US coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 3/26/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: But we made a deal with China
and we`re going to do another one, it looks like, they want to do it very
Maybe they want to wait like Iran, they want to wait to see whether or not
Trump gets beaten in the election because would they love to negotiate with
Biden or somebody else other than me, I would love it. That`s the best
dream in the world. So many others.
So, there are some that maybe, you know, waiting until after November 3rd,
the Election Day. But I think we`re doing very well.
It would be sad if we blew all of the advantages that we have right now
because we`ve made unbelievable trade deals. Whether it`s Mexico, Canada,
Japan, South Korea, China, and others. We have – we have changed the whole
thing around. Please.
JOHN ROBERTS, FOX NEWS CHIEF WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Mr. President,
earlier today, you set a notification letter to the nation`s governors
saying that you will soon come out with new guidelines about social
distancing and other items.
Do you have any data yet, to suggest which specific areas of the country
may have their guidelines relaxed?
ROBERTS: Which areas of the country may have their guidelines –
TRUMP: I think, Deborah told you about that, and Tony in a few minutes. But
I think we`ll start talking about that because we have to open up. We can`t
say let`s close. People don`t want to close, John. I say it again and
again. The reason I do, because I want you to report it eventually.
Go ahead, Steve.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: How that works without (INAUDIBLE), testing them, Mr.
TRUMP: Go ahead, Steve.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From President Xi tonight, what do you want to talk to
TRUMP: Yes, it`s his call. I mean, I`ll talk to him whatever he wants. I
mean, you know, we`ll have, I think a very fruitful call. I have a good
call tonight at 9:00, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There`s about the virus (INAUDIBLE).
TRUMP: We`ll be talking about that. Yes, we`ll be talking about the virus.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you –
TRUMP: In the back, first, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Thank you, Mr. President. Despite the jobless claim
numbers today, the market rallied again. It`s up over 4,000 points the last
TRUMP: You look, record.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes, the largest chart since 1931. Do you think that
the economic uncertainty has passed?
TRUMP: No, not yet. It hasn`t passed, but it`s come along way. I think they
think we`re doing a really good job in terms of running this whole
situation having to do with the virus.
I think they feel that – I think they feel the administration, myself and
the administration are doing a good job with people keeping very important,
that people informed because it was a great fear. And a lot of good things
are happening. The mortality rate is at a – in my opinion, you have to
speak to Deborah, Tony, all of the others. But in my opinion, it`s way, way
down. And that takes a lot of fear out.
You know, it`s one thing to have it, it`s another thing to die. You know,
when I first got involved, I was being told numbers that were much, much
higher than the number that seems to be.
And remember that people that have it, many people have. I just spoke to
two people, they had it. They never went to a doctor. They had it,
absolutely had it, but they never went to a doctor. They never went to
anything. They didn`t report it. You have thousands and hundreds of
thousands of cases like that. So, you have to add that to the caseload
And the people that actually die. That percentages is a much lower
percentage than I ever thought. That`s one of the reasons I say, look,
we`re going to beat this and we`re going to get back to work.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have more question.
TRUMP: Yes, please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: From more news from the administration today, the DOJ
announced charges against Nicolas Maduro, for drug trafficking. They does
designate him that they are not terrorists.
TRUMP: Sad is appropriate –
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It`s also expected that Venezuela is going to get hit
really hard by the coronavirus. Does the administration see this as a weak
point for the Maduro regime? You like –
TRUMP: Well, no, no. We don`t look at a weak point. This is a serious
problem for over 150 nations, the virus. I would say this, Maduro and
Venezuela we`re watching it very closely. We`ll see what happens.
But that is correct. Those charges were made. Please.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) you said a moment ago that you use the
Defense Production Act on two minor occasions.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What were those?
TRUMP: We will give you that notification. We`ll let you know, OK?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I have to question for you, Mr. President.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you, sir. Can I follow up on John`s question about
the classifying for counties? A lot of these areas have not done testing
yet. Is it safe to say that the current guidelines will be extended into
Will you? Will you wait to change those guidelines until you have the data?
TRUMP: Yes, I want those guidelines to go even when we`re open and fully
operational. And frankly, much of the guidelines like shaking hands, maybe
people aren`t going to be shaking hands anymore.
You know, Tony had mentioned to me. Tony Fauci`s the other day that I don`t
think he was – would be too upset with the concept of not shaking hands.
He was saying that the flu would cut down, the regular flu would be cut
down by quite a bit if we didn`t do that if we didn`t shake hands.
You know, the regular flow of which, you know, you have a lot of deaths and
a lot of problems with that too. So, I think a lot of a lot of great things
are going to – when we`re open, just so you – just to finish, when we`re
open, as soon as we open, that doesn`t mean you`re going to stop with the
guidelines, you`ll still try and distance yourself.
Maybe not to the same extent because you have to lead a life. But I think
the time is coming. How about one more question? Go ahead in the back,
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Thank you very much, Mr. President.
TRUMP: Go ahead, please.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I also have two questions because I`m asking on behalf
of foreign press as well. So, one domestic question, one international.
Domestically, you just tweeted the other day saying that it`s very
important that we totally protect Asian Americans.
TRUMP: Yes, I did. Very important to me.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: But still millions –
TRUMP: Very important to me. They have to – we have to protect our Asian
Americans. It`s very – it`s a very important – that was a very important
tweet to me because I didn`t like things that I was hearing.
Please, go ahead.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On what`s, what`s, what`s the concrete measures that
you`re taking to combat the hate crimes against Asia?
TRUMP: Well, I don`t know. All I know is this Asian Americans, our country
doing fantastically well. I`m very close to them, as you know, and they`re
doing fantastically well. And I think they appreciate the job we`re doing.
