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Trump WH briefing TRANSCRIPT: 4/9/20, The Beat w/ Ari Melber

Guests: Peter Hotez

CHUCK TODD, MSNBC HOST:  Thank you for being with us this hour.

MSNBC`s breaking news coverage continues now with my colleague Ari Melber.

Good evening, Ari.

ARI MELBER, MSNBC HOST:  Good evening, Chuck.

And I believe I`m going to be able to get the benefit of some of your analysis once you get situated in a few minutes. So I will see you shortly, sir.

TODD:  You are correct, yes. Let me go do my dialing.

MELBER:  There we go, dialing, a little tech talk.

You`re looking right here at a scene that we have come to expect, a grim part of life in this pandemic, 6:00 p.m. On the East Coast, and you see some reporters queuing up for the White House press briefing.

What I can tell you is, we`re waiting on it, and we will bring you factual parts of it, including some of the president and the experts, when it comes. But it`s not coming just yet.

So we do have an edition of THE BEAT lined up for you tonight.

I am Ari Melber anchoring.

And here is the context right now; 6.6 million more people filed for unemployment in America today. If you`re counting -- and many of us are, many people living through this aspect of the adversity of this pandemic -- the three-week total is now 17 million people. The unemployment rate has shot up to 13 percent.

We are now officially living through the worst economic times, as measured, since the Great Depression. Meanwhile, the United States Senate has failed to reach a deal to approve a new type of coronavirus relief bill. Leaders McConnell and Schumer accusing each other of basically making this political, as the recess plays out and there is preparation to try to deal with the overhang in the economic problems.

We also have an update on the nature of the coronavirus around the country, including the problems in New York, which remains the epicenter.

But I want to bring in, as we so often do, the experts first.

We have Dr. Peter Hotez here. He helped develop a vaccine to protect against SARS. I`m also joined by Eugene Robinson, Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist for "The Washington Post."

Good day to both of you, although, again, another tough day.

We want to conquer some of the economic indicators and the health indicators with both of you.

Doctor, let`s begin with where we`re at in the United States. The New York death toll worse today than other day, while the hospitalization rate slows. What does that mean for trying to understand where we`re headed?

DR. PETER HOTEZ, BAYLOR COLLEGE OF MEDICINE:  Well, I think now we`re probably reaching crunch time, meaning the peak of the epidemic in the United States over the next few days, according to some of the models, including what we have been hearing about, the Institute for Health Metrics model at the University of Washington.

And the really troublesome number is, we may be at the point where COVID-19 is about to become or will shortly the leading cause of death in the United States.

And you mentioned New York is the epicenter, and that`s true. But we`re also seeing horrible situations unfolding in Detroit, in Chicago, in New Orleans.

So this is the peak period. It will be delayed in some other parts of the country, including here in Texas. We`re awaiting probably another week to 10 days before it peaks.

But this is going to be the toughest time for our nation right now.

MELBER:  Right.

Dr. Hotez, when you say this is going to be the leading cause of death, walk us through what that means, how that`s different.

HOTEZ:  Well, the -- historically, the leading cause of death has always been heart disease and cancer, and that roughly kills on a given day 1,600, 1,700 Americans.

And the number of deaths from COVID is now poised to exceed that, at least for the next potentially couple of weeks. Now, of course, a lot of those deaths are occurring in people with underlying heart disease and hypertension and diabetes. And we have seen that as a risk factor.

MELBER:  Sure.

HOTEZ:  And then the devastating news in the Southern part of our country especially is the high rates of diabetes and hypertension, renal disease among the African-American community and the Hispanic communities and the Native American community, which not many people are talking about.

But these are big risk factors, so that the deaths, I`m worried, will disproportionately occur among underrepresented minorities. And imagine what it`s like to practice social distancing in some of the crowded urban areas of these cities.

So they get -- these populations get it twice. One, they -- even though they`re told to do social distancing, sometimes, it`s impossible because of the crowded conditions they live in or households with  large numbers of individuals...

MELBER:  Yes.   

HOTEZ:  ... and then the underlying conditions. And this is something we have been seeing unfolding for the last few (AUDIO GAP) and it`s just so incredibly tragic.

MELBER:  You mentioned several things there I`d like to draw you out on.

One, the fact that the guidance may sound uniform, but it`s not always neutral, because distancing is harder if you are in, for example, dense Section 8 housing, where a lot of people live together and live throughout the building.

Number two, you mention the racial disparities. That`s something that Mayor de Blasio was speaking about today, that we have seen numbers now, new numbers, that Latinos and African-Americans are twice as likely to die from the virus than others.

And then, third, you`re talking about the overall way that this is, although everyone has been living through it and are probably pretty aware of it, this is now the largest cause of death. This is different fundamentally from where we were.

For your analysis, take a listen to Dr. Fauci today.


DR. ANTHONY FAUCI, NIAID DIRECTOR:  I believe we are going to see a downturn in that, and it looks more like the 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000.

