Photo of Donald Trump

The President's News Conference

July 21, 2020

The President. Well, thank you very much, and good afternoon. Today I want to provide an update on our response to the China virus and what my administration is doing to get the outbreak in the Sun Belt under control. It seems largely in Sun Belt, but could be spreading.

My team is also working night and day with Capitol Hill to advance the next economic relief package. We're working very hard on it. We're making a lot of progress. I also know that both sides want to get it done. We'll call it "phase four." I think we're going to get it done. We'll protect our workers, our schools, and our families and protect them very strongly.

As one family, we mourn every precious life that's been lost. I pledge in their honor that we will develop a vaccine and we will defeat the virus. We're doing very well with vaccine development and therapeutic development. But I want to thank our brave doctors and nurses and frontline responders. The job they do is incredible, and they are truly brave.

My administration will stop at nothing to save lives and shield the vulnerable, which is so important. We've learned so much about this disease. And we know who the vulnerable are, and we are going to indeed shield them.

And again, the vaccines are coming, and they're coming a lot sooner than anyone thought possible, by years. If you look at the old system and look at the new system, I think by years.

The China virus is a vicious and dangerous illness, but we've learned a great deal about it and who it targets. We are in the process of developing a strategy that's going to be very, very powerful. We've developed them as we go along. Some areas of our country are doing very well; others are doing less well. It will probably, unfortunately, get worse before it gets better, something I don't like saying about things, but that's the way it is. It's the way—it's what we have. If you look over the world, it's all over the world, and it tends to do that.

The Governors are working very, very hard, and we are supporting them 100 percent. Everything they need, they get. And we are taking good care. We have tremendous supplies and a great supply chain, whether it's ventilators or gowns or just about anything they need. So that's a big difference from inheriting very, very empty cupboards.

The median age of those who succumb to the China virus is 78 years old. Roughly half of all deaths have been individuals in nursing homes or in long-term care. In one study, 90 percent of those hospitalized had underlying medical conditions, whether it's heart or diabetes, but usually, it's some kind of a condition. It seems that people have that. And if they do, it's a problem, no question about it.

Young adults may often have mild or even no symptoms. They won't even know they're sick. They won't have any idea that they have a virus. They won't have any idea at all. America's youth will act responsibly, and we're asking everybody that when you are not able to socially distance, wear a mask, get a mask. Whether you like the mask or not, they have an impact. They'll have an effect. And we need everything we can get.

Data shows children have the lowest fatality risk; 99.96 percent of all virus fatalities are in adults. Think of that. So that's much, much, much less than 1 percent for children, young people.

By understanding these risk profiles and learning how to treat the disease, we've been able to greatly reduce mortality in the United States. In fact, we'll show you a chart and how well we do compared to the rest of the world. We have several treatments already available that significantly reduce the severity and duration of the disease, including remdesivir, which has been very successful and a widely available steroid treatment. And we have many more happening and coming out.

We've learned best practices for treatment of the virus at every stage and have shared these findings with medical providers, and we've shared them all over the world. But the relationship with other countries has been very strong. We're all working together. This includes ensuring all hospitals are aware of the importance of different approaches to oxygen treatment, including high-flow oxygen, the importance of steroid treatment for those on ventilators.

And when you're on a ventilator, we've learned a tremendous about the use of the ventilator. And at the beginning, people never had an experience like this, where we needed so many ventilators so fast, and even the use of the ventilators. But the doctors have become incredibly—and nurses and helpers have become incredibly good at the use of a ventilator, which is actually a very complicated procedure.

And allocating remdesivir to hospitals based on new admission since it works best early in hospitalization. And that's something that they've really started. They're using it much earlier. Fatalities nationwide have fallen 75 percent since mid-April. It's a great number.

As cases and fatalities rise in certain hard-hit States, which you're looking at right now, we're surging personnel, supplies, and therapeutics. We again have tremendous amounts of supplies. We are in very good shape, and we can move them quickly.

Our case fatality rate has continued to decline and is lower than the European Union and almost everywhere else in the world. If you watch American television, you'd think that the United States was the only country involved with and suffering from the China virus. Well, the world is suffering very badly. But the fact is that many countries are suffering very, very, very badly, and they've been suffering from this virus for a long time.

We've done much better than most. And with the fatality rate at a lower rate than most, it's something that we can talk about, but we're working, again, with them, because we're helping a lot of countries that people don't even know about. I get calls all the time asking for help, especially as it pertains to the ventilators. They need help with ventilators; they have to get them. They're very hard to get. We're making thousands now a month—thousands of ventilators a month. It's been quite amazing.