But I did want to put that statement out the social media statement.
Because to me, Asian Americans are great part of our country. Thank you all
very much. We`ll see you soon. Thank you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: (INAUDIBLE) Mr. President. I`ve got two questions for
you, Mr. President. On your guidance –
MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Well, good afternoon,
everyone. The White House coronavirus task force met today. We continue to
move out on President Trump`s directive to slow the spread with mitigation.
And to advance and expand testing across the country, and to work on the
critical supplies that our healthcare workers in our nation needs.
Today, the president convened the nation`s governors, all of the states and
territories, and reiterated to them that with FEMA in the lead, our
approach is our response to the coronavirus in this country is locally
executed. Health care workers, local public health officials, it is state-
managed and it is federally supported.
We took the opportunity to thank all of the governors across the country,
our states, and territories for their incredible leadership and the
partnership they forged with this administration.
We were able to confirm the 10 major disaster declarations have been
issued, most recently to New Jersey, North Carolina, Florida, Texas, and
We spoke to them about the importance of the economic recovery legislation
that will come before the House of Representatives we believe tomorrow,
midday. And we`re grateful for their efforts in working for that unanimous
bipartisan vote in the United States Senate last night.
In addition to direct payments for American families, the average family of
four will receive a direct payment of some $3,400. They`ll also receive
payroll for the report. Many of the small businesses even those restaurants
that you just spoke about, will now be able to keep people on the payroll
for a period of months, even if the restaurant or the business is not open.
With the governor`s though we talked about the $150 billion in direct aid
to the states, $100 billion dollars in direct assistance to hospitals, and,
of course, the expansion of unemployment benefits, to make sure that our
states have the resources to meet the challenges that were so evident in
those unemployment numbers this morning.
On the subject of testing, pleased to report the testing is available in
all 50 states. And in partnership with commercial labs across America, this
morning, we received word that 552,000 tests have been performed and
completed all across the United States.
We want to thank the American Hospital Association and hospitals across the
country that are just now beginning to report in a fulsome way, the results
of those tests. And when the president signs the law tomorrow, we`ll
actually be required by law.
But as Dr. Birx and Dr. Fauci have explained many times at this podium,
it`s so important that any hospital or any lab that`s doing testing report
back to the CDC and famous that we have full visibility, and to provide the
president with the very best counsel.
Good news today on testing Abbott Laboratories submitted to the FDA today,
a request for approval of a point of care test. This would be the kind of
test where you could go to your doctor, and you could get the test done
there at your doctor and have the results in no more than 15 minutes.
Dr. Steve Hahn will be here tomorrow to talk about progress in evaluating
Abbott Laboratories` point of care tests.
Also, speaking of the FDA on the subject of swabs, the FDA did announce
earlier this week that testing symptomatic patients by swabbing from the
front of the nose is perfectly appropriate, and it`s already begun across
It allows for self-collection, and it also relieves the burden on health
care protection. It saves – it saves personal protective equipment from
being extended when people can administer a test themselves. And Dr. Birx
will speak about the importance and the availability of swabs.
With regard to supplies, you heard the president speak about what we have
already shipped out from the National Strategic Stockpile. More than 9
million N95 masks for healthcare workers, 20 million surgical masks, 6,000,
ventilators and millions of gloves, and gowns, and face shields.
In addition to that, we are working with a number of suppliers to
manufacture ventilators, even while we work with state leaders to assess
not just what ventilators are available in their state hospitals, but what
ventilators are available in private hospitals across their state, and
governors across the country are, are doing great work, evaluating the full
supply of tens of thousands of ventilators that are available.
Let me also say thank you to the American Society of Anesthesiologists and
Dr. Mary Peterson. The American Society of Anesthesiologists actually
produced a video. Tomorrow, they will host a webinar for healthcare workers
to demonstrate how the devices that anesthesiologists use can be very
easily converted into a ventilator that`s appropriate for a patient
struggling with respiratory ailment like the coronavirus.
And we`re very grateful, this actually adds tens of thousands of devices to
the supply. And we`re all truly grateful to Dr. Peterson and the whole
Association for their full cooperation.
With five of 10 counties in the country being the top, counties for
coronavirus being in the New York City metropolitan area. Let us reiterate
our recommendation that any resident of the Greater New York City area who
has traveled elsewhere in the United States, please check your temperature,
mind your health, and self-isolate for 14 days.
What we don`t want, again, with five of the top 10 counties for
coronavirus, being in the Greater New York City area. We don`t want anyone
and no one would want to inadvertently carry the coronavirus to a community
or to a family member inadvertently because they`ve come out of that
So again, as Dr. Fauci said recently, if you`ve come out of New York over
the last several weeks before the mitigation measures are put into effect
in particular, check your temperature, mind your health, and self0isolate
for 14 days.
It is inspiring as I prepare to introduce Dr. Birx to talk about the data
that we`re monitoring on a regular basis. And Dr. Faici to talk about
mitigation. Let me conclude by saying how inspiring it is to see the way
America and the American people are responding to this moment.
We all were awakened this morning with a record unemployment numbers. Not
unexpected during the time of national crisis that we are facing. But what
you may not know is that while there were some 3 million-plus new
unemployment claims, Walmart announced their hiring 150,000 new associates
through the end of May.
Amazon, a few weeks back, announced they`re hiring 100,000 additional
warehouse employees to meet a growing demand at Amazon for online
purchases. CVS Health is going to provide bonuses to their employees
working with patients and hire 50,000 workers.
And Pizza Hut, I`m told is planning to hire more than 30,000 permanent
employees. And that`s just a short summary of a list that totals almost a
half a million jobs that have been announced by businesses around America.