But, having said that, we better be careful that we don`t say, OK, we`re doing so well, we can pull back. We still have to put our foot on the accelerator when it comes to the mitigation and the physical separation.


MELBER:  Where does that fit in, the idea that there is some progress, but, as you just walked us through, the negatives counsel a lot more caution?

HOTEZ:  Yes. So Dr. Fauci has been a mentor to me for 40 years, and he is a -- like he always is, he is absolutely right.

And now is not the time to take your foot off the gas pedal, because -- the way I think of it almost like the eye of a hurricane. You know that we`re reaching the worst part of this storm right now. We`re soon going to be through the eye of the hurricane. But guess what? We have a lot more to come in the next few weeks.

So, this is the big peak that we`re going to be seeing that will probably go on to the middle of May. And we can have a discussion. Therefore, do we let things up now towards the end of April, or do we keep pushing? That`s question one.

Then question two is, we have an increasing idea that this will not be the last we see of this virus. This virus may come back in several waves over the next two or three years. The 1918 flu pandemic, we call it 1918, but when Woodrow Wilson got very sick at the Treaty of Versailles, it was 1919, and that pandemic went until 1920.

So we saw a three-year pandemic. And it doesn`t mean we`re going to be living like this for the next three years. But it could mean potentially a waxing and waning course. And we`re going have to figure out, as a nation, how we manage that at multiple different levels.

MELBER:  Makes a lot of sense.

Gene Robinson, your views on basically all the above?

EUGENE ROBINSON, MSNBC POLITICAL ANALYST:  You know, the doctor is the expert.

This is -- look, you look at these daily death totals, and they`re just horrific. And I think first we have to think about, those numbers represent individual lives, people, yes, many older people who have preexisting conditions, but also individuals who are younger, every life a valuable life, every person loved by friends and family.

And this is -- this is going to be a time of mourning for this country, as we accumulate and then realize the toll that COVID-19 is taking here.

And one of the things I worry about, again, not an epidemiologist, but I look at the maps and the studies and the data, and you see little pockets in small-town and rural communities that are -- where the sort of per capita infection rate, as far as we know, is disturbingly high.

And I worry about a wave of COVID sweeping small-town and rural America in spotted places across the country after the wave in the urban areas dies down.

MELBER:  Sure.

ROBINSON:  And I wonder if we`re prepared for that.

And I worry that we`re kind of flying blind, that we haven`t done enough surveillance testing, enough testing at all to really know where we stand in terms of infection nationwide and, therefore, we don`t know where it`s coming next. And that worries me a lot.

MELBER:  All that makes a lot of sense, Gene.

I want to play for you just -- there are so many different pockets of reporting, and we want to hear from real people.

Here is a nurse just walking through, really overlapping with part of your concern, what we`re going through as an entire nation right now. Take a listen.


MAUREEN BIDDINGER-GRISIUS, NURSE, BEAUMONT HOSPITAL:  We think all the time not only about our patients that we have inside the walls of our hospital, but, you know, we have families. And our kids are home from school, and our neighbors are laid off work or our spouses or our parents.

We have had colleagues whose -- who have had family members or friends who have been taken away from them by this horrible disease. This hits home for us.


MELBER:  I mean, Gene, it`s part of where words escape us, because how do you even account for -- and yet this is the work of your newspaper, "The Post." It`s what we do every day when we try to keep -- how do we account for the nature of how many aspects of American life are so fundamentally changed and how many people, even those who may have -- quote, unquote -- "lucked out" by not getting the virus, but lost their job and are thinking about rent and all the other things that add to what we`re living through?

And we`re at the front end of it.

ROBINSON:  It`s so big, Ari. There is no one story you could write that could encompass it all.

And so, at "The Washington Post," of course, we come at it from 50, 100 different angles every day, literally, as does MSNBC, as do all the news organizations.

And yet there is -- I have the sense, and I think I`m right, that we`re really not capturing everything about it. There is an amazing story on our Web site now written by a young man who got COVID-19,who was doing fine, then became very ill, had difficulty breathing, had to be hospitalized, had to be put on a ventilator, came off the ventilator.

But he writes about the ramifications for him and for his health of that. He survived the ventilator, very, obviously, happy about that. But it took a physical toll on him.

MELBER:  Sure.

ROBINSON:  And he now -- he writes that, when he takes a shower, he can`t for the whole shower. He has to sit for part of it. He can`t walk around the block yet.

And, hopefully, he will regain some of -- you know, all of his -- these capabilities. But I think we haven`t yet paid a lot of attention to the kinds of experiences that survivors of COVID-19 are going through.

This is a very, very tough disease for a lot of people. For some people, it`s literally nothing at all.

And, for other people, this is a life-changing experience, even if they went through it.

MELBER:  Yes, definitely.

Stay with me.

My colleague Chuck Todd also rejoining our special coverage, as we keep an eye on Washington, the White House, the briefing.

