEC, plus additional states—are cutting back.
And you know, the problem is nobody is driving the car anywhere in the world—essentially, 184 nations. Factories are closed, and businesses are closed. And so, all of a sudden—we had really a lot of energy to start off with, oil in particular. We had a lot. And then, all of a sudden, they lost 40, 50 percent of their markets. So it just stopped.
So it's going to be picking up, and the energy business will be strong. But they cut back. It could be 20 million barrels, but it's, let's say, 15. That was between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
But this had to do with the squeeze, and it was a very tough squeeze. A lot of people got——
Q. So you don't think they need to do more right now?
The President. Well, they got to do more by the market, to be honest. Look, same thing over here. If the market is the way it is, people are going to slow it down, or they're going to stop.
That's going to be automatic, and that's happening.
Access to Small Business Administration Loans for Former Felons
Q. Mr. President, I—on criminal justice reform and these SBA loans: I got an e-mail earlier this morning from a fella in the Northwest who owns a supply business. And he has a felony on his record—nonviolent felony—in the past 5 years, which under SBA guidelines makes him ineligible for one of these PPP loans. So he has now had to let go 50 employees, many of whom are criminals trying to get back into society.
I don't believe there's anything in the CARES Act that would restrict somebody——
The President. If you give me the name of the company and his name, I'll have that checked out, John. I'll do that.
The President. It's a friend of yours?
Q. No, not a friend of mine. No. Just somebody who contacted me out of the blue.
The President. Why did he call you? He called you to say he's a criminal and why did he get a loan? Or what—what's——
Q. Because he says he wanted to apply for an SBA loan and couldn't and wondered how that squared——
The President. Okay. If you give me the——
Q. ——with your drive to criminal reform.
The President. ——name, I'll look into it.
The President. I'd like to look into that, okay?
Q. I have a question——
The President. Kaitlan [Kaitlan Collins, CNN], go ahead.
Resumption of Commercial and Economic Activity/Employer Liability for Coronavirus Infection
Q. ——on reopening of the country. If these companies that open, and they have employees come back to work and they get sick, will these companies be liable?
The President. Which companies are you talking about? Under what?
Q. Any companies that open. Manufacturing—any kind of company that opens and employees go back to work——
The President. So we have——
Q. ——and they get sick, will the company be liable?
The President. I'll give you an answer to that. I'll give you a legal answer to that when we look it up. But we have tried to take liability away from these companies. We just don't want that, because we want the companies to open and to open strong.
But I'll get you a legal opinion on that.
Q. Who would be liable?
The President. I'll get you—well, that's what I'm saying. I'll get you a legal opinion on it.
Q. You—you guys haven't discussed that yet?
The President. Nobody has discussed it, no. But we will now.
Q. Have any business executives voiced concern to you about being liable, potentially?
The President. Not one. Not one.
Q. They didn't say it——
The President. Not at this point.
Q. ——on the call last week?
The President. But we're going to look, because they have talked about general liability. So I'll get you a specific answer from the lawyers. Okay?
Go ahead. Please.
Oil Prices/Strategic Petroleum Reserve/Oil Imports
Q. Thanks, Mr. President. I want to follow on oil. When you were talking earlier, you were talking about the PPP deal, and then mentioned the SPR——
The President. Right.
Q. ——in the first stimulus package, even though you had announced that——
The President. Oh, I'll bet you know the price of oil right now, don't you?
Q. I do. Do you know the price of oil? [Laughter]
The President. I do. I actually do.
Q. It's negative $37.
The President. Of course, nobody has ever heard of negative oil before, but it's for a short term.
Q. In your opening remarks, you were talking about the PPP deal, and then you mentioned the 75 million barrels of oil that——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——you previously had said you wanted to purchase.
The President. Yes.
Q. You weren't able to get funding for that in the first deal. So I'm wondering, are you——
The President. Well, at the price you're talking about, you don't need funding. They pay you.
See? You know? Because right now——
Q. You could if you can go get it in the next 24 hours——
The President. Well, if you can get it. That's true. If you can get it.
Q. So my question—my first question is: Are you asking for that funding as——
The President. Well, at a minimum, we'll let——
Q. ——part of the PPP deal?
The President. ——people store. So we'll store it. We'll use it as storage and charge for it.
But people need storage desperately, and we have massive storage under the petroleum——
Q. So you're not going to make it a requirement of the PPP interim funding deal?
The President. It's not a question of requirement. If we could buy it for nothing, we're going to take everything we can get. The only thing I like better than that is where they pay you to take the oil, but that's a short-term squeeze. You understand that. So it's—I don't think you're going to see that.
