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US coronavirus TRANSCRIPT: 3/26/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: William Schaffner, Megan Ranney

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  badly.

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.  President?

TRUMP: Go ahead, Steve.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: From President Xi tonight, what do you want to talk to  him about?

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.


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  three days.

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  also.

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.



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  next week?

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,  please.

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  Illinois.

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  the country.

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  community.

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.  Deborah Birx.


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  test.

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  needed most.

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,  or Italy.

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  season.

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  summer.

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  reason -- 


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  the country.

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  that.

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  level. 

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  data. 

John, last one. 


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  first. 

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  USS Comfort. 

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  132 cases. 

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. 

TODD:  Right. 

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. 

TODD:  Right. 

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  do that. 

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  with. 

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  conversations.

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  touched.

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  hearing. 

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.


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.

MITCHELL:  Exactly.

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  here. 

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. 

TODD:  Yes. 

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  understand tonight? 

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  country. 

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. 


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN:  We would tend to listen to the  experts.

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. 


MELBER:  I want to give you a chance, as a doctor, to address the country,  really.

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  country. 

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. 

MELBER:  Understood.

Doctor, stay with me. I mentioned the unemployment figures courtesy of the  Labor Department. 

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  one concern. 

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. 

MELBER:  Understood.

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. 


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. 


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  our community. 

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  Club Quarantine.

We have that story with the deejay and a whole lot more when we`re back  right after this quick break.