Chuck, thanks for popping back in.

I wanted to turn with you to how Washington is trying to deal with this economic crash, this surge in unemployment.

Take a listen briefly to Jerome Powell today.


JEROME POWELL, FEDERAL RESERVE CHAIRMAN:  We need to have a plan nationally for reopening the economy. We all want it to happen as quickly as possible. We all want to avoid a false start, where we partially reopen, and that results in a spike in coronavirus cases, and then we have to go back again to go, to square one. We all want to avoid that.


MELBER:  And, Chuck, you, of course, covered the financial crash, which occurred during a presidential campaign.

It did shape that. In the long term, I think the Obama campaign saw it as something they benefited from, although they didn`t wish it on anyone.

Walk us through the fact that, even apart from the virus, if we were living through unemployment rates rivaling the Great Depression, that would be the biggest thing in the world alone right now.

TODD:  Right. It would be.

Look, Jay Powell seemed to hint -- and that`s an important point that he just made, which was interesting, when he said, we can`t have a false start, meaning you open up too soon and then you have to pull back.

What he is basically saying is the markets will panic if you do that. That could be worse for the economy if you do that.

What I`m curious about is whether Jay Powell`s view makes its way into the president`s advice -- circle of advisers there, because you do get the sense that the president is getting antsy. Some Republican allies of his on Capitol Hill are getting antsy. Some leaders of industry are getting antsy.

And that tension there, I think, is fraught with -- in some ways, Jay Powell is making a political warning, saying, a false start, a false opening here could be devastating.

And so, look, the fact of the matter is I am convinced -- and we don`t know what now to October is going to look like. But come October, this is going to be a very simple campaign. Who do you want to manage the recovery, team Biden or team Trump, right?

And Biden may call it team Obama-Biden or team Trump, whatever you want to look at it as.

I think, in that sense, it`s a very simple equation. The question is the actions that everybody takes that`s in power right now, from Congress to the presidency. What they do between now and October will shape what position they`re in come October, because, look, you can survive high unemployment rates and win election or reelection.

Ask President Obama, but only if you have won the argument that you`re the one best able to manage going forward. That`s the argument Obama won over Romney when he won in the face of mediocre economic numbers, because he won that argument. That`s what the argument is going to be come October.

MELBER:  Right.

And that makes a lot of sense. And you look at what`s happening in the Congress. On the one hand, you know, they have done more and spent more in a short time than we have seen for years. And there is obviously good reason for that.

It shows that, however broken the Congress is, it can still do big, bipartisan things with a proverbial gun to its head and the country. But now we`re seeing, of course, what looks like some sliding or at least some difficult on the road ahead.

Walk us through what you think is important there in today`s news, and what happens when they come back.

TODD:  Right.

Well, look, I don`t think it`s a good sign that the four leaders on Capitol Hill don`t at all seem to work together very well. It`s very difficult than what you saw after 9/11, when the four leaders, two on each side, were able to come to compromise agreements, were able to sort of function as an institution first and as partisan second.

Look, that`s not the case. And I can sit here and say it`s this person`s fault, that person`s fault. This is the environment we live in, where it seems as if you can`t get caught working with the other side. Sometimes, if you`re too -- if you somehow agree with somebody on the other side to do something, you might actually pay a bigger price with some parts of your political base.

So maybe that has an impact. But I will tell you, I think there is a penalty to be paid, Ari, if Congress dithers here a little bit, if they sit here.

I don`t think the public has any patience, other than the hard partisans on either side, has any patience for that congressional back and forth. And I think if either party is caught looking like they`re playing politics -- look at what`s happened to Kelly Loeffler down in Georgia.

And I single her out, not to pile on her political problems, but she is the senator that sold some stock. Look, it is amazing. She has -- her numbers have collapsed inside the Republican primary down there in Georgia.

That just shows you how lethal it is if even a whiff, if you`re playing a whiff of politics with this pandemic. And that`s why I`m surprised by today`s actions.

MELBER:  You put it really well, and you remind everyone, amidst all these other stories, you have these allegations that continue to could be sort of litigated, investigated about whether people were using information, public or not, to get a personal benefit.

And then -- stack that against what we have been reporting here all day, all month, the pain people are living through, and, as you say, zero tolerance for that, which makes sense among a lot of the evidence for voters.


MELBER:  Yes, sir.

TODD:  We haven`t even sent out the checks yet. Wait until people start -- if they don`t get their checks, wait until that heat comes at them.

MELBER:  Right, the checks that Congress and Steve Mnuchin said, hey, it`s coming. It`s going to be clear. You`re going get it.

Well, the proof of that, check`s in the mail, not something you want to be on the wrong side of, certainly.

Chuck Todd, thanks for sticking around extra today, as we await the briefing to begin.

TODD:  Thanks, Ari.

MELBER:  Appreciate you, sir.

We`re going to fit in a break here.