But no, we'd like to have Congress—this is a great time to buy oil. And we'd like to have Congress approve it so that we could—instead of just storing it for the big—usually the big companies. Because I think we have 75 million gallons right now, capacity. That's a lot. It's— we've been building it up over a period of time, but that's a lot: 75 million barrels.
So we're going to get—either ask for permission to buy it, or we'll store it. One way or the other, it will be full.
Q. Mr. President——
Q. And then, Mr. President—oh, sorry.
The President. No, go ahead. You—you can finish up. We'll go right to you.
Q. Yes, some Senators, including Senator Cramer, have called on you to stop Saudi oil shipments that are on the way right now. Is that—you can do that under section 232. Is that something that you would consider?
The President. Well, we'll look at it. I heard just as I'm walking into the room. We certainly have plenty of oil. So I'll take a look at that. Okay?
Defense Production Act of 1950 Authorities
Q. Two questions: First, on testing. The second on the SBA loan program. When will you— or will you, in fact, invoke the DPA to force that company you mentioned to ramp up production of cotton swabs?
The President. Well, we don't—we really don't need it. We use it. We go up. And I've used it a lot. But we use it, and then sometimes, all they have to do is see it coming.
Do you want to talk about that, Admiral? Please.
Assistant Secretary Giroir. I think this is—I don't think any of us knew very much about the DPA, but there's sort of a force side of the DPA where you force a company to do something. But there's a second side of it, which is really a hand up.
The company we're talking about have done—has done everything to support this effort and have ramped up production. I'm on the phone with them multiple times a day. This is the hand up. This is the Government coming in and saying, "How can we help you expand your lines?" There's no asynchrony here at all. So this is the hand-up side of the DPA, which is exactly what these small American heroic companies need. They don't need to be forced. They're all in. Their employees are all in.
Deputy Administrator Smith. So a point of clarity, because——
The President. And we don't want to embarrass people either. Please, Brad. Go ahead.
Deputy Administrator Smith. So today we were on site—or there were folks on site with that company, finishing out what their capital projections will be in order to be able to ramp up these additional four lines that I spoke about. The company will then turn in a white paper to the DOD that will then help move the process forward. But it's actively in process.
Coronavirus Testing Access
Q. And I fully understand that the need is enormous, but on March 24—March 21, the administration promised 27 million tests by the end of March. So far, roughly 4 million people have been tested. So where are the other 23 million or so tests? Did they not materialize? Are they in the pipeline? Help us understand that discrepancy.
Assistant Secretary Giroir. So, since I was the one who said that, let me explain where we are—where we were. So I was getting my information—it was correct information—about the actual tests that are in the marketplace. So if you want to use those metrics, there's been over 40 million, quote, "in the marketplace." But we have an end-to-end issue that we needed to deal with, and that's what we've been dealing with: the swabs, the transport media.
If we don't have people utilizing the machines the way Dr. Birx is talking about—we have some of our main platforms that are only 10-percent being utilized. You can have a lot of tests in the market, and those are correct numbers, but if the machines aren't utilizing them and they're not organized at that level, then they're not being utilized to its fullest. And that——
The President. So, Admiral, you meant if the machines were utilized, that would be the number.
Assistant Secretary Giroir. You would have a lot of those millions of tests already being done. I think Ambassador Birx has estimated that we have another million tests a week, just on one platform, that could be done if the machines were utilized more fully.
Q. I have a question for Admiral Giroir.
The President. For this?
Q. For Admiral Giroir. You say that there are—and the Vice President has said this and Mr. Smith said it—that there will be enough tests in place for phase one.
Vice President Pence. There are.
Q. There are? The question is: What's the standard of testing that you now have the capability for? Is it to test people who are only very ill? Is it test people who have the sniffles? Is it test people who come in just because they want to get a test? I mean, what is the standard here for the testing?
Assistant Secretary Giroir. It is the guidelines, but I tried to be a little specific about this on Friday, and we all tried to.
Number one is, you need to test everyone who's symptomatic, right? And you need to overtest them, because——
Q. How symptomatic?
Assistant Secretary Giroir. We're talking any symptoms that would be consistent with COVID, right? So—and there's a wide range of symptoms. You want to test them, and you want to overtest. And we talked about the approximate metric with Ambassador Birx—fully supports—because we—you know, this is a good metric that you want to get about one positive for every 10 tests. Then, you know you oversample.
[Assistant Secretary Giroir continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
So this is a very, very important layer that most of the models and people don't talk about, because that's where we're going to pick up the asymptomatic carriage. And when you do that, that's when you focus on track and trace.