And it`s not just been about jobs, it`s been about generosity. Anheuser-
Busch is making a $5 million donation to the American Red Cross to support
first responders. Ohio hotels is offering doctors and nurses and first
responders free rooms at any of their 300 hotels all across America. And
the pharmaceutical company AbbVie is actually donating $25 million to the
International Medical Corps and to Feeding America.
American businesses are stepping up to partner with us to meet this moment,
but they`re being incredibly generous as well. To all of those that are
stepping in the lead and providing health care services, and of course, to
those most in need.
We can do this America but it will take all of us. As the president often
says we`re all in this together. But as millions of Americans do their part
with 15 days to slow the spread, putting into practice, the president`s
guidelines for combating the coronavirus and its spread.
We grow more confident every day that this too shall pass with the
cooperation and generosity and prayers of the American people. I just know
that we will slow the spread, we will protect our most vulnerable, and we
will heal our land.
And now for information on the latest on data, on what we`re seeing, Dr.
DR. DEBORAH BIRX, WHITE HOUSE CORONAVIRUS RESPONSE COORDINATOR: Thank you.
Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
So, just as a summary of where it looks domestically, I won`t talk so much
about the global issues at this time. We do have 19 out of our 50 states to
be reminded that had early cases, but have persistently low level of cases
and, at this point, have less than 200 cases.
So, that`s almost 40 percent of the country with extraordinarily low
numbers, and they are testing. Some of our governors had been very adamant
about their need for test kits. We have gotten them test kits when we had
Abbott add about a week ago to the test kits.
We`ve been able to open up additional test kits for states that want to do
surveillance and want to do contact tracing. These 19 states are doing
still active containment. They`re at 200 cases, despite the fact that
they`ve been measuring them over the last three to four weeks.
Still, though, 55 percent of all cases and 55 percent of all new cases
continue out of the New York at – New York metro area. That`s the New
Jersey part and New York part in particular. I haven`t added in Connecticut
or other counties at this point.
We are concerned about certain counties that look like they`re having a
more rapid increase. When you look at Wayne County in Michigan, and you
look at Cook County in Chicago.
So we have integrated all of our information to not only look at where the
cases are today, but how they`re moving. So, we can alert FEMA to where we
think the next potential hotspot is.
All of the counties that I`ve mentioned, the hotspots are in urban areas or
in the communities that serve that urban area. And I think that`s something
very important to remember as we move forward.
Because of the innovation within our private sector, we continue to have
these new platforms added for laboratory testing. And these become critical
platforms for states that have very low rates and very low rates needed to
Why is that important? Some of these machines have wells and plastic plates
that in order to be effective, you have to put on about almost 96 samples.
And others are made for four samples or 24 samples at a time.
So, what`s critical for us to be able to do is to match the need to the
county and state. And that`s the role that we can provide advice on,
because we get to see across the whole country, and where those items are
And so, this is allowing us to adapt and adopt really allocation of tests
or recommendations to state of what piece of equipment they may need.
Of the 550,000 tests, you can do the math, but we`re still running
somewhere about 14 percent overall. That means 86 percent of the people
with significant symptoms because remember, you had to have a fever and
symptoms to get tested at this point.
So, still, 86 percent are negative. These are really important facts for
the American people. I`m sure many of you saw the recent report out of the
U.K. about them adjusting completely their needs.
This is really quite important. If you remember that was the report that
said there would be 500,000 deaths in the U.K. and 2.2 million deaths in
the United States. They`ve adjusted that number in the U.K. to 20,000.
So, half a million to 20,000. We`re looking into this in great detail to
understand that adjustment. I`m going to say something that`s a little bit
complicated. But I`m going to try to do it in a way that we can all
understand it together.
In the model, either, you have to have a large group of people who are
asymptomatic, who`ve never presented for any test, in order to have the
kind of numbers that were predicted, to get to 60 million people infected,
or of 6 million people infected, you have to have a large group of
asymptomatic, because in no country to date, have we seen an attack rate
over one and 1,000.
So, either, we`re only measuring the tip of the iceberg of the symptomatic
cases and underneath it are a large group of people. So, we`re working very
hard to get that antibody test, because that`s a good way to figure out who
are all these people under here, and do they exist or we have the
transmission completely wrong.
So these are the things we`re looking at because the predictions of the
models don`t match the reality on the ground in either China, South Korea,
We are about five times the size of Italy. So, if we were Italy, and you
did all those divisions, Italy should have close to 400,000 deaths. They`re
not close to achieving that. So, these are the kinds of things we`re trying
to understand. Models are models. We`re adapting now to the real – there`s
enough data now of the real experience with the coronavirus on the ground
to really make these predictions much more sound.
So, when people start talking about 20 percent of a population getting
infected, it`s very scary. But we don`t have data that matches that based
on the experience. And then finally, the situation about ventilator, we are
reassured and meeting with our colleagues in New York that there are still
ICU beds remaining, and there`s still significant over 1,000 or 2,000
ventilators that have not been utilized yet.
Please, for the reassurance of people around the world to wake up this
morning and look at people talking about, creating DNR situations, do-not-
resuscitate situations for patients.
There is no situation in the United States right now that warrants that
kind of discussion. You can be thinking about it in a hospital. Certainly
many hospitals talk about this on a daily basis. But to say that to the
American people to make the implication that when they need a hospital bed,
it`s not going to be there, or when they need that ventilator, it`s not
going to be there. We don`t have any evidence of that right now.
And it`s our job collectively to assure the American people that – it`s
our collective job to make sure that doesn`t happen.