When we come back, we have something very special that we have been working on. It`s new reporting to show you exactly what`s happening out in the field.

Put the briefing inside, put the politicians aside -- new reporting to listen to what we`re learning from people on the front lines when we come back.


MELBER:  Health care and emergency workers are among the topics that may be discussed today.

You`re looking at a live shot of the White House, 6:22 p.m. Eastern.

As you know as a news viewer, this is far later than the briefing usually gets under way. And we`re seeing some of the folks step out. You see Dr. Fauci walking into the room, taking his place on the side.

We`re going to keep an eye on the briefing. The timing to begin has been pushed back.

I want to bring in some of our experts here, as we keep an eye on everything, including Dr. Hotez and Dr. Gupta.

I believe Chuck Todd also is with me, as we continue to await the start of the briefing, with a lot of folks here.

I want to start with Dr. Gupta and ask you point-blank, before the briefing begin, what`s important for people to keep in mind when they do listen to these government briefings, particularly as we have been getting new reports today about potential peaking and a high death toll in New York?

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  Thank you very much, everybody.

I`d like to begin by saying that we just completed a meeting with the secretary of Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, and secretary of transportation, Elaine Chao, on proposals regarding the airlines and the airline business.

And we`re very -- working very closely with a lot of different people. We will be probably putting out a proposal and giving them some of the details, some of the very powerful details, over the weekend.

It`s moving along quickly.

The airline business has been hit very hard, as everybody knows. And we are going to be in a position to do a lot to help them, so that they keep their employees and they save their businesses.

And that will be taking place, I think, you can say, over the weekend. We may even have discussions with some of the airlines, or all of the airlines, over the weekend.

And I think it`s going to be a very acceptable package. It`s a very big package, and a very acceptable package. It will be good for our country, good for the airlines, good for a lot of people.

Likewise, I just spoke with the president of Russia, Vladimir Putin, and the king of Saudi Arabia, King Salman. And we had a big talk as to oil production and OPEC, and making it so that our industry does well and the oil industry does better than it`s doing right now.

It`s -- the numbers are so low that there will be layoffs all over the world. There will certainly be layoffs in this country. And we don`t want that to happen. We have built a great, great energy business in the United States. So, we have tens of thousands of jobs.

We had a very good talk. We will see what happens. But, as you know, OPEC met today. And I would say they`re getting close to a deal. We will soon find out. So, that was a conversation we just had.

So, we had a busy hour-and-a-half.

And let me begin by expressing my sincere gratitude to the American people. Millions of Americans are making profound and difficult sacrifices in their own lives, because they know it will save the lives of countless others.

And that`s exactly what`s it doing. You see what`s happening and where we are, where we stand. And, hopefully, we`re going to be opening up. We can call it opening, very, very, very, very soon, I hope.

Together, our people are writing one of the most noble chapters in the proud history of our nation.

Americans are also encouraged to learn that Boris Johnson, prime minister, has been moved out of intensive care. That`s a tremendous statement. And we continue to pray for him and his fast recovery. That`s a very, very positive development.

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

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

And FEMA has been fantastic.

Our sweeping airlift operation to keep doctors and nurses supplied with protective equipment, Project Air Bridge, continues to expand, with more than 24 flights already completed and 49 additional flights now scheduled in the near future.

So that`s been very successful. And that gear and those outfits are being handed out. As they arrive, they`re going directly to point. The American medical system continues to perform beyond our highest expectations, reminding us that the United States is blessed with the most advanced health care and the most skilled health care workers anywhere on the planet.

Other countries are looking to what we`re doing. And our testing operation has now become far and way the most sophisticated and the best anywhere.

And we want to thank all of the heroes on the front lines, as they fight to save American lives. We`re at the top of the hill. Pretty sure we`re at top of the hill. And now we`re going downward. In some cases, we have already started that process.

Earlier today, I spoke with hundreds of mental health leaders and advocates from around the country to discuss the vital work and the vital work they`re doing. We had the top doctors in the country, some international doctors.

Mental health, a big factor. Not only has the virus inflicted immense physical suffering on many people, but also mental and emotional suffering as well. Even though we`re staying physically apart, no American is alone. And we`re all in this together.

But the mental health doctors and experts -- it was a very great call. It was a very interesting call. They`re working very hard.

We`re also seeing encouraging signs in our race to develop breakthrough treatments and therapies. Pfizer revealed today that it has found a promising new treatment that might prevent the virus from replicating, and that hopes -- it hopes to begin testing in clinical trials very soon.

It`s going to be very, very soon. They have great, great feelings for this particular therapy. And they think that a lot of good things are happening.

Through the FDA`s Coronavirus Treatment Acceleration Program, 19 therapies and treatments are now being tested, and 26 more are in the active planning or clinical trial.

So, we have 19 therapies being tested currently, and 26 more are in the active planning for clinical trials. That`s a big statement. That`s a lot.