Maryland/Coronavirus Testing Access
Q. So just a quick follow-up on that. If we have enough tests right now for everyone to go into phase one, why is the Governor of Maryland having to get half a million tests from South Korea?
Assistant Secretary Giroir. I don't know what the Governor of Maryland is doing in South Korea, but there is excess capacity every day. If he wanted to send 30- or 40,000 tests to LabCorp and Quest, that could be done. That could be done tomorrow.
Q. But he was saying they didn't have enough that they needed to start to up their testing capacity and make it adequate. So they had to have these late-night meetings——
Assistant Secretary Giroir. I think we're seeing all across the country——
Q. ——with South Korea.
Assistant Secretary Giroir.——that in the States that have been hardest hit, their capacity— not only their capacity, their testing far, far exceeds South Korea. And they've been able to do that on a relatively straightforward basis. I don't know what the Governor of Maryland—we talked to him today. He didn't bring that up today.
Q. Haven't you spoke to him about this?
Assistant Secretary Giroir. We were on the Governors' call today.
Q. But you haven't spoken to him, like, personally on this?
The President. Go ahead, Mike.
Vice President Pence. We spoke to Governor Hogan today. I'll follow up, because I heard there was an announcement today about—that he had acquired some tests from overseas. Maybe we could put the slide back up that showed the number of facilities, just in the State of Maryland.
[A slide detailing coronavirus testing capacity in Maryland was shown.]
And part of our process—and I don't know when the Governor placed the order from South Korea. Wouldn't—I wouldn't begrudge him or his health officials for ordering tests. But the capacity of all the different laboratories and the number of machines that are across Maryland was part of what we were communicating today, including Federal facilities. NIH is in Maryland. There's Department of Defense facilities. And what we assured the Governor then, and we assured all the Governors, is that we'll open up all of those facilities.
[Vice President Pence continued his remarks, concluding as follows.]
So it's: Test people that don't feel well and may have the coronavirus. Keep a careful eye and monitor your vulnerable population. And when you come across a case, have a team on the ground that can do the immediate contact tracing and testing. And that's how we restrain and contain the spread of the coronavirus during phase one. And frankly, it's the beginning of the structure for how we contain the coronavirus going forward.
The President. And take a look at that map. The Governor of Maryland could have called Mike Pence, could have saved a lot of money. Look at all of the—look at these different places. And that's Maryland, right there. So could have saved a lot of money, but that's okay.
Maryland/Coronavirus Testing Access
Q. So you're saying he didn't need to go to South Korea for those testing kits?
The President. No, I don't think he needed to go to South Korea.
Q. Have you guys not spoken to him about this?
The President. I think he needed to get a little knowledge, would have been helpful. Yes.
Federal Aid to Small Businesses
Q. Mr. President, on the SBA loans, do you think it's right that major corporations, major institutions—like the Ruth's Chris restaurant chain, like Harvard University—apparently got a lot of money under the CARES Act, money that was supposed to be earmarked for small-business owners. Do you think that's fair?
The President. Well, I know one thing: I didn't get any. That's for sure. I didn't get any. We'll look at individual things, and some people will have to return it if we think it's inappropriate.
Q. But should the criteria be changed so that that money goes to people who need it the most?
The President. Well, it's being done by great professionals. It's being done by banks and, as you know, community banks all over the country. They're—that's what they do. They loan money, and they're supposed to do it according to not only criteria, but according to what we think is right. But if somebody got something that we think is inappropriate, we'll get it back.
Okay? Good—good point.
Please. Go ahead.
U.S. Troop Deployments in South Korea/South Korea-U.S. Trade
Q. Yes. Another—a different question about South Korea. There are reports that you are personally negotiating with President Moon the terms of reduction of U.S. forces on the Korean Peninsula and that there are four scenarios involved. Can you confirm that? And, if so, what is your desired outcome?
The President. Well, I think that South Korea—I had a great talk with President Moon. He's a friend of mine. I congratulated—he had a wonderful election victory. I was very happy about that. He was—as you know, just recently.
No, we are negotiating for President Moon and for South Korea to help us monetarily, because we—as you know, we have 32,000 soldiers there. That varies from 28- to 32,000 in South Korea. And we think that, before I came aboard, they paid very little, if anything. So we're defending a wonderful nation—a nation that we have great relationships—but we're asking them to pay for a big percentage of what we're doing. It's not fair. So it's not a question of reduction, it's a question of will they contribute toward the defense of their own nation.