Right now, you can see the state – these cases are concentrated in highly
urban areas. There are other parts of the states that have lots of
ventilators, and other parts of New York state that don`t have any
infections right now.
So, we can be creative, we can meet the need by being responsive. But
there`s no model right now. I mean, no reality on the ground where we can
see that 60 to 70 percent of Americans are going to get infected in the
next eight to 12 weeks. I just want to be clear about that.
So we`re adapting to the reality on the ground, we`re looking at the models
of how they can inform. But we also are learning very clearly from South
Korea and from Italy and from Spain, just to find out, because I know many
of you will look up my numbers.
The only people who are over really, one in 1,000 cases are people that
have very small populations, like Monaco and Liechtenstein. So, you will
see a different number coming from when your population is really tiny. One
case can put you over one to 1000, or two to 1,000. Thank you.
PENCE: Good, we`ll do questions and more. Dr. Fauci.
DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, DIRECTOR, NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF ALLERGY AND INFECTIOUS
DISEASES: Thank you, Mr. Vice President. I`m going to change the topic just
a little bit because there was a questions that came up, and I`ve been
asked about this on a couple of media interactions regarding the
interventions that we`re talking about.
And it`s important because it`s about something that I said yesterday,
about what we would likely see, whenever you put the clamps down and shut
things down, you do it for two reasons. You do it to prevent the further
spread is be call mitigation. But you also do it to buy yourself time to
get better prepared for it might be a rebound. It may be a rebound that we
get things really under control, and then you pull back which ultimately,
we`re going to have to do, everybody in the world is going to have to do
that. You either going to get a rebound, or it might cycle into the next
So, what are we going to do to prepare ourselves for that? One of the most
important things is one that I mentioned several times from this podium,
and that is to clarify a bit about the timeline for vaccines, and would
that have any real impact on what we would call the rebound, or what we
will call a cycling in the season?
Certainly, for sure, a vaccine is not going to help us now, and next month,
the month after. But as I mentioned to you, we went into a phase one trial,
and I keep referring to one vaccine, there`s more than one.
There`s a couple of handfuls of vaccines at different stages of
development. But they`re all following the same course. And the course is
your first go into a phase one trial to see if it`s safe. And you have very
few people, 45 people within a certain age group, all healthy, none at
really any great risk of getting infected.
And the reason you do that because you want to make sure that it`s safe.
And the next thing you do and that takes about three months, easily, maybe
more. So that`s going to bring us into the beginning of middle of the
Then, you go to a phase two trial or what we say two, three, which means
we`re going to put a lot of people in there. Now we hope that there aren`t
a lot of people getting infected. But it is likely there will be somewhere
in the world where that`s going on.
So, it`s likely that we will get what`s called an efficacy signal. And we
will know whether or not it actually works. If, in fact, it does, we hope
to rush it to be able to have some impact on recycling in the next season.
And like I said, that could be a year to a year and a half, I`m not
changing any of the dates that I mentioned. But one of the things that we
are going to do that you need to understand that has been a stumbling block
for previous development of vaccines, and that is, even before you know
something works, at risk, you have to start producing it. Because once you
know it works, you can say great, it works.
Now, give me another six months to produce it. So, we`re working with a
variety of companies to take that risk. We didn`t take it with Zika, that`s
why, you know, we have a nice Zika vaccine but we don`t have enough to do
it because there`s no Zika around. Same with SARS.
So, that`s one of the things we`re really going to push on, is to be able
to have it ready, if, in fact, it works. Now, the issue of safety is
something that I want to make sure the American public understand. It`s not
only safety, when you inject somebody and they get maybe an idiosyncratic
reaction, they get a little allergic reaction, they get pain.
There`s safety associated, does the vaccine make you worse? And there are
diseases in which you vaccinate someone, they get infected with what you`re
trying to protect them with, and you actually enhance the infection. You
can get a good feel for that in animal models. So, that`s going to be
interspersed at the same time that we`re testing. We`re going to try and
make sure we don`t have enhancement.
So the worst possible thing you could do is vaccinate somebody to prevent
infection and actually make them worse.
Next, and finally, with regard – I`ll get you to your question. Finally,
with regard to therapies, I mean, we keep getting asked about therapies,
there`s a whole menu of therapies that are going into a clinical trial.
As I`ve told you all and I repeat it again, the best way to get the best
drug as quickly as possible is to do a randomized control trial. So that
you know, is it safe, and it`s effective. If it`s not effective, get it off
the board and go to the next thing. If it is effective, get it out to the
people that need it.
So, you`re going to be hearing over the next month or more about different
drugs that are going to go into these randomized controlled trials. And I
feel confident knowing about what this virus is and what we can do with it,
that we will have some sort of therapy that give at least a partial, if
not, a very good protection in preventing progression of disease. And we`ll
be back here talking about that a lot. I`m sure. Thank you.
PENCE: Tony, do you want to take a question?
ROBERTS: If I can just imagine what you`re saying about this idea of risky
drug manufacturer, are you saying that, at some point, in the phase two
trials that if you`re seeing some form of efficacy, that you may try to
convince a laboratory to spool up production at that point, so there`s a
FAUCI: Even before – even before. When I go into phase two, I`m going to
find somebody that`s going to make it.