Trials for Gilead`s antiviral drug Remdesivir continue, and the company has also expanded emergency use for new patients, getting good early results, by the way.

The companies that manufacture hydroxychloroquine are massively ramping up production. As you know, many people are recommending strongly that Z-Pak Z-Pak be added, the Z-Pak, and also zinc. And the federal government continues to build our stockpiles and distribute millions of doses for doctors to use as they see fit.

And I`m pleased to inform you, we are just having, a lot of good things are happening, but we will have to see how that all works out. But we`ve purchased and we have stockpiled millions and millions of doses, and we are distributing. Some states want it very badly. Michigan, we just sent a lot to Michigan, and other areas.

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

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

To provide for the economic relief, the Federal Reserve announced this morning that it will provide up to $2.3 trillion in support to businesses, states, and local governments, $600 billion in loans will be available for midsize businesses with up to 10,000 employees, and $500 billion will be available for states, counties with over 2 million residents, and cities with the population of over 1 million.

My administration is also working with Congress to replenish the very successful, incredibly successful the way it`s going, paycheck protection program, which is allowing hundreds of thousands of small businesses to keep their work as workers on the payroll, meaning it will keep those businesses open. We need both Democrats and Republicans to come together to get the legislation completed, and it looks like it`s on its way, but we need both. And it should be for people that are working, for the workers. And if you look and you see, we have a lot of people that are affected by that, and it`s a very positive development. So we have to get a bipartisan approval of that, and hopefully that will happen today.

The Department of Education is also announcing the availability of more than $6 billion in emergency grant funding to assist college students impacted by the cancellation of classes and the suspension of housing. A lot of people have a lot of things suspended. Housing is one of them. Previously we waived student loan payments for six months, so student loan payments have been waived for six months, and we will discuss it after that. It may go further.

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

And with that, before I invite our great vice president, our great vice president, and Gene Scalia to speak, we will take a few questions, and then I`m going back into negotiations on the oil in on airlines. Yes, please.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Can you talk a little bit about your conversation with President Putin.

TRUMP:  Yes. I had a very good conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Did you organize that call, and do they understand the problems they are causing with the oil -- 

TRUMP:  No. Yes, there`s a lot of -- there`s so much production nobody even knows what to do with it, that`s how it`s working. And Saudi Arabia, and as you know, Russia, it`s well known that we are producing a lot, and they were perhaps fighting with each other over the production and the amount of oil being produced. And frankly there`s not enough room to even store it. Our storage is now`s full, going to be very soon. Our strategic national storage is -- I said, this is a great time to fill it up, and load it up with oil that, frankly, is at pricing that nobody has ever seen before. I don`t think we`ve seen this probably since the 1950s. That was with big dollars.

So we will see what happens. The conversation was very good. they`re getting close to a deal, that`s OPEC and many other countries outside of OPEC, and we will see what happens.


TRUMP:  No, I think they we were getting along very well. We had a very good call. I think it was a very good call. We`re going to see what happens, but it was a very good call. They will probably announce something either today or tomorrow, one way or the other. It could be good, it could be not so good, but I think one where or the other.

Go ahead, Jim?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Yes, Mr. President, how can the administration discuss the possibility of reopening the country when the administration does not have an adequate nationwide testing system for this virus? Don`t you need a nationwide testing system for the virus before you reopen -- 

TRUMP:  We have a great testing system. We have the best, right now the best testing system in the world. But there are certain sections, there are certain sections in the country that are in phenomenal shape already. Other sections are coming online, other sections are going down. And we, in addition to that, are giving out millions of tests, and every day we are doing it exponentially, we`re picking up. And what we`ll be doing in the very near future is going to certain areas of our country and do massive testing. It`s not necessary, but it would be a good thing to have.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Don`t you need that, Mr. President, to make sure people are safe going back to work? You don`t want to send people back to the workplace --

TRUMP:  We want to have it, and we`re going to see if we have it. Do you need it? No. Is it a nice thing to do? Yes. We`re talking about 325 million people, and that`s not going to happen, as you can imagine, and it would never happen with anyone either. Other countries do it, but they do it in a limited form. We`ll probably be the leader of the pack.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Mr. President, what do you say to the 16 million Americans, more than 16 million Americans who have lost their jobs in the last weeks in fear that the economy won`t just bounce back, like you said?

TRUMP:  I think the economy is going to do very well. Now, that`s just my feeling. It`s a strong feeling. I`ve had good, proper feelings about a lot of things over the years, and I think we are going to do well. We`re doing very -- it looks like we`re at the lower end of the curve in terms of death, which is a terrible word, a terrible dark word that we`ve experienced like nobody has ever seen before in this country. We have numbers that are terrible.

But when you are looking at lower levels, lower prediction levels of 120,000 to 220,000, or if we did nothing, up 2.2 million people, we`re looking at a much lower level than the level of, I hope, than the level of 100,000. So we are going to see.