We're defending nations that are very wealthy. South Korea is a very wealthy nation. They make our television sets. They make ships. They make everything. And I give them great credit.
We've been defending them for many, many decades, as you know. Many, many—over eight decades. And I've gone to them in the past. Last year, I went to them, and now they're paying a billion dollars a year. And I went to them again, I said, "Look, I'll be back, because that's just a fraction." And again, the relationship is great, but it's just not a fair relationship.
We renegotiated the trade deal and made it a much more equitable deal than it was in the past. It was a terrible deal. It was done by Hillary Clinton. It was a terrible deal. The new deal is a much more equitable deal—that's on trade.
But, on the military, I mean, we're paying for the military for—to defend another nation that's 8,500 miles away. And they're not the only one I'm talking to, by the way, as you know. I won't go into names, but I've done this. Nobody talks about it, but I think it's appropriate. I think the taxpayer of our country—taxpayers—want to hear these things. And so now they're—they've offered us a certain amount of money, and I have rejected it. I just said, "It's just—look, you know, we're doing a tremendous service." We have a wonderful feeling and a wonderful relationship with each other, but we have to be treated equitably and fairly. And so that's where it is right now. And what's going to happen, I can't tell you, but we'll find out fairly soon.
But I congratulate the President, who is a friend of mine—I congratulate President Moon on having a terrific victory.
Yes, please. Yes.
Infrastructure/U.S. Military and Security Assistance/China-U.S. Trade
Q. Thank you, sir. A question for you about Governor Cuomo's visit, and then also a question for Dr. Birx, if you'll let me.
The President. Sure.
Q. The New York Governor, along with the National Governors Association, in the past, have called for aid to be unrestricted. As a lot of State and local governments see their revenues drop, are you open to the idea of unrestricted aid or do you want it to be pandemic-specific?
The President. Well, we're going to be talking about that in phase four, as you know, which will start very shortly. And that has to do with infrastructure—hopefully, infrastructure, because this country needs infrastructure.
We spend all this money in the Middle East—$8 trillion. Eight trillion—trillion, with a "t"— dollars in the Middle East, but if you have a pothole in a highway someplace, they don't want you to spend the money to fix it. How stupid have we been in this country? How stupid have we been? And that's changing rapidly—you know that; you've seen that—including things like negotiating with friends.
But when we are helping friends, friends should reimburse us for the cost. I mean, why should we be defending nations for free? We're defending a nation for free. Now I'm getting a billion dollars a year, and we're—we'll be getting—we were offered much more than that, but I turned it down. So that's where we are with that.
As far as the other is concerned, look, we have to be smart in this country. We've been taken to the cleaner by every—and I mean with allies, not just with the enemies—with allies. We've been to—frankly, the allies have taken us much more so than the enemies. The enemies we don't do business with, right? The allies, we do business with.
And whoever made these deals, whoever made these contracts—in many cases, we didn't have a contract. Like, we didn't have a contract—we didn't have a trade deal with China. They came in, and they took $500 billion a year for many years. But anywhere from $200 to $550 billion dollars a year out of our hides.
Now we made this great trade deal. Unfortunately, that was a number of months ago. And it's a great deal. They're paying 25 percent on $250 billion. They're—a lot of things are happening. They're going to have to purchase $250 billion worth of goods, including farm product, up to $50 billion.
So a lot of good things are happening, but then what happened with China was, the plague hit us, right? The plague. That was after. This was long after we signed the deal. The plague hit us, so I'm not happy about that.
Okay. John [John Roberts, Fox News], please.
Q. A question for Dr. Birx, if I could. Dr. Birx, a question on the virus itself: As it passes from patient to patient, it mutates. Over time, have you picked up any indication that it has become less virulent? Have you picked up any indication it has become more virulent?
Ambassador Birx. You know, that is an excellent question, because we watch that all the time, particularly with RNA viruses, to really track its adaptation to humans. I mean, you're really asking: Has this virus become more adapted to humans and more able to spread, or is it becoming less adapted to humans and less able to spread?
[Ambassador Birx continued her remarks, concluding as follows.]
We have extraordinary evolutionary molecular biologists in this country, all around the United States, and they're looking at this very question. And a lot of the work that we've been doing and a lot—you'll see a lot of work happening with testing in New Mexico and testing in other States. They have extraordinary molecular biologists that are evolutionary biologists, and they'll be able to look at that, both in—both in New Mexico, that may have lower transmission rates, and compare that to New York, that has maybe 10x the transmission.
But it's an excellent question, and it's something that will be able to be answered by what we see in the United States.
The President. John, what a good question that was. Where did that come from?
