White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing

President Donald Trump

  • I just had a great conversation with the leading faith leaders of our country. It went extremely well. We learned a lot.
  • Yesterday, we unveiled detailed guidelines for America’s Governors to initiate a phased, safe, and gradual reopening of America. The guidelines provide Governors with the fact-driven and science-based metrics they will need to make the decisions that are right for their own particular state.
  • To view the guidelines, you can go Whitehouse.gov/OpeningAmerica
  • Treasury has sent out economic relief payments to more than 80 million Americans who have their direct deposit information on file with the IRS. If you have not received your check, please visit IRS.gov/GetMyPayment. The IRS can get your payment in days, and you won’t have to wait for a check in the mail.
  • We sent out 80 million deposits, and less than 1 percent had even little problems. A couple had minor glitches, but it’s substantially less than 1 percent.
  • Today, I’m also announcing that Secretary Perdue and the Department of Agriculture will be implementing a $19 billion relief program for our great farmers and ranchers as they cope with the fallout of the global pandemic.
  • The USDA will receive another $14 billion in July that will help our farmers and our ranchers.

Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue

  • President, you tweeted a message to our farmers and ranchers that no matter their circumstances, you pledged to stand behind them.
  • Today’s announcement is proof that you have our farmers’ backs and that you will continue to do what it takes to support them.
  • I think America now knows that the wholesome food that our families depend upon starts with America’s farmers and ranchers.
  • America agriculture has been hard hit, like most of America, with the coronavirus, and President Trump is standing with our farmers and all Americans to make sure we all get through this national emergency.
  • USDA is announcing the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program, the new $19 billion program will take several immediate actions to assist farmers, ranchers, and consumers in response to the COVID-19 national emergency.
  • One is a direct payment — $16 billion in direct payments to farmers, ranchers, and producers who have experienced unprecedented losses during this pandemic.
  • Since we want to get payments out to producers as quickly as possible, we decided to use the funds in the CCC — the current funds of 6.5 billion combined with COVID money, rather than wait for the replenishment of the CCC funds in July. Based on industry estimates of damage, it is becoming apparent that we’ll need the additional CCC funds as we continue to track the economic losses.
  • Second, the USDA will be purchasing $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat products to be distributed to Americans in need through our food bank networks, as well as other community and faith-based organizations. Having to dump milk or plow under vegetables ready to market is not only financially distressing, but it’s heartbreaking to those who produce them.
  • In recent weeks, all of us have seen the heroic patriotism of our food supply-chain workers, and they’ve shown, day in and day out, doing the work to serve the needs of fellow Americans.
  • USDA will do everything in our power to implement this program as quickly and as efficiently as possible to help our farmers, ranchers, producers, and consumers during this great time of need.

President Donald Trump

  • Even as we prepare to rebuild our economy, America continues to wage an all-out medical war to defeat the invisible enemy.
  • To date, we have conducted more than 3.78 million coronavirus tests. In the hardest-hit areas, such as New York and Louisiana, we’ve also tested more people per capita than South Korea, Singapore, and every other country.
  • As of yesterday, we have distributed nearly 660,000 Abbott ID NOW point-of-care diagnostic test.
  • It’s up to 1 million additional tests per week. In the next few weeks, we’ll be sending out 5.5 million testing swabs to the states.
  • Yesterday, the FDA announced a new collaboration with United Health Group, the Gates Foundation, Quantigen, and U.S. Cotton to greatly expand the supply of essential swabs, including a new polyester Q-tip-type swab for the coronavirus testing. All of these actions will help our testing capability continue to grow dramatically.
  • Following the announcement of our reopening guidelines, there have been some very partisan voices in the media and in politics who have spread false and misleading information about our testing capacity demonstrating a complete failure to understand the enormous scope of the testing capabilities that we’ve brought online.
  • And I will say this: If they didn’t understand it, it’s just really — unfortunately, I hate to say this because we’ve been getting along very well, but it would be false reporting, because they understand the capability. And it’s going to be up to the states to use that capability. The states have local points where they can go — a governor can call the mayors, and the mayors can call representatives, and everybody — everything is perfect. And that’s the way it should work and always should work.
  • The FDA authorized two new antibody tests that will determine if someone has been previously infected with the virus, bringing the total to four authorized antibody tests already. This will help us assess the number of cases that have been asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic and support our efforts to get Americans back to work by showing us who might have developed the wonderful, beautiful immunity.
  • The NIH and others are conducting clinical trials of 35 different therapies and treatments. Today, NIH announced that it is launching a public-private partnership with more than a dozen biopharmaceutical companies. HHS, FDA, CDC, and the European Medicines Agency, they’re all working together.