Well, partially, the federal government, I think, in some respects to de-
risk it, but also investments by the companies. A lot of companies are not
shy now about doing that. Usually, when you do that at risk, John, you got
to get some backup for them. And we`ve done that, we`ve put hundreds of
millions of dollars into companies to try and make vaccines. I wouldn`t
hesitate to do that for a moment now.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: On the county issue, start by having low risk, medium
risk, and high-risk counties. Yes, for Dr. Birx. But there`s no domestic
travel restrictions. What prevents somebody from a high-risk county going
into a low-risk county? (INAUDIBLE) creating a patchwork system, allowing
more cases to sub to the cracks and the virus spread into other areas of
BIRX: I think this is a very important concept, and it`s why we`ve really
worked on messaging to the American people about these 15 days to stop the
spread. Because part of this will be the need to have highly responsible
behavior between counties.
And I think the American people can understand that. That they will
understand where the virus is because we`ll have the testing data and where
it isn`t. And make sure that they`re taking appropriate precautions as they
move in and out of spaces.
I think this will be critical for our future as we work together to really
understand where the virus is and where it isn`t in real-time.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Dr. Birx – Dr. Birx, can I just follow up on sort of
your modeling? Every time as Neil Ferguson study out of Imperial how the
model is change. You, last week, said – I was on Monday that you talked
about a serology test something promising coming out of Singapore. Where
are we on a serology tests the president said very quickly?
And then, is that what you need to do some sort of community survey so you
can get to some of this X and Zs, so you can figure this all out?
BIRX: So, we`re talking to CDC right now, they are extraordinary in
outbreaks and contact tracing. So, they are going to be the workforce
behind any new strategy that looks at Counties that need to completely move
into containment and surveillance and contact tracing. But part of what
they`re looking at now is where are the antibody assays? To be clear, there
is antibody assays available right now, but they are by ALISSA. And what we
are trying to do is not just do ALISSAs, because they can use that now, but
to be able to have point of care rapid diagnostics like we have with HIV,
where you just get a drop of blood, you put it on a little cassette, and it
tells you if you are positive or negative. So that`s what companies are
working on. Remember, that`s the IGG to measure. Remember, that`s not going
to be helpful in diagnosis. That`s going to helpful for to know how many
asymptomatic cases there are, or were.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How close are we to figuring out what the asymptomatic
rates that, because that seems to be the big question here.
BIRX: It is a big question. It is a very big question. And so we have
people, the FDA is working on that around-the-clock. They do have
applications that are coming in. We put out a call for applications. I have
been talking about it from this podium. If you have an IGG assay rapid
test, not an ALISSA, you could do the ALISSA because the origin SARA
antigens react very well the current COVID-19 antibodies that people have.
But we are really working on that both that we could have therapeutics that
could be plasma derived. So thank you, yes, we`re very much focused on
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: How soon will you be able to classify these counties,
because there`s a lot of testing that has not been done?
BIRX: There are states, and I just want to really recognize state and local
health officials that behind all of this have continued to test and have
continued to do surveillance. So we do have states that have been doing
surveillance all along, who have been doing contact tracing all along. It
never gets reported because it`s not that exciting that they`ve identified
10 cases. But there are states doing that and have been doing it throughout
this entire outbreak. And that`s why we have some confidence that the
testing has been going on.
We have to expand testing for surveillance. But this is that – we talked
about a little bit yesterday, the flu platform. So the flu platform is
driven off of emergency rooms and hospitals reporting flu-like illness to
their state and local government. That then would trigger the individuals
to get tested. So we have a platform that states and local governments are
completely used to. They are not used to do it this late in the season.
They`ll do it usually through the end of March, but flu usually tails off a
lot by April. So we are asking them to continue the activation of screening
for flu-like illness. That doesn`t get to his question about where`s the
asymptomatics and how much of that. That helps us find cases and contact
trace on systematic cases.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: – different guidance for the places, the counties that
don`t have data yet, so will there be different CDC guidelines?
BIRX: So these are very early days. What we are trying to do is to utilize
a laser-focused approach rather than a generic horizontal approach. And I
think in the 21st century we should be able to get to that. Why I am
confident that we can do that? Because we do that in sub-Saharan Africa
right now for HIV. That`s how we are stopping the epidemic there. So we
have done it. We have done it in resource limited settings. So I do believe
we can transpose that approach here to the United States and be able to
have – we have data down to a GPS coordinate of a site of a clinic and
hospital. We think that same thing can be done in the United States.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Dr. Birx, quick question, when you suggest
restrictions to states for something like that, like if there is a high
risk county and the restaurant is open in a low risk county, wouldn`t your
fear be that people in that high risk county go over to the restaurant –
BIRX: These are dialogs that the federal government has to have with state
and local officials, because the state and local governments make those
decisions, and that`s what`s been inspirational to me is seeing how much
the governors understand where they are in their epidemic and what they
will need to do in the future. This is what we are trying to tailor. It
requires us to have very clear data disaggregation at the county and state
But I think you have been hearing from us, these outbreaks and clusters, we
have been able to very well define to date. The one that was in King
County, the one that is now in New York City, the one in New Orleans, the
one in Wayne County. And we can see that spread throughout the region and
the closely related counties. So this is what we are talking about, how to
do surveillance, how to do contact tracing, and how to do each of these
items to make sure that you prevent that spread.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What is your timeline, do you think? What is your
timeline for implementing guidance like this?
BIRX: Well, we have to get all of our data together. We owe it to the
president. And we owe it to the president to be able to make that decision.
So that`s what we are working on right now is getting that granularity.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: All right, guys, last question.
PENCE: I`ll go to John for a second. I can speak to that. The president
sent a letter to all of the governors today indicating that, as every
American recognizes, the importance of 15 days to slow the spread, that we
are approaching day 15. And what the president told the governors, that we
are going to listen to the very best health experts in the world. We`re
going to examine that data very carefully, and we`ll be presenting this
weekend, the president, a range of recommendations and additional guidance
for going forward. The president has made it clear that, in his words, he
wants to open the country up. But we`re going to do that responsibly. And
as the president told the governors today, we will do that based on the
John, last one.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Mr. Vice President.