And we keep doing the good job, and things will get better and better. We'll be putting up charts behind me showing different statistics and different rates of success and, I guess you could say also, things that we can do better on. But you'll see them. There'll be put up as we go.

In April, the average age of individuals who tested positive for the virus was over 50 years old. Today, the average age is significantly younger. Hospital lengths of stay are almost half of what they were in April. So the stays are about half. The rate of cases requiring hospitalization has been reduced. And mortality among those admitted to the hospital is nearly one-half of what it was in April.

We've learned a lot. We've learned a lot about this disease, how to handle it. The doctors have learned a lot, not only in the use of the ventilators, but in many other things. And things are happening too, like the remdesivir and other elements, steroids, et cetera.

But these trends could change without our continued and relentless focus. And that's what we have: We have a relentless focus. And it's been that way from the beginning. But we have learned so much. As you know, in recent weeks we've seen a concerning rise in the cases in many parts of our South; you look at South, Southwest, and West. This growth in cases first began to appear in mid-June, primarily among 18- to 35-year-olds, many of whom were asymptomatic.

We're also facing the challenge of a significant spice [spike]* in virus cases across the rest of the Western Hemisphere, including Mexico. Mexico has been hit very, very, very hard. As you know, the President, a great gentleman, was here 2 weeks ago. And they have really been hit hard.

Because we've achieved a nearly fourfold increase in testing capacity in 2 months, we're successfully identifying more asymptomatic and mild cases: some cases so mild that you really don't even treat them; some cases with children, where they don't even know that they're ill. And I guess they're not very ill, because they recover almost immediately.

Per capita, the U.S. is conducting 50-percent more tests than Europe, and we've conducted nearly three times as many tests as all of the other countries in the Western Hemisphere combined. We'll be over 50 million tests. This allows us to isolate those who are infected, even those without symptoms. So we know exactly where it's going and when it's going to be there.

We're also working to reduce turnaround time. My administration has been aggressively responding to case growth in the Sun Belt, and we continue to do so, working very close with all Governors, but right now, in particular, those Governors.

We're coordinating closely with hospitals and Governors. In the last 3 weeks, I've sent senior officials into nine States to meet with Governors and provide recommendations to the various leaders of the State, including hospital administrators, et cetera.

My administration currently has zero unfilled requests for—unfulfilled requests for equipment or anything else that they need from the Governors. No Governor needs anything right now, and we think we'll have it that way until the end, because, frankly, we are stocked up and ready to go wherever we have to go.

We have nearly 7,000 National Guard and military medical personnel in Texas, California, Florida, and Arizona that's helping us greatly. I want to thank them very much. The military has been fantastic. We're closely monitoring hospital capacity in these States. Hospitals are open for elective surgeries and other procedures. So hospitals are open for elective surgeries.

We want Americans to get the medical treatments they need. All of the Governors we've spoken with say they have enough bed capacity. That's a great thing. Our initial shutdown was to prevent the overflow of our hospitals and to allow us to meet the demands caused by this global pandemic, including the ventilators.

And a permanent shutdown was really never an option. In terms of what we're doing right now, this would be completely unsustainable, produce debilitating economic fallback, and lead to catastrophic public health consequences. There are consequences to shutdowns.

And we've saved, potentially, millions of lives by doing the initial shutdown, but now we're very aware of this disease. We understand the disease, to a large extent. And nobody is going to maybe ever fully understand it, but we'll end up with a cure, we'll end up with therapeutics, we'll end up with a vaccine very soon—all three.

We're instead asking Americans to use masks, socially distance, and employ vigorous hygiene—wash your hands every chance you get—while sheltering high-risk populations. We are imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings. Be safe and be smart. We're surging testing capacity to identify and isolate cases. This includes a newly approved testing platform to nursing homes across the South. We're being very, very vigilant with respect to nursing homes, because you know all of the problems that we've had with so many people—so sadly, they were infected—so that all of the staff and residents can be routinely tested and isolated to ensure our elderly are even more strongly protected than anybody else. That's really the high-risk people—the high-risk, wonderful people.

Once this current surge in cases declines, the same testing platform will enable people to visit their loved ones after taking a test, which is a big difference. Ultimately, our goal is not merely to manage the pandemic, but to end it. We want to get rid of it as soon as we can. That is why getting a vaccine remains a top priority.