Vice President Mike Pence

  • Today remains a challenging time in the life of our nation.
  • Because of the extraordinary efforts of the American people, because of the strong partnership the federal government has forged with states across the country, we’re making progress, America.
  • Despite the tragic loss of more than 36,000 Americans, according to our best data reporting this morning, we continue to see new cases low and steady on the West Coast. We continue to see cases and hospitalizations declining in the Greater New York City area, in New Orleans, and Detroit, and elsewhere.
  • This is a tribute to our healthcare doctors, nurses, and all of those working on the frontlines.
  • We’re continuing to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear. Today, the President approved a major disaster declaration for American Samoa, and now all 50 states and all territories are under major disaster declarations for the first time in American history.
  • 33,000 National Guardsmen are on duty; 5,500 active duty military personnel have been deployed to 9 states, including 716 medical professionals, doctors, and nurses who deployed out to 14 different hospitals today. Among those were 10 hospitals in New York City. Military personnel were also serving today in hospitals in Connecticut, Texas, Louisiana, and New Jersey.
  • Yesterday, we unveiled the President’s Guidelines for Opening up America Again.
  • Today we issued a letter to our nation’s Governors summarizing all the medical equipment and supplies that have been distributed to their state from FEMA between the first of this month and April 14, through Project Airbridge and through the commercial supply network. We’ll be speaking with our nation’s Governors on Monday and detailing that information at that time.
  • As of April 16th, FEMA has coordinated the delivery of millions of pieces of medical equipment, including 44 million N95 respirators, 63 million surgical masks, more than 10,000 ventilators, and of course, deployed more than 8,600 federal medical station beds.
  • Given the President’s new Guidelines for Opening Up America, states that meet the criteria for going into phase one, and then are preparing the testing that is contemplated by going to phase one, our best scientists and health experts assess that we have a sufficient amount of testing to meet the requirements of a phase one reopening, if state governors should choose to do that.
  • We’re going to be presenting an outline of our approach to testing in partnership with states, during this briefing. Our approach will continue to be locally executed, state managed, and federally supported.

National Institute of Health Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Dr. Anthony Fauci

  • I’m going to give you a brief introduction to and answer the question that we’ve been asked a lot. We had a very productive teleconference with the Senate Democratic Caucus just a few hours ago, and they asked a number of questions which were really reasonable questions — questions that are on the mind of a lot of different people.
  • One of them was the question that was just posed a moment ago, is: Are there enough tests to allow us to be able to go through this first phase in a way that is protective of the health and the safety of the American people?
  • There are two general types of tests, even though within each general type there are different subgroups. One of them is to test for the infection: is a person infected. The other is to test, as we just mentioned, if someone has been infected — usually someone who’s been infected, who has recovered.
  • What are some of the pluses and minuses of each? Because the pluses and minuses are really going to impact how we best use the test and how the test actually should be used.
  • For the test on whether or not you are infected is called a nucleic acid test. It’s not an easy test to do. There are some that are more rapid. There are some that have a high throughput. There are different groups within that. The good news about that is that it’s a sensitive and specific test, so that if you’re infected, you know you’re infected, get that person, put them in care, take care of them, get them out of circulation.
  • The point that I think is often misunderstood is that if you get a test today, it’s negative — if you get a test today, that does not mean that tomorrow or the next day or the next day or the next day, as you get exposed, perhaps from someone who may not even know they’re infected, that that means that I’m negative. Which means, if you take that to its extreme, in order to be really sure, you would almost have to test somebody either every day or every other day or every week or what it is to be absolutely certain. That’s an issue.
  • The other test is an antibody test — a test that tells you, in fact, that you’ve been infected. That will give you a broad view of two things: one, what the penetrance of the infection had been; and number two, you can make an assumption though we still need to prove that. We are assuming that if you’re infected and you have antibody, you’re protected. That’s a reasonable assumption, based on our experience with other viruses.
  • There are some of the challenges: How long is the protection? Is it one month? Is it three months? Is it six months? It’s a year? We need to be humble and modest that we don’t know everything about it, but it really is an important test.
  • The other thing is the difference between testing and monitoring. The difference between what we really need for phase one is to be able to identify, isolate, contact trace. A very important part of when you’re pulling back gradually and slowly on the mitigation, and you have people who might be infected — you want to know they’re infected; you want to put them in care. That is something that we absolutely need to do.
  • Do not underestimate the importance of testing. Testing is a part, an important part, of a multifaceted way that we are going to control and ultimately end this outbreak.
  • We understand that although we say there are X number of tests out there, the fact is there have been and still are situations that are correctable, and will be corrected, and some of which have been corrected.