White House Coronavirus Task Force Members
Q. You know, once in a while, I pull one out of my hat, Mr. President. [Laughter]
The President. No, that's very impressive.
You know, when Senator Schumer wrote a letter a couple of months ago, and he said, "You should use admirals and generals." I said, "Well, that's where we've"—first of all, we have our Vice President, who has been incredible, but we have the admirals, we have the generals. And I was just talking to the admiral inside, just before we came out. I said, "Did you go to Annapolis?" He said, "No sir." I said: "Oh, that's too bad. That's too bad. Where did you go?" He said, "I went to Harvard." "Oh, that's okay too, I guess." Right?
So you went to Harvard, and he was a great student at Harvard, and he's doing a fantastic job. And this young gentleman was very, very successful. But he wanted to help the country. He wanted to come into the country, and we appreciate it very much. He was a big success—big, big success.
Let's do here, and there next. Okay? We're all set. Good. Go ahead.
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo of New York/Federal Coronavirus Response
Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I was hoping you'd talk about your meeting tomorrow with Governor Cuomo that you mentioned. Is there a reason he is coming all the way down here?
The President. I don't know. He wanted to, and——
Q. Is that sort of travel essential?
The President. We, believe it or not, have—we get along. Okay? He was very generous yesterday, in particular. Said we did a, quote, "phenomenal" deal. I don't know if anybody wrote that, but he said that, and I appreciated it. Because it's not about me; it's about these people and thousands behind Mike and the admiral and all of the other people that are working with us.
I mean—and you see it. Look, I don't understand when—when I see polling and approval ratings for the job. I mean, this group should get a 95. It really should. And we're really helping the Governors a lot. And the Governors call me—the ones I know, or the Republicans, but the ones I know—and they say, "It's incredible, the job you're doing." Again, not me—the job this group is doing.
And you sit here—I just—I'm watching from—from the corner, and I'm just saying, "Boy, this is incredible stuff." When you watch the general get up—General Semonite—and talk about—boom, boom, boom. You don't see that. You don't see that. When you hear the admiral speak about the testing—how good it is—and yet people don't like to say it.
But remember, it was all about ventilators a month ago. Ventilators, ventilators—then we fixed it. You don't hear about ventilators. Where is the ventilator? Jeff, you haven't asked about ventilators recently. What's going on? What about ventilators? We're helping other countries now, because they can't have—they're very hard to come by, and they take a long time to make—like, years. It's incredible, the job they've done, that our people have done and also private companies have done.
You know, you talk about the act. We don't like to use it unless we have to. Because, a lot of times, just the fact that you have it gets you everything you need. So, you know, we don't want to embarrass any of the companies. But we have used it on a number of occasions and it worked.
But it works just as well before you have to use it, because they don't want to be embarrassed, and I don't want to embarrass them, because they've done a great job.
Please, go ahead.
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
The President. No, I think, right behind you. I promised. I can't—I cannot tell a lie. So, I mean, we'll get you next. Okay?
Q. Thank you, Mr. President.
Q. Are you talking to me or her?
The President. We'll get you next.
Q. Are you talking to her or me?
The President. No, no.
Q. You're pointing at me?
The President. You.
Coronavirus Testing Access/Governor Lawrence J. Hogan, Jr., of Maryland/Partisanship
Q. Me. Okay. Well, thank you so much, Mr. President. My question—I have two questions. The first one is on testing. You talked about the idea that first it was ventilators, and now it's testing. You seem to maybe possibly be implying that talking about testing is a personal attack on you. Can you explain why you think testing—talking about testing is a personal attack——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——given that the access to testing has been an issue for a long time? There's bipartisan outcries still today that there is not enough testing. Why do you think it's a personal attack on you?
The President. Well, it's not bipartisan. It's mostly partisan. But more importantly than mostly partisan, it's incorrect. You have the experts. Look at these maps. I mean, you have the maps with so many different locations.
In the case of, as an example, Governor Hogan. He didn't really know. He really—it was very obvious to any of those listening on the call today—even though you weren't supposed to be on it, I'm sure that some of you were or representatives were. He really didn't know about the Federal laboratories. Would you say that's correct, Mike? He didn't know.
Vice President Pence. He didn't know they were available.
The President. He didn't know. And Mike doesn't like to get into this stuff. He's less controversial than I am. But he didn't know about it. And if he did know about it, he would have been happy.