Two vaccine candidates are entering the final stage of clinical trials this month. This was achieved in record time. It used to be years before you were in a position like we are right now. Four other vaccines will enter final trials in the following weeks, and we're mass producing all of the top candidates so that the first approved vaccine will be available immediately.

And logistically, we have the military ready to go. We have great people—logistic, military people; a wonderful general who's waiting for the vaccine so they can distribute it in record time. That's what's going to happen. So our military is all set to go. We will deliver a vaccine, therapeutics, whatever it is that's necessary, and defeat the virus once and for all.

And I'll take a few questions if you'd like.

I will say this: I want to thank all of the staff: the White House staff, all of the doctors that we've been working with so closely. And it's—just a lot of very positive things are happening. It's a nasty, horrible disease that should have never been allowed to escape China, but it did. And it infected the world, and the world is suffering. But we're going to get it taken care of, and we're helping lots of other countries.

Jon [Jonathan Karl, ABC News].

Frequency of the President's Coronavirus Tests

Q. Mr. President, first, I just wanted to get a clarification. Your Press Secretary said today that you sometimes take more than one test a day. Why is that? And how often is that?

The President. Well, I didn't know about more than one. I do take probably, on average, a test every 2 days, 3 days. And I don't know of any time I've taken two tests in 1 day, but I could see that happening.

Coronavirus Testing Access

Q. So Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill have both said they want to see more money for testing. They want to send billions of dollars to the States so they can do more testing. And you probably saw Mick Mulvaney the other day said that his kids, it took them a week to get test results back. He said this is "simply inexcusable" given where we are in the pandemic. Do you think we have a problem with testing in this country right now? And are you in favor of more money for testing?

The President. Well, we've done more testing, by far, than anybody. Some of the tests—because it is massive volume—it takes longer. Others of the tests, as you know, are very quick; they're 5 minutes and 15-minute tests. And those are, frankly, the ones that I prefer.

But we're doing massive numbers, and the numbers are coming down. And as we go, as an example, there are thousands and thousands of kits being made right now which give you a 15-minute and a 5-minute test. So we'll be able to get those numbers down. Those numbers are similar in other places. They're also doing massive numbers, numbers like nobody thought possible. But those numbers will be coming down. I agree. I think it's a good thing if we can do that.

Q. Are you in favor of more money for testing? That if Republicans want——

The President. Well, they're going to make a presentation to me tonight and tomorrow on that. And again, we're leading the world. And I think the second country at 12 million. We're going to be over 50 million tests. Second country is India with 12 million. Then, you have 7 million, 6 million, and 4 million. I think that we are doing a tremendous amount of testing. But if the—if the doctors and the professionals feel that even though we're at a level that nobody ever dreamt possible, that they would like to do more, I'm okay with it.

White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator Deborah L. Birx

Q. Why aren't your doctors not with you here today? Where's Dr. Fauci, Dr. Birx?

The President. Well, Dr. Birx is right outside.

Yes, please.

2020 Presidential Election/The President's Accomplishments

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. I have got two questions for you, if that's all right. Number one, I just wanted to know, in November, do you want the American people to judge you——

The President. Could you speak up, please?

Q. Do you want the American people to judge you on the ballot in November by how you've handled this pandemic so far?

The President. This, among other things. I think the American people will judge us on this, but they'll judge us on the economy that I created and that already we're creating. We're setting record job numbers, as you know. I think we're going to have a very strong year next year. I think we're going to have a very strong third quarter, a very good fourth quarter. But I think next year is going to be a record year, and I think they're going to judge me on that.

I think they're going to judge me on the tax cutting and the regulation cutting, which nobody has ever done to the extent that we've been able to do it.

On rebuilding the military, on how we've handled the VA: On the VA, we got Veterans Choice. Nobody thought that would be possible. That's been many decades. They've been trying to get Veterans Choice. It's called "Choice," where they can go get a doctor if they have to wait on line for 2 weeks or 5 weeks or 2 days. And frankly, that's been a great thing. And Veterans Accountability, I think they'll judge me on that. They'll judge me on all of the things we've done.

I don't think—and I think we can say this with surety, and it's never ever been even challenged. In 3½ years, the first 3½ years—the first years of a Presidency—I don't think any administration, any President has accomplished so much as we've accomplished, from energy to health to so many other things.