CDC Director Dr. Redfield

  • First, I want to talk a little bit about CDC has developed multiple systems to monitor disease outbreaks. I think many of you are familiar, for example, how we monitor for foodborne illness or how we monitor for antibiotic resistance in hospitals. We’ve also developed a system to monitor for upper respiratory tract disease.
  • We have systems, all the way down to the county level to see where there’s respiratory tract illness. 
  • It’s not just taking a test. It’s monitoring these systems that have been developed over decades.
  • We have another one that is monitored in emergency rooms, looking at syndrome diagnosis. We’re well equipped to monitor — to see when respiratory tract viral disease will come. It becomes a very good surrogate for when you can begin to understand that we need to start looking more at ideologically about what’s going on.
  • The second thing I wanted to say is that CDC continues to enhance the state’s public health capacity to accelerate their ability to diagnose individuals that present with influenza-like illness or coronavirus-like illness, to diagnose them, to be able to isolate them, and to be able to contact trace around them, and then diagnose the contacts. Those that are coronavirus-positive, to go back and do their contacts.
  • This is the traditional public health approach, which was started in this outbreak in January, in February, and was quite successful. Through February 27th, this country only had 14 cases. We did that isolation and that contact tracing, and it was very successful. When the virus more exploded, it got beyond the public health capacity.
  • CDC is enhancing that public health capacity. CDC has embedded, in these health departments and all of these states across this country, more than 500 individuals. We also have an additional almost 100 individuals that are working on more than 20 coronavirus outbreaks that are going through all these states.
  • We’ve been asked to further enhance this deployment in each of the states, so that there’s additional public health personnel to help accelerate the state’s ability to basically move forward aggressively. We will assist them so they can operationalize the President’s Guidelines to Open Up America Again.