We`re going to have to -- you can never do anything about the people that lost their loved ones and lost their friends, the great friendships, and I`m not sure a lot of people will ever be the same. But I think our country from an economic standpoint, we`ll end up being stronger than ever. We have tremendous stimulus. We have tremendous stimulus plans. We have things in the works that are going to really, I think, fire the country. I think that what`s going to happen is we`re going to have a big bounce rather than a small bounce. But we will be back, and I think, honestly, I think our country is going to back from an economic standpoint, again, you can never replace the people that were lost. And to their families, certainly, you can never do a thing like that.

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


UNIDENTIFIED MALE:  Thank you, Mr. President. Oil is trending today at about $23 a barrel in New York. Where would you want to see the price? Would you want it at $30, $40, $50 a barrel?

TRUMP:  I want to see a certain market where there is a certain market, but I don`t want to see it where people have no idea. We`re opening up -- we`ll be opening up areas for storage of oil, massive areas for storage of oil, because oil today is not selling. And what happened is the virus knocked out 40 percent of the market. You know that, you know the number, 40 percent.

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

But we are storing millions of barrels of oil that nobody thought would even be possible. Frankly, ships turned out to be a good business for some people because they`re filling up tankers, sending them out to sea, and not saying we`re to go. They`re just sitting out there loaded up with oil. So we want to save our energy in this country. We want to make sure our energy companies, businesses, and employees, workers remain strong. So that`s how I`m involved. And I think that`s going to happen.

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

But I think the long-term benefit is to be able to just go with the market.

And it`s going to work out. It`s all going to work out. If you looked at three weeks ago, as you know, because we talked about it...

MELBER:  We have been listening to the White House coronavirus press briefing.

It was slightly delayed. The president came out. He came out with experts. Right now, he is speaking about oil.

And we are going to do a fact-check on some of the medical claims, and then we may dip back into the briefing, particularly if we hear from other government officials and medical experts.

I want to bring in Dr. Peter Hotez, who has been standing by, listening to this briefing. I also have Gene Robinson of "The Washington Post" with me.

Dr. Hotez, one of the medical claims that was made -- this is held out as daily briefing to deal with the coronavirus. Other related issues can come up. The president was just speaking about a call he was on with foreign heads of state.

But on the virus, the president just claimed the United States has the -- quote -- "best testing in the world."

Your response?

HOTEZ:  Well, yes and no.

You know, if, by best, he means you know, if by best he means the largest number of people tested, we`re probably getting there. Remember, we have the largest number of reported cases of COVID-19 in the world right now. We`re getting up to half-a-million people with COVID-19.

So that means we are doing a lot of testing. It`s certainly better than it was, under the leadership of Brett Giroir, who is assistant secretary of health and someone who I worked with for years in Texas and know him well.

So, things are certainly better. We also have a more -- a greater variety of tests coming from the various commercial firms, and now a rapid test. We`re developing an antibody test. So things are better.

Here is the problem. The problem is, it`s still not adequate to manage this epidemic, because, in places like Houston, where we are -- we`re still finding out about this epidemic when patients start showing up in the intensive care unit, which is not...


HOTEZ:  So, the numbers...

MELBER:  I think -- let me ask you this, sir.

What I want to get at, though, to be clear for viewers, is, there is the information provided, and then there is the claims made, where the president may be playing a more promotional role.

And so for people to understand, when you just simply look at the facts of all the countries in the world and those that had the earliest testing, the widest amount of testing, and testing in a way to try to slow the spread of the virus, would you say the United States is number one in that entire allotment, or not?

HOTEZ:  Well, you know, we clearly were not on top of this epidemic like Korea was, which geared up testing right away. And this has been well- reported, that the U.S. has had a lag.

So we are clearly improving, but we still have the situation where I said where we`re finding out about this epidemic in your city when patients start showing up in the intensive care unit. And that`s not satisfactory. That`s not when you want to first find out.

So, this is what we have seen play out in New Orleans and Detroit, and we`re starting to see a bit of that in Houston, especially in cities with large underserved populations, where it`s hard to do that testing in poor areas.

So we have got to figure out a new game plan. And, you know, I have been talking about what`s called syndromic surveillance, where we do these sentinel areas, where we find people having increased frequency of fever and shortness of breath and use that as a better telltale sign.

Here`s what`s going to happen. I think we eventually will get up to full speed as this epidemic starts to wane in the coming weeks, but then hopefully we will have it in place in time for if and when this virus returns over the next two or three years.

But that`s kind of the situation I think we`re going to see playing out.

MELBER:  Understood.

And thank you, Doctor. Stay with me.

Gene Robinson, I wanted to get your response as well.

This is one of those days where the president has taken the allotted virus briefing time, and he is doing other things with it, and he also was, of course, mentioning things that may matter to people, the conversations with the leaders of Russia and Saudi Arabia, oil negotiations.