PENCE: I`ll go to John.
ROBERTS: Unless there is a last-minute glitch, we should probably see phase
three pass the House tomorrow. Already there are many members who are
talking about the need for a phase four. Do you see the need for a phase
four? And if so, what do you think should be addressed in it?
PENCE: Well, first let me just say, again, how grateful the president and
I, and I know governors across the country are for the extraordinary
bipartisan work that has been done on Capitol Hill, not just in the bill
that will take up by the House of Representatives tomorrow, but in
legislation last week that extended paid family leave, free coronavirus
testing to every American, made sure that all the agencies at every level
of the federal government have the resources to meet this moment. It`s
really been a very inspiring time.
But what the president has made clear to our governors, we`re going to do
whatever it takes. And already, we are hearing from some governors about
the need for additional resources. And we will evaluate those very
carefully. And I think the secretary of the treasure has already indicated
and Congressional leadership has already indicated a willingness to remain
open to that.
The American people, the American people know we are all in this together.
And the unity that you see on Capitol Hill, the unity that this president
has marshalled among governors all across this country in our states and
territories will continue to drive forwards. We`re going to make sure the
people on the front lines, our healthcare workers, and the people that are
serving them, make sure our state governments, make sure every agency of
the federal government have everything we need to put the health of America
We`ll see you back here tomorrow. Thank you, all.
CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST: And a briefing that lasted a little over an hour,
essentially two briefings.
We heard from the president, and, in some ways, serving as his own press
secretary, doing a little spinning, not a lot of information necessarily
from him, though he did say he wanted to go to, I think it would be in
Norfolk, that he would be able to say hello or goodbye, kiss goodbye the
But where we did get a bunch of information is essentially in the actual
briefing that began with the vice president. I think the biggest thing we
learned from Dr. Birx is that there is a rapid increase in Detroit and
Chicago, Wayne County, Cook County, that they`re starting to see a spike at
the same time.
She was talking up some positive aspects of these various models and
starting to question some of the various models out there.
And that`s where I want to begin our discussion.
I`m joined here by Andrea Mitchell, my wonderful colleague here at NBC
News, our NBC News medical correspondent Dr. John Torres, and Dr. Megan
Ranney, an emergency physician in Rhode Island, where there are currently
So, Dr. Torres and Dr. Ranney, I want to get to the both of you.
Dr. Torres, let me start with you.
You heard Dr. Birx.
You start to talk about the model that essentially inspired the president
to finally act when he acted about 10 days ago, and now some questions
about that model. What did you hear from her that indicated – it does
sound as if she thinks things are slightly better than the picture they
thought they were going to be facing right now.
DR. JOHN TORRES, NBC NEWS MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: And, Chuck, that`s the
main thing I heard from her, that she was saying that the numbers don`t
look nearly as bad as we thought they were going to look even a week ago.
And part of that is the modeling they actually use. And she`s talked about
this in the past, how complicated that modeling system is. And the way it
works the best is, the more numbers you get, the more information you are
going to get, and the better, more accurate that model is.
And so we`re getting more of those numbers. The one thing she kept talking
about were the asymptomatic patients, trying to find the ones that didn`t
have any symptoms, which is really hard.
TORRES: And that`s why she talked about coming out with these new tests
that they can use for surveillance. And that`s one of the bigger issues
she`s looking at right now.
TODD: The issue with the asymptomatic, Dr. Torres, what is – how
important do you believe it is, if we`re going to at all institute this
county idea – but, for what it`s worth, Dr. Birx, I think her – her
avoidance of talking about that, that idea tells me what she thinks of it.
However, how do you even approach that low-, medium-, high-risk county
business, without basically being able to test the country?
TORRES: And exactly right. You can`t do that, because you don`t know.
The vast number – and we have talked about this – 80 percent of people
have mild to moderate symptoms. A large percentage of those are going to
have no symptoms at all, and we have known that from China and other areas.
So if you can`t tell who actually has it, meaning the vast majority, you
can`t even tell from just watching them, then you don`t know which counties
are at higher risk, medium risk or low risk.
And there`s that travel issue going between counties that they kept talking
about, including New York City and the metro area, where they`re saying, if
you go somewhere else, you need 14 days of quarantine, you want to really
keep an eye on yourself, take your temperature.
TORRES: And the question was, what about other counties that are high? And
she said, you know, we`re not there yet. And I think that`s where they`re
trying to get there. But they need that one test they`re talking about to
TODD: Dr. Ranney, I`m curious what your reaction was to Dr. Birx. She
really was pushing – it was clear she was pushing back on that
extraordinary story in “The New York Times,” sort of the first firsthand
account of what it`s like dealing with this situation that they`re dealing
And she talked about the do-not-resuscitate orders, and she just thought
that – she seemed to indicate that some of these medical professionals
were over-talking, that they were over-panicking.
What did you make of that – of that comment by Dr. Birx?
DR. MEGAN RANNEY, RHODE ISLAND HOSPITAL: I can`t speak for every hospital
in New York City.
But I can tell you that, anecdotally, what I am hearing from physicians on
the ground in New York, in emergency departments and intensive care units,
is that they are completely overwhelmed with patients.
We can`t say exactly what`s going to happen here in the U.S. We can predict
off of what`s happened in Italy. But I will say that what I`m hearing on
the ground is different from the story that she presented.