White House Coronavirus Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx

  • I’m going to go back to what Dr. Fauci was talking about just to emphasize those points about the two types of tests and talk about a third one.
  • First, we all know about sampling in the front of your nose. To all of the labs out there and to the providers, you don’t have to use the nasal pharyngeal swab anymore; you can do front-of-nose sampling. This is a sampling for the virus itself that replicates in your nose and, as we know, throughout some of the respiratory tissues.
  • The second test is, of course, then your immune response to that infection that’s in your nose. That’s the antibody test.
  • Testing is a part of the exquisite monitoring that needs to occur in partnership with CDC and state and local governments, utilizing the surveillance systems that are available: the flu surveillance system, because we no longer have flu, and the syndromic respiratory system. That is across the United States, and you can see it’s going back to baseline so that we’ll be able to see, at the community level, any deviation from that baseline.
  • Antibody tests have different specificity and sensitivities. FDA has been very cautious about the antibody tests because every day, countries that have ordered the antibody test and found that they were 50, 60, 70 percent faulty. We’re taking that very seriously because you never want to tell someone that they have an antibody and potential immunity when they don’t. Those tests perform better when there’s a high prevalence or a high incidence of disease.
  • We want to work with Mayors, as those antibody tests become available, to really see what it is in first responders and healthcare workers in the highest prevalence states, so that we can know about the quality and the real-life, real-field experience of those assays. Things can look very good in the lab, and then when you take them into the field, sometimes they’re not as good. I’ve learned this lesson repeatedly in working around the globe.
  • We have asked commercial and diagnostic companies to be working on, because when you talk about multi-millions’ worth of tests, the way we do this in the United States today for strep, for influenza, and for malaria, is we test for the antigen. Now, we don’t know, right now, if you shed antigen in the front of your nose. That is the question that scientists and companies are working on right now because that becomes a simpler test.
  • Now, the flu test, you will see that outside of the flu season, because of the specificity of the test, it doesn’t work so well. These are tests we’re working on today that would be like a screening test, because if you’re positive on it, it’s a good test, but it may miss that you actually have the flu. Then you would move into the “nucleic acid test.”
  • We’re trying to build an algorithm of tests that bring the full talent of the science of the United States into the reality of the clinic.
  • These are the current testing platforms available today throughout the United States for COVID-19. As you heard from Dr. Fauci, everything has to be working, from the swab, to the transport media, to the laboratory, to really get those tests run and the results back to the client.
  • We’ve looked at all of the testing capacity from those platforms, and this gives you an idea of what that capacity is. The darkest red — you can see, like, in Texas and New York, those are — those are states that have lots of different platforms, as you saw on the prior slide, and the ability, if you just add up the platforms and the potential for test, of over a million tests per month.
  • This is what we’re working with each of those states on unlocking that full potential. We’re working with the American Society of Microbiologists as they work closely with 300 lab directors around the country. We talked with them this morning, and the Walter Reed team who developed the entire HIV testing program for the military 35 years ago.
  • I’ve called them back into service and they’re calling lab-by-lab to find out what are the technical difficulties to bring up all the platforms that exist in your lab. Is it swabs? Is it transport media? Is it extraction? I really want to thank them. They’ve already worked through over 70-plus of those laboratories to really understand, and the American Society of Microbiologists and the academic societies of the laboratories are working together to ensure that all of this potential can be unlocked.
  • We’ve measured every single platform and every single state. We know exactly where they are, by geography, by address, by zip code, what their capacity is, what their cumulative capacity is, what their roadblocks are on non-ability to run all their full capacity.
  • We’re addressing those because each one of those is different and you have to address each of them one by one with the Governors, with the state and local labs, and with all of the hospitals. I have not come across one laboratory or one laboratory director or one society that doesn’t want to contribute to solving this issue of testing and ensuring that this testing is available for everyone.
  • We don’t often talk about the laboratories; we’ll talk about the nurses and doctors on the front line but behind all of them are the laboratory technicians and laboratory directors who are coming in every day and putting things together to ensure that every single person that needs to be diagnosed is diagnosed.
  • It is our job, working with the states and having the state in the leadership role, and the laboratory directors in the leadership role to provide support to ensure that all the potential for testing in the United States is brought to bear.
  • I will end with nucleic acid tests. There will never be the ability on a nucleic acid test to do 300 million tests a day or to test everybody before they go to work or to school, but there might be with the antigen test. That’s why there’s a role for nucleic acid test, a role for antibody tests, and a role for the future development of these other key tests to bring the full ability to the United States.

Assistant Secretary for Health U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Admiral Brett Giroir