But, again, it seems to be creeping away from giving the country a factual update on the briefing response -- on the virus response. Excuse me.


We really have learned very little so far about where we have -- where we have progressed on this epidemic from yesterday to today, which, theoretically, would be the point of these briefings.

I did note that the president is once again optimistically talking about when it`s time to reopen the country, and that`s going to be soon. And, of course, we want to have a date, but he keeps saying that it`s going to be soon.

And I -- you know, I think everybody wonders and worries about that. Of course, we would all like the country to be opened back up and everything to be safe. But everything has to be safe.

And, you know, there was the concern that we were talking about the -- before the briefing started, that would it indeed spook the markets if we opened up too soon, and then had a resurgence of the virus, and then had to close everything back down again?

One of the things I worry is, you know, I think the decision about when the country opens up is going to be made by the country, and not by the president, and it`s going to be made -- and not really by the governors.

It`s going to be made by individuals who have to decide when they feel safe going into crowds...

MELBER:  Right.

ROBINSON:  ... and what kind of crowds they feel safe going into.

And it is very difficult for me to imagine, you know, right now -- someday, it will be -- but going to a baseball game, going to an NBA game, gathering in any sort of big crowd, because, right now, you see a bunch of people, and you run the other way. That`s basically what you do.

MELBER:  Right.

Thanks to both of my experts.

We want to dip back into the briefing. The president seems to have taken a break from speaking.

The vice president, Pence, who is, of course, the leader of the Coronavirus Task Force, speaking.

Let`s listen to that part.

MIKE PENCE, VICE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES:  And, as President Trump just said, our hearts go out to the families that have lost loved ones.

And I want to assure you that all of us working at every level understand these are not numbers. These are lives. And our heartfelt condolences during this heartbreaking week go out to every American family that has lost a loved one to the coronavirus.

It has been a difficult week. But as Dr. Birx will reflect in just a few moments, as we look at the data literally on a county by county basis every day, we continue to see evidence that in areas where the epidemic has impacted most, the greater New York City area, Louisiana, the Detroit Metro, the Denver Metro, we continue to see evidence of stabilization. And it appears, as Dr. Birx suggests, that we are close to the peak in each of those areas so impacted.

We also express gratitude and appreciation for the people of California and Washington state who continue to be low and steady in the number of cases that are emerging there. We are watching the Chicago Metro Area, we`re watching the Boston Metro Area, and as Dr. Birx will discuss, we just continue to urge every American to put into practice the president`s coronavirus guidelines, because all evidence indicates from the west coast to what we are beginning to see in major outbreak areas on the east coast, it`s working, America. And it`s working because you`re doing it. And we encourage you onward in that.

Today, the White House Coronavirus Task Force met, but most of the team also met with Republicans and Democrats in two separate conference calls of the United States Senate. Secretary Mnuchin, our health experts, Admiral Polowczyk, Dr. Hahn joined us as we discussed a broad range of issues. The treasury secretary touched on the paycheck protection program now in day five, reporting $125 billion has been approved so far, 30,000 new individual users, and 3,900 lenders are participating.

We also discussed that the Treasury Department will issue a new frequently asked questions document tonight, an FAQ, as they`re known, to clarify how seasonal businesses can participate in the paycheck protection program as well. With regard to direct payments to Americans, the treasury secretary assured senators and we assure every American that we remain on the timetable where the first payments in direct deposits will go out by the end of next week. For the average family of four, that will be $3,400 in direct financial support and will no doubt be welcome news. Anyone who is interested in additional information on any of these programs can go to or

Since we last spoke, I spoke with Governor Laura Kelly of Kansas, Governor Andy Beshear of Kentucky, I also spoke to the governors of Texas and Rhode Island. I assured each one of them as we continue to work to the process of making sure that we distribute the resources at the point of the need. At President Trump`s direction, our objective working through FEMA is to make sure that states have what they need when they need it, and to see the progress that we have made. The president just reflected on in New York and New Jersey, Louisiana, and the partnership that we forged with governors in those states. California and Washington state before, we trust, gives confidence to governors and leaders of states across the country, and most importantly our dedicated health care workers that we will be there to meet that need should that need arise.

At the present moment, FEMA reports the president has approved 54 major disaster declarations, and states around the country have stood up 29,000 National Guard, 11,000 of which are fully funded by the federal government under Title 32.

Also, speaking of our military, at the present moment we received a report today from the Department of Defense that 4,100 active duty military medical personnel have been deployed in New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. And they are personnel that are working on the ground at the Javits Center, working, of course, at the USNS comfort ship.

But, because of the present moment the utilization of both of those temporary facilities has been fairly modest. The DOD actually worked with the city of New York to establish what amounts to a uniform temp service. They call it the bullpen. And today, they literally deployed from the ship and from the Javits Center 75 medical personnel to relieve dedicated health care workers within the hospital system and the city of New York, and will continue to do that.