No, we've done a really good job on testing. Now, with that being said, we have tests coming out perhaps over the next 2 weeks that will blow the whole industry away. Now, a lot of people love the Abbott test. So do I. You know, the Abbott test is great because it's, boom, it's—they touch, they put it in, and in 5 minutes, you have—the problem is that doesn't do massive numbers like the big machine. But the big machine takes a day, takes a day and a half, you know, with delivery and everything else.
But we have tremendous testing—tremendous testing capability. Remember this: We've tested more than any country in the world by far. In fact, I think I read where if you add up every other country in the world, we've tested more.
But remember this: We're dealing in politics, we're dealing with a thing called—November 3 of this year. Do you know what November 3 represents, right? You know better than anybody in the room. November 3 of this year—it's called the Presidential election. No matter what I do, no matter where we go, no matter how well we do, no matter what, if I came up with a tablet, you take it, and this plague is gone, they'll say: "Trump did a terrible job. Terrible. Terrible." Because that's their soundbite. That's the political soundbite.
They know the great job we've done. But with all of that being said and—and also, there is a thing that somebody could talk to if they want, but I don't want to bore you with it. Not everybody believes we should do so much testing. You don't need so much. We're talking about maximum. Maximum.
The reason that the Democrats—and some others, maybe, because they don't know—they want maximum, because they want to be able to criticize. Because it's almost impossible to get to the maximum number, and yet we've been able to do it already.
But with that—and you'll be seeing this over the next—I think over the next couple of weeks or sooner. We have a test—if it comes out, it will revolutionize the whole world of testing. It will be something really special.
So I don't view it as personal at all. What I do say is, it's something that's not fair to thousands of people that have done such a good job.
The President's Popularity/Restrictions on Travel From China to the U.S./World Health Organization/The President's Response to the Coronavirus
Q. The second question I had was about your language and how you approached the coronavirus at the beginning. I interviewed someone who said that his family got sick. They went to a funeral in mid-March, and they said mainly, because the President wasn't taking it seriously. He said: "If the President had had a mask on, if he was saying we should stay home, then I would have stayed home. Instead I had family members"——
The President. Well, I know. I understand.
Q. I just—I want to—and he said his family members were sick because they were—they were listening to you. Do you feel like or are you concerned that downplaying the virus maybe——
The President. Yes.
Q. ——got some people sick?
The President. And a lot of people love Trump, right? A lot of people love me. You see them all the time, right? I guess I'm here for a reason, you know? To the best of my knowledge, I won. And I think we're going to win again. I think we're going to win in a landslide.
But just so you understand, you're talking about March, right?
Q. Yes. But this is——
The President. And yet—excuse me. Excuse me,
Q. ——this is an American that's concerned.
The President. I know. I understand. And yet, in January, a certain date—you know the date better than I do—we put on a ban of China, where China can't come in. And before March, we put on a ban on Europe, where Europe can't come in. So how could you say I wasn't taking it seriously?
Do you know, I put on a ban on China before anybody in this country died? I put on a ban. And so you tell me. Nancy Pelosi was having—she wanted to have a street party in Chinatown in San Francisco at the end of February. That's a month later. And then, they tell me it's only a political talking point. But you feed into it, because you're too good a reporter to let that happen. Really, you are a good reporter. You're too good a reporter to let that happen.
Remember this: So at the end of January, I put on a ban. People that were in that room will tell you—I think there were 21 people—I was the only one in the whole room that wanted to do it. Fortunately, I was the one that counted for that purpose. We put on a ban because I was reading bad things about China. World Health Organization should have told us, but I was reading it, with or without them. They should have known. All they had to do is read it. They didn't have to even be there. But they tried to cover up for China—World Health covered up for China.
Q. But you did hold—you held rallies in February and March.
The President. But—no, no. Wait. But you can't say this. Look, I put on a ban. In other words, I stopped China from coming to the United States. I stopped Europe from coming into the United States, long before the March date that you're talking about. So people should say I acted very early. That was a very hard thing to do. Doing that was a very hard thing. I didn't want to do that.
Q. But you held rallies in February and March.
The President. But I did it because I thought—and Dr. Fauci said that, by doing it, President Trump saved tens of thousands of lives. So I did take it very seriously.
Q. You held rallies in February and in March. And there are some Americans saying——
The President. Oh, I don't know—I don't know about rallies. I really don't know about rallies.
Q. You had about five rallies in February.
The President. I know one thing: I haven't left the White House in months, except for a brief moment to give a wonderful ship, the Comfort——
Q. You held a rally in March in North Carolina.
The President. I don't know. Did I hold a rally? I'm sorry I hold a rally. Did I hold a rally? Let me tell you, in January, when I did this, you had virtually no cases and no deaths, and yet I put it on. So how could I not?