TODD: When you heard her talk about the issue of ventilators, for
instance, it seemed as if – I mean, it`s sort of two different
We hear from folks on the ground in New York how dire the situation is. We
hear from the vice president and Dr. Birx, there`s still plenty of
ventilators in New York. There`s other parts of New York that aren`t
And we know how to retrofit some of these, what anes – anesthesiologists
use – excuse me – to retrofit some of these things to make ventilators.
So that was another disconnect from what we`re hearing on the ground and
what we`re hearing from them.
RANNEY: So, retrofitting ventilators is certainly something we could do in
a crisis situation, but it is not recommended.
I have colleagues across the state of New York, including in my hometown of
Buffalo, who I know are getting hit by COVID-19. I would have – obviously
not fact-checked her numbers yet, having just heard her a few minutes ago,
but would love to go back to my colleagues in emergency departments and
hospitals in New York to see whether or not – the degree to which their
statistics match what she just reported, because it`s not the story I`m
TODD: I will make a small prediction. I have a feeling “The New York
Times” is going to be filled with this back and forth, what is on the
ground and what we heard from there.
I think that`s a given.
Let me go to Andrea Mitchell and Hans Nichols.
Andrea, on the political side of things, again, I just – I`m struck by the
fact that we basically experience two briefings every day, the president`s
take on his personal political status in any given moment, pushing back on
the governor`s call, but not really giving us that many details.
And then there`s the briefing that the vice president begins.
ANDREA MITCHELL, NBC CHIEF FOREIGN AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
TODD: And, yes, he might – some people might say he`s trying to sound too
optimistic, but it is – does feel as if they try to lead with information.
MITCHELL: Well, the one thing about the vice president`s briefing, he said
– one of the last things he said about the county-to-county proposal that
had been made to the governors in a letter – and we saw excerpts from the
letter that the White House put out – and he said that they were going to
do it based on the best data and do it responsibly and present a proposal
to the president as the 15 days draws to a close this weekend.
And just talked about our area and the tri-state area in New York. I might
drive five miles from here and go to a doctor, and I am in another state. I
am in – I`m going to another county.
TODD: Sure. You could cross two state lines, if you could, yes.
And so people in these areas are commuting to work and going to essential
locations, even though we`re distancing and staying at home. And how does
that – how does that work? How do you check between New York City and
Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey?
By the way, to the other point, even Governor Cuomo was challenged today –
or was challenging “The New York Post” front page about that particular
hospital, saying that they had checked with that hospital. His health
deputy was suggesting that.
What we are hearing from the front lines – I got a text yesterday from a
doctor I know in a suburban New York hospital who`s been there 20 years,
giving me chapter and verse of the shortages of supplies that they have
there, and not wanting his name attached or his hospital, out of fear of
for the administrators of that hospital saying something otherwise.
TODD: For what it`s worth, the doctor that we had on today from Teaneck,
New Jersey, he had information from other hospitals, the same thing.
MITCHELL: I watched that. That was – exactly.
TODD: He was trying to again – so, there really seems to be some issue
He was saying there`s a whistle-blower protection problem, certainly
something that we got to continue to dig into.
Hans Nichols, let me close it out with you here.
The disconnect between the president and the governor, I feel like that gap
is growing. The president confirmed the AP reporting about this back and
forth between the Washington governor, Jay Inslee, who was telling, you
can`t be the backup quarterback, Mr. President. You got to be Tom Brady.
And the president, while trying to attack the report, confirmed it.
There is a huge disconnect between what the federal government believes it
should be doing and what governors believe they should be doing.
HANS NICHOLS, NBC NEWS CORRESPONDENT: So, on the president confirming
report, it seemed to me that the president didn`t think being not called
Tom Brady wasn`t an insult.
So, I was a little bit confused on whether or not he was talking directly
about Jay Inslee. He said it was the wise guy. There was one wise guy. But
he didn`t name him specifically, call him out by name.
NICHOLS: You talk about the two press conferences, Chuck. And if you meld
the two together, you can kind of see the direction that the White House
and the president wants to go, president very positive, very optimistic
about the testing they`re doing.
He also says, we have got to get back to work. You transpose that to what
Dr. Fauci was saying and Dr. Birx is saying, and this gets at this question
on the rate of what – how many asymptomatics we have out there and the
rate of transfer.
And Dr. Birx talked about this idea of an iceberg, and that we may only be
looking at the top – at the very tip of that iceberg, and that many more
people in the population could be infected.
That`s the only way I can square it to get to a point where they think they
can do this at a county level, at a certain state level, because they think
that a fair amount of the population that has COVID-19, but hasn`t been
tested and isn`t presenting any symptoms, because they`re seeing some noise
in the data.
When they look at the death rate, which they say is about, the mortality,
one in 1,000, and the transfer rate, it doesn`t make sense to them. And
that`s why they`re seizing on these revised modelings out of Imperial
College – guys.
TODD: Yes, that`s for sure.
Hans Nichols, Andrea Mitchell, Dr. Ranney, Dr. Torres, I really appreciate
your help breaking us – breaking all of that down.
My biggest takeaway is, it`s pretty clear that the entire task force, or at
least the scientific team, isn`t ready to endorse that county proposal.
That, to me, was crystal clear from there.
MSNBC`s breaking news coverage continues right now with my pal Ari Melber.
Good evening, Ari.
ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST: Good evening, sir.
Been listening to your coverage and your experts. Thank you so much.
We will continue it right here.
And I want to bring in Dr. William Schaffner, professor at Vanderbilt, and,
we should note, an adviser to the CDC.
What, in your view, is the most important thing that Americans need to
DR. WILLIAM SCHAFFNER, DEPARTMENT OF PREVENTIVE MEDICINE CHAIRMAN,
VANDERBILT UNIVERSITY: Ari, I think we need to understand that we still
don`t have our arms around defining this outbreak as it exists across the
We obviously have some hot spots, some warm spots, and other spots that are
warming up. But we haven`t defined that very well across the country. And
the virus doesn`t know the calendar.