We are going to make sure those federal temporary hospital center at the Javits Center is fully staffed. We`ll make sure the USNS comfort is staffed. But the physicians, those military personnel, are going to also be deployed across the city to bring much-needed relief to our health care workers and our system.

From the V.A. standpoint, we have opened up V.A. facilities in New York City, East Orange, New Jersey, Detroit, Michigan, and we are opening up the V.A. facility to coronavirus patients in Shreveport, Louisiana.

Finally, I mentioned that today we exceeded more than 2 million tests that have been performed across the country. And also, literally working with the U.S. Public Health Service, states around the country have stood up hundreds of drive-through testing sites. And just this week, FEMA and the U.S. Public Health Service announced that we will give an option to states to transition from a federal testing site, dozens of which have been assembled around the country, to a state managed site.

I want to emphasize that this is an option. We believe it gives states greater flexibility to style sites or manage sites in areas that they think are most important. But we are also processing requests for continued federal participation in states from New Jersey to Louisiana to Illinois, Colorado, and Texas, and we want to assure people in communities all across the country that we`ll continue to partner with states to the extent that they prefer us to be part of it.

With regard to the air bridge, three flights were scheduled to arrive today in Chicago, New York, and Dallas-Fort Worth, 49 flights are scheduled over the next three days. We continue to work supplies. We continue to literally leave no stone unturned around America or around the world. We are literally in the process of acquiring tens of millions of supplies that are being brought into a distribution system organized out of FEMA and focused on the areas most in need.

We are also bringing real innovation. And at the White House Coronavirus Task Force today we test the FDA and CMS to review the feasibility of allowing hospital workers to use cloth gowns for performing procedures. It was observed that 20 years ago most physicians and most surgeons wore cloth gowns every day and laundered them. But it has transitioned to disposable gowns, and we are working very rapidly in the next 24 hours and will have guidance for hospitals and health care workers about the ability to, in effect, recycle gowns and make sure that we have the supplies that we need.

As the president mentioned, today the president and first lady and I and my wife Karen were honored to be part of a conference call with mental health professionals from all around the country. And we know while they are our families that are struggling with the coronavirus and struggling with heartbreaking loss to the coronavirus, we understand this is a very challenging time for every American, but most especially Americans who struggle with mental disorders or struggle with addiction. And the president brought some incredibly dedicated people together to make sure that they know we are with them.

Early on the president expanded access to telemedicine, and we`ve also issued guidance for using technology to remain connected to social support groups. And we just urge everybody, everyone who may be feeling an emotional burden or a vulnerability during this time, to reach out to the many resources that are there and to know that you are not alone, that we`re with you, and we`ll get through this, and we`ll get through this together.

So despite heartbreaking losses that continue this week in communities from New York to New Jersey to Louisiana, there are signs of progress, and hope abounds. The reality is that we see new projections from the experts. And if the projections are right, it`s because it`s working, America. It`s because the American people are putting into practice the social distancing, caring for their neighbors and their loved ones and their family members, and putting their health first. We just want to urge every American to continue to put those principles and guidelines into practice every day.

With that, I`m going to invite Dr. Deborah Birx up for an update, and Dr. Fauci. We`ll hear from the secretary of labor, and we`ll take a few questions.


So I wanted to cover today not only what we`re seeing across the United States, but some of the testing data to assure from the prior question if we are testing -- I`m sure you`re following our numbers every day and the amount we are going up, about 118,000 to 120,000 per day are being tested. So we are way over the 750,000 per week currently.

We have some statistics. Remember, we required this thanks to Congress to be reported. We have about 75 percent of that test data in now, about 1.5 million of those tests have been reported in. I just wanted to give you some ideas, because sometimes we think that we are only testing in the hospitals. This should give you an idea of the quantity and the types of tests that have occurred.

So we`ve tested over 200,000 young people up to age 25, they have about 11 percent positivity rate. Over half-a-million people between 25 and 45, they have a 17 percent positive rate. Remember, in order to get tested, you have to have symptoms. So this gives you an idea of the number of people who have symptoms that are not infected with coronavirus.

Another nearly half-a-million people between 45 and 65, their positivity rate is 21 percent. Another nearly 200,000 between 65 and 85, 22 percent positive, and a small group of about 30,000 plus individuals over 85, and they have a 24 percent positivity rate. So this gives you an idea of we are testing throughout all age categories.

I see a lot of men in the audience today. I just want to remind them about the importance of health care. Of the male-female ratio, 56 percent of the people who are tested are female, 16 percent positive, 44 percent male, 23 percent positive. So again, it gives you an idea about how men often don`t present in the health care delivery system until they have greater symptomatology. This is to all of our men out there, no matter what age group -- if you have symptoms, you should be tested, and make sure that you are tested. We appreciate you engaging in that, and also really recognizing the issues about comorbidities and making sure that we are addressing those.

I had a series of great calls with about 17 states that are in our more rural areas, specifically around our indigenous people and tribal nations.