And then, this came in, and the plague—I call it the "plague"—the plague came in, a terrible thing. Should have been stopped. Wasn't stopped. It came in. We had to shut things down to save potentially millions of lives. We did that, and now we've started them up. And I think we've really started it up very successfully.

Yes, please.

Q. Mr. President, Mr. President—— Federal Coronavirus Response

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. You've been saying for months the virus would simply disappear, and now you're saying that it's likely to get worse before it gets better. If it does keep getting worse, if Americans keep dying, are you responsible for that?

The President. Well, the virus will disappear. It will disappear. I think that—I always like to say, as—you know, either way, when you look at it, the Governors are working with me. I'm working with the Governor. We're working hand in hand. I think we're all responsible. I view it as a team. Very good relationships with the Governors. Very, very good relationships.

I could say I'm fully responsible. But you know, one day, we had a virus come in, and I closed the borders, did a lot of things that were very good. In fact, Dr. Fauci said we saved tens of thousands of lives when I closed the border. And nobody wanted to do it. I wanted to do it. We closed the border to China. We put on the ban. We didn't want people coming in from heavily infected China.

Fairly shortly thereafter, I closed the borders from Europe—coming in from Europe. Those were tremendous moves. We would have—if it's one person, it's too much. But we're at, let's say, 140,000; we could have double, triple, quadruple that number if we didn't.

So we did a lot of things right. We did a lot of things right, including with equipment. So it's a shame that it happened. It shouldn't have happened. China should have stopped it.


Q. Mr. President——

The President. Yes, go ahead. Please.

Coronavirus Testing Access

Q. Thank you, President Trump. If I could, two questions. My first question is: We have a very quick testing platform here at the White House.

The President. Yes.

Q. It's great. You get tested; you know very quickly. Do you think that it would be easier to reopen and restart businesses if we could produce more of those machines for people?

The President. We're trying to do that. That's a great question. We're trying very much to do that. So rather than sending your tests in—and you know, it goes through the mail 1 day, comes back another day, no matter how they send them. It's a day and a day, so that's 2 days already wasted. And then, if it spends—by the time you get it back, it's 3 or 4 days, if they do an efficient job. We're trying to get the testing on site.

Q. Thank you.

The President. I like it the best.

British Socialite Ghislaine N.M. Maxwell

Q. And my follow-up—my second question; it's a little bit different topic, but it's one that a lot of people are talking about. Ghislaine Maxwell is in prison, and so a lot of people want to know if she's going to turn in powerful people. And I know you've talked in the past about Prince Andrew, and you've criticized Bill Clinton's behavior. I'm wondering, do you feel that she's going to turn in powerful men? How do you see that working out?

The President. I don't know. I haven't really been following it too much. I just wish her well, frankly. I've met her numerous times over the years, especially since I lived in Palm Beach, and I guess they lived in Palm Beach. But I wish her well, whatever it is. I don't know the situation with Prince Andrew. I just don't know. I'm not aware of it.

Yes, please. Go ahead.

Q. Mr. President——

Unemployment Insurance/Economic Stimulus Legislation

Q. Mr. President, sir—thank you, sir. On unemployment insurance, how much below $600 are you willing to go? And you've said that the economy is bouncing back strong, so why do we need to even cut it at all?

The President. Well, the economy is getting stronger, and I think we have a chance to have a very strong economy, especially if some of the things that I just spoke about work.

We want to have people go back and want to go back to work as opposed to be, sort of, forced into a position where they're making more money than they expected to make. And the employers are having a hard time getting them back to work.

So that was a decision that was made. I was against that original decision, but they did that. It still worked out well because it gave people a lifeline, a real lifeline. Now we're doing it again. They're thinking about doing 70 percent of the amount. The amount would be the same, but doing it in a little bit smaller initial amounts so that people are going to want to go back to work, as opposed to making so much money that they really don't have to.

Q. [Inaudible]

The President. But we were very generous with them. I think that it's been a tremendously successful program. The whole thing has been successful, if you look. I mean, we have—we're in a pandemic, and yet we're producing tremendous number of jobs. That was something that nobody thought possible. Okay?


Protective Face Masks

Q. Mr. President, thank you very much. Yesterday you said that wearing a mask was an act of patriotism. If that is the case, why don't you do it more frequently?

The President. Well, I do. I actually do it when I need. I mean, I carry the mask when I have to go—I went into Walter Reed Hospital the other day. I have the mask right here, and I carry it. And I will use it gladly. No problem with it. And I've said that.