Why was Nancy Pelosi—right?—Nancy Pelosi is holding a street fair. She wants a street fair in San Francisco, in Chinatown, to prove—you know what the purpose of it was—to prove that there's no problem. Many other politicians did the same thing. They wanted to prove——
Q. So you don't—[inaudible].
The President. While I was—no, of course not. No, no, no. I've been—people are amazed at how early I acted, and I did act early. With that being said, it's very hard to say, "Let's close down the greatest economy in the history of the world." I had it closed down. I, and everybody else that works with me, and 300 and—close to 350 million people built the greatest economy in the history of the world: best employment numbers, best stock market numbers, best numbers in virtually every category. Even good manufacturing numbers. The previous administration said manufacturing was dead for our country. Even great manufacturing numbers.
And you know what? I did that, and somebody walked into my office and said, "Sir, you're going to have to close down the economy. You're going to have to close the country." But you know what I say to you? We're going to rebuild it. And we're going to rebuild it better, and it's going to go faster than people think. I built it once; I'll built it a second time.
Q. Mr. President, thank you. Chanel Rion with One America News.
The President. Please. Go ahead.
Bipartisanship/Impeachment/News Media/Coronavirus Mortality Projections/Federal Coronavirus Response
Q. We have—in going back to the topic of friendship and bipartisanship—Americans—with the exception of Pelosi, Schumer, and even Romney—Americans have seen an unprecedented chapter of bipartisanship and cooperation on the political landscape. On a personal note, what has been the most significant signal that your relationship with Democrats, below the leadership level, have changed for the good of America?
The President. I think it's a great question, because there is bipartisanship. Look, we're getting the Paycheck Plan. It's—already $350 billion was approved, essentially unanimously. And we have another 250, which I think you're going to find out is going to be a higher number than that. Okay? I won't say it now, because I don't know if they've released it or not, but it's going to end up being more than $250 billion. And this is going to small businesses, and it's going to workers.
And these are really bipartisan plans. It's a great thing that's happening. So I think the fact that we're able to do all of this in a bipartisan way is great.
Now, the tax cuts that the Republicans did, we had no help from the Democrats, so you can't say that's bipartisan. But this whole thing, getting our country back—and you know, Nancy Pelosi has been—she's very nasty. She, you know, wasted a lot of time on an impeachment hoax. It was a total hoax. It went nowhere. But—and that was not good. And Schumer, I guess, did the same thing, but he sort of accepted it. He just did what he was supposed to do, and he didn't do very well with it. But you know, that was not appropriate. That was a bad thing for our country. But it was fine. I mean, I understand the game.
They have a little bit of a majority. So they say, "Let's do something, and let's try and stir it up." But they wasted a year. They wasted tremendous—we could have been doing things that would have been great for our country. They could have been looking into China. They should have been looking into China, as an example. A lot of people are blaming the Democrats for wasting all that time, because it was during that period of time, as you know, that it was fomenting.
But I think we've had a great spirit of bipartisanship, in a certain way. It's not—I wouldn't say we're going to set records throughout the world, but things are happening that are very good. The country is coming together. And I'll tell you what: The people are coming together. The people are really coming together. I think you're going to find that our country is much more unified.
I do think that the press, the media, foments a lot of this—a lot of anger. I really believe it.
Foments tremendous anger. For instance, I'll be asked a tremendously hostile question from somebody, and then I'll answer to—in a hostile way, which is appropriate; otherwise, you look foolish. Otherwise, it looks like just walk off the stage and bow your head. I can't do that. You know, I just can't do that.
But a lot of these questions that are asked from certain networks are so hostile, and there's no reason for it. There's no reason for it. We are in a war. This is a World War II, this is a World War I—where, by the way, the war essentially ended because of a plague. That was one of the worst ever. They lost almost a hundred million people. But we're in a big war.
And I'll say one thing about—because I think it's important. The last person—I did it early, but I was the last person that wanted to close down one of the great economic—you can't call it an experiment, but everything, I guess, in life is an experiment. So I say experiments. But one of the great economic stories in history. I'm the last person that wanted to do it.
But we did the right thing, because if we didn't do it, you would have had a million people, a million and a half people, maybe 2 million people dead. Now, we're going toward 50-, I'm hearing, or 60,000 people. One is too many. I always say it: One is too many. But we're going toward 50- or 60,000 people. That's at the lower—as you know, the low number was supposed to be 100,000 people. We could end up at 50 to 60. Okay? It's horrible. If we didn't do what we did, we would have had, I think, a million people, maybe 2 million people, maybe more than that.