It`s going to tell us what we need to do. And it certainly sounds as though
a two-week stay-at-home policy is not going to be long enough to suppress
the curve sufficiently.
MELBER: You refer to the calendar, Doctor.
We are dealing with a day where we have these terrible numbers, over 1,100
death toll in the United States. And we also have the other toll from the
reaction and the precaution of the virus, the highest unemployment figures
ever recorded by the Labor Department in American history.
When you mentioned the calendar, I want to play for you Jerome Powell, the
Fed chair, talking about his view of what the economy should do, that we,
the United States economy, should follow doctors like yourself, follow that
calendar. Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN: We would tend to listen to the
Dr. Fauci said something like the virus is going to set the timetable. And
that sounds right to me. First order of business will be to get the spread
of the virus under control and then resume economic activity.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: I want to give you a chance, as a doctor, to address the country,
We have a lot of viewers, I`m sure, who either are experiencing the
economic problems or know people are in their families, their friends, when
you look at these historic layoffs.
What do you say to them about why we need to, as a nation, go through this
economic pain, even if, as you said it takes more than weeks?
SCHAFFNER: This is an agonizing decision, trying to balance these things.
But if we pull back too quickly on our control measures, we will get a
resurgence of the virus, and we will get yet more spread throughout the
We need to deal with the virus, and then ask the Congress to deal with the
economic aspects. There`s no doubt that the virus is going to do what it`s
going to do. It doesn`t have a passport. It doesn`t know county and state
lines. It`s going to continue to spread until it runs out.
And so we need to do everything we can to dampen that spread, so we can
manage the illnesses that happen on the medical side.
Doctor, stay with me. I mentioned the unemployment figures courtesy of the
We are now joined by a former labor secretary of the United States under
President Clinton, Robert Reich.
Robert, I want you to weigh in on the same conversation the doctor
mentioned, that this pain has to be dealt with. Your view on that and on
what`s coming out of the Congress here in the gigantic $2 trillion program.
ROBERT REICH, FORMER U.S. LABOR SECRETARY: Ari, we are accustomed in this
country to talk about economic downturns as if the economy is the number
Right now, the economy has got to take second fiddle, second place to
getting through this pandemic and saving lives. This is a health and safety
issue. This is not about jobs.
We ought to – and we are big enough. I mean, this is a $21 trillion
economy when it is going full blast. We can afford and should be able to
afford to help all of our people get through this with enough income and
enough support and medical assistance.
There is simply no excuse for putting the economy before people`s health
and people safety.
And both of you take a listen to a moment we wanted to play that was
important from Dr. Birx discussing the history of this and what we can
learn from it.
Take a listen.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BIRX: Finally, why this is so important, it`s very important to me
personally, because my grandmother for 88 years lived with the fact that
she was the one, at age 11, who brought home flu to her mother named Leah,
for which I have named, when her mother had just delivered.
And her mother succumbed to the great 1918 flu.
She never forgot that she was the child that was in school that innocently
brought that flu home.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MELBER: Doctor, what does everyone listening tonight need to do to
continue to prevent the risk that they might be that kind of silent carrier
that does something, as she put it, seemingly innocently, and it sets off a
chain of events that kills people?
SCHAFFNER: Ari, we knew – we need to do things for ourselves and for
others. It`s not just me, but it is we.
We need to keep washing our hands. We need to restrict our contact with
other people. That`s the way we can diminish the spread of this virus in
And we need to keep doing that in a very rigorous fashion.
MELBER: Well put, and clearly so.
Robert Reich, because we are trying to track more than one story here, can
you just teach us – as I mentioned, you`re a professor, in addition to a
former government official. Can you teach us what it means that we have
these record-breaking unemployment numbers?
What does that tell us about what happened last week and what we need to
get ready for?
REICH: Well, essentially, what it tells us, Ari, is that the economy is
shutting down, and that is appropriate. We want the economy to shut down in
order to preserve lives and make sure that people are healthy and safe.
Now, there are going to be some ancillary downsides, obviously, to the
economy shutting down, this is not like the Great Depression. This is not
like the Great Recession of 2008-2009.
This is an intentional shutdown. And that`s why it is vitally important
that we not use the old metaphors, like stimulating the economy or getting
jobs back. This is not anything like that.
We have got to think about what the public health people are telling us and
try to do as much of what they are saying as is humanly possible, because,
as the doctors are saying, all of them, we are all in this together.
What happens to me, what happens to you is very much dependent on how
healthy the people around us are.
MELBER: Well, you just made such an important point. If the lights go out,
or you turn the lights off, either way, you`re in the dark, and you have to
live with that.
But there`s a big difference in how you deal with the solution. And, as you
just said, and the doctor, I think, referred to it, the fact that many
leaves are intentionally turning the lights on the economy out to stave off
what could be even worse is important for all of us to keep in mind, even
as there`s so much pain in the country.
I want to thank both of you for being part of our breaking coverage. We
have obviously had a lot of breaking news that we have been juggling. So
thanks to both of you for joining us and your patience.
I want to tell you, I am in with you, if you`re watching MSNBC, for the
next hour ahead. We have experts. We have a very special breakdown of Q&A
of what you need to know to keep your family safe.
And, later, some – a little bit of uplift. I will be joined by deejay D-
Nice. You may have seen his online parties with Michelle Obama and others,
Oprah, Stevie Wonder, a lot of people coming together in what they call
We have that story with the deejay and a whole lot more when we`re back
right after this quick break.
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