  • I want to start by where we are today and just to visit where we’ve come in such a short period of time.
  • Our testing is well over 3.78 million tests that have been completed. That’s over 1.2 million tests reported just in the last week.
  • Ambassador Birx said to me earlier, “You know, we only do about 2 million molecular tests a year for HIV” — something that’s been done for — developed for 35 years. We’re now doing twice that number of tests in a month for a disease that has never been known before, that there’s never been a test developed before.
  • Our ID NOW tests are a point-of-care test that can be between 5 and 15 minutes. They have a very specific role, but they’re not for everybody. If you’ve got to screen a few thousand people, four tests an hour doesn’t get you there on a machine; you have to use some of the larger, higher-throughput items, but they have a very important role. Coming into the market at 50,000 per day is really an important adjunct to us.
  • Give you an idea of how the tests are distributed and how they’re changing over time. State public health laboratories, about 350,000, are absolutely critical. They are a critical core component of our testing. Not only were they there early and first, but they also do things like support outbreak investigations in nursing homes or investigations in certain plants that have close proximity with everyone because of their work environments. They also do test on many people who do not have the opportunity to be tested elsewhere.
  • The American Clinical Laboratory Association — this is America’s commercial industrial backbone that we’re standing behind the President and the Vice President. This is the LabCorp, the Quest, the BioReference Laboratory, Mayo, Sonic, and ARUP. They’ve done almost 2.3 million tests. This is the very large, high-throughput machines that Dr. Birx talks about.
  • These are truly national reference labs that cover almost everybody within the United States. If you cannot get a test at your hospital, the chances are overwhelming that you could send this to these labs that are fully caught up now. They have no backlog of tests. They’ve ramped up their production, so their turnaround time is about 48 hours because you may need to transport it from the middle of America, out to a lab, and result that.
  • The American Hospital Association and also academic labs, they’re increasing the amount of testing that are done just at the hospitals or at academic medical centers now almost at 600,000 tests.
  • Swabs have been constrained for a couple reasons. Number one, because this is an unprecedented scale-up of this type of very sophisticated molecular tests that has never put a demand on the system like we have. When we started out a few weeks ago, there’s very specific, one type of swab that you could only get it one place in the U.S. and one place in Italy. We were stuck with that for a while because it’s not just the quantity, it’s the quality.
  • Over the past weeks, both the scientific community, the Gates Foundation, academic medical centers, the FDA, have really opened up our ability to not stick that all the way back in your nasal pharynx, but do the anterior nose, and to greatly broaden the amount of swab types that are available.
  • By the end of April, will put another 5 million swabs, in addition to everything that’s out there now, and, by the end of May, over 12 million new swabs in the system, more than enough to obtain the capacity that we need.
  • For these molecular tests, you take a swab and you stick it in a test tube, and that test tube has to have a specific kind of liquid in it. When we started, it was viral transport media — a very special kind of media.
  • We’ve worked with many different laboratories. We’ve worked with the FDA. So now, PBS, phosphate-buffered saline — a, kind of, just laboratory-grade saltwater — can be used for this. This greatly opens the ability to expand the test to support all the capability that Dr. Birx talks about. Again, by the end of April, we will have put well over 5 million new tubes of either viral transport media or saline into the system.
  • Science tells us that we have and will continue to have enough tests to safely go into phase one. We’ve already heard that it is beyond the possibility to test everyone in this country every day. It’s just not possible, but it’s also a bad strategy because testing a person now just means they’re negative now. Dr. Fauci could be positive tomorrow, because it’s brewing in his system right now and we don’t know it, or that he contacts that. That’s not the way we go about things.
  • The way we go about things, as Dr. Redfield said, think of the weather radar. If the weather radar is clear, you’re not going to have a thunderstorm or a tornado. When something pops up, that’s when you’ve got to go to where the action is or know that your warning system is up. That’s monitoring.
  • Let me talk about how much testing we need. I’m just going to give you a number – we are going to enter phase one when there are 200,000 new cases per month in the United States. It’s going to be much less than that, but let’s just say 200,000 cases. So, how many tests do we need?
  • We need to test those 200,000 people to make the diagnosis, right? If about 1 out of 10 people are positive, then we know we’re over-sampling the population enough that we’re getting all the positives. If there’s 200,000 cases, I need about 2 million tests. Each one of those that are positive have contacts that need to be traced, and on average, the CDC tells me that for every positive, there are about five contacts that really need to be traced. Let’s assume that those 200,000 people have five contacts. So now we have an extra million tests. 2 million tests out there to detect the 200,000 cases, an extra million out there to trace those contacts. We’re up to about 3 million cases. If you want to put a fudge factor say there’s 4 million tests. Those are generally done at the main hospital labs, the commercial labs, state and regional labs. All this can be done — as well as some of the labs talked about by Dr. Birx.
  