And I say: If you can, use the mask. When you can, use the mask. If you're close to each other, if you're in a group, I would put it on. When I'm in a group—if I'm in an elevator and there are other people with me, including, like, security people, it's not their fault. They have to be in the elevator; I want to protect them also. I put on a mask.

I will have—I have no problem with the masks. I view it this way: Anything that potentially can help—and that certainly can potentially help—is a good thing. I have no problem. I carry it. I wear it. You saw me wearing it a number of times, and I'll continue.


Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you——

Q. A quick follow-up. Can I ask you a quick follow-up?

The President. Go ahead, please. Q. Are you sending mixed messages though? Yesterday you tweeted out an image wearing a mask. And then, last evening we saw you not wearing a mask at your hotel.

The President. Well, I don't know. The hotel—I was pretty far away from people, but I would say this: I've explained it, I think, very well. If you're close together, I would put on the mask, and if you're not—I would say that if you're—for instance, I'll see—like, here, you've been all tested; I've been tested. Oftentimes, I'll be with people that are fully tested; I've been tested. In theory, you don't need the mask. I'm getting used to the mask, and the reason is—think about patriotism. Maybe it is. It helps. It helps.

Now, we have experts that have said, in the recent past, that masks aren't necessarily good to wear. You know that. But now they've changed their mind. If they change their mind, that's good enough for me. So I wear it when appropriate.


Q. And, on testing, quick question——

Protective Face Masks/Social Distancing

Q. Thank you, Mr. President. Thank you, sir. A lot of Americans, though, may be surprised at your change of tone over all of this, a more, perhaps, realistic tone. Some would look at it that way. The sudden embrace of masks, social distancing, the——

The President. Well, I've always agreed with that. I mean, I've never fought either one. But certainly, social distancing, I want to—it's—that's common sense.

Q. The idea that things——

The President. Six feet, to me, is common sense. I'd like to say maybe make it a little bit further.

Coronavirus Prevalence/Florida/Texas

Q. The idea that things will get worse perhaps before they get better here, and perhaps the realization that this resurgence, if you will, is for real—when you used to talk about it in terms of little fires being put out here and there. Would you respond to that?

The President. We have them too. No, we have embers and fires, and we have big fires. And unfortunately, now Florida is in a little, tough—or in a big, tough position. You have a great Governor there. You have a great Governor in Texas. You have people that are very, very skilled people, and I think they're going to handle it very well.

Their hospital capacities are holding up, but Texas is a big State, and it's very well run, and so is Florida, and I think they'll do a very good job.

Q. Are you changing your tone though, sir?

Q. Thank you, Mr. President.

The President. Yes, go ahead.

Coronavirus Vaccine and Treatment Development

Q. I just wanted to ask you about the issue of vaccines, which you already mentioned. Yesterday a study by a Chinese company showed some promising results for its coronavirus vaccine candidate. If China were first in developing the vaccine, or even if it weren't, would the administration be willing to work with China to bring a successful Chinese vaccine to the U.S.? The President. Yes, we're willing to work with anybody that's going to get us a good result. We're very close to the vaccine. I think we're going to have some very good results. We're already in testing; nobody thought that would be possible. Under the old system, it would be a year to 2 years before you can even think about using the word "testing."

So I think we've had a lot of—and the reason we're testing: They've had good results. So now we have to see—and the testing also for safety, because they have to make sure it's safe. And I think you're going to see something over the next fairly short period of time, maybe very short period of time, having to do with therapeutics and vaccines that are very good.

So we'll be doing these quite often. We're going to keep you abreast of this, and we'll also talk about some of the other topics like our economy, which is doing well. The stock market had another good day. I think they have a good day, because they see a lot of positive things happening on this front too.

Thank you very much. Thank you.

NOTE: The President's news conference began at 5:10 p.m. in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room at the White House. In his remarks, the President referred to President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico; Operation Warp Speed Chief Operating Officer Gen. Gustave F. Perna, USA; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony S. Fauci; Prince Andrew, Duke of York, of the United Kingdom; Gov. Ronald D. DeSantis of Florida; and Gov. Gregory W. Abbott of Texas. Reporters referred to White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany; former Acting White House Chief of Staff John M. "Mick" Mulvaney and his children Finn, James, and Caroline; and former President William J. Clinton.

* White House correction.

Donald J. Trump, The President's News Conference Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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