And you look—there's one country in particular that decided: "Let's wing it. Let's just keep going." They are being inundated with death. Now, if you take a look at some of the hospitals where—one of them I knew growing up in Queens, and I'm looking at the bodies laying in hallways, being brought into refrigerated trucks. The trucks—these massive trucks, bodies going in. Multiply that times 10. It's not sustainable.
And many of the people that have this theory, "Oh, let's—you know, maybe we could have just gone right through it," I was somebody that would have loved to have done that, but it wouldn't have been sustainable. You can't lose a million people. That's more than—that's almost double what we lost in the Civil War. I use that as a guide. Civil War: 600,000 people died. So it's not sustainable. But it could have been much more than a million people.
I mean, if you took a number and cut it half and half and in half again, you'd end up at 500,000 people—okay?—if you want to make a very conservative guesstimate. Five hundred thousand people is not acceptable. Is that a correct sort of an analogy?
So, I mean, I see it all the time, by friends of mine, by people that I have great respect for: "Well, we could have done this. We could have done"—and remember this: When we say 50 and they compare 50 to the 35 of the flu—because it averaged 35-, 36,000 over a 10-year period. It's a lot. Who would think that? But we're not talking about with the flu. That's just—it just goes.
We're not locking ourselves in our units. We're not locking ourselves in our apartments and not moving and not touching anybody and just saying—you know, the world. In this case, we are. And we're still going to lose between 50 and 60.
But if we just kept it going on a normal basis, which is really the only standard that you can compare it to with the flu, because that was a normal basis. You get into an airplane, you travel to Florida, you go to Texas. You go wherever you're going.
But, in this case, if we didn't do anything, the number wouldn't be 50- to 60,000. The number would be a million people dead. It would be a million-five, a million-two. Maybe 700,000. It would have been a number in—like that.
Because—and it's so important, because I see so much: "Oh, well, you know, they can"— you can't compare it, because I'll tell you what: The people of this country, what they've done— they've gone out of their way—what they—the way they've lived, it hasn't—it's not great. It's terrible. Maybe the first 3 days, and then, all of a sudden—you see what's going on; they want to get going. And I get that fully.
But I just say this: If we would have done that, we would have lost anywhere from a million to more than 2 million people. Now, with all of the death that we've seen—and 50- or 60,000 people, heading toward—right now it's at 40. But 50- or 60,000 people; probably over 50, from what I see. But that's with our guard up. If we took our guard down and just said, "Okay, we're just going to keep this open," we would have lost millions of people. Can you imagine?
Look how bad it looks now, when you look at the bodies. When you look at Hart Island in New York, where they have the mass grave, and all of the things that you see. Can you imagine if we had the guard down, if we didn't do anything, and we just said, "Let's ride it out"? It would not have been sustainable in any way. It would have been an atrocity.
So we've done the right thing. We've really done the right thing. And the people that have worked so hard—and dangerously. I'll tell you—again, I say it, but I watch those doctors and nurses and medical people running into those hospitals, and they don't even have their gear on. Forget about gear, whether it's great gear or not. And we're bringing in the best gear in the world. But they're running in with open everything, and they're pushing. I mean, the job—they're like warriors, the job they're doing.
Vice President Pence. That's right.
The President. But if we didn't do the moves that we made, you would have had a million, a million and a half, 2 million people dead. So multiply that times 50; you're talking about—you would have had 10 to 20 to 25 times more people dead than all of the people that we've been watching. That's not acceptable. The 50,000 is not acceptable. It's so horrible. But can you imagine multiplying that out by 20 or more? It's not acceptable.
So it's a very good question. I appreciate it. We'll see you tomorrow. We'll see you tomorrow.
Q. Larry Hogan responded to you; can I ask you about Larry Hogan's response to what you just told me, Mr. President?
Q. Mr. President, a question about children——
Vice President Pence. Thanks, everybody.
NOTE: The President spoke at 5:39 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, he referred to Rich Lowry, editor, and Kyle Smith, critic-at-large, National Review magazine; Joint Chiefs of Staff Vice Director for Logistics Rear Adm. John Polowczyk, USN, in his capacity as the Supply Chain Lead for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA); FEMA Administrator Peter T. Gaynor; Mayor Bill de Blasio of New York City; former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton; Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi; and National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci. Lt. Gen. Semonite referred to Acting Commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection Mark Morgan. A reporter referred to Sen. W. Mitt Romney. The transcript released by the Office of the Press Secretary included the entire briefing.
Donald J. Trump, Remarks at a White House Coronavirus Task Force Press Briefing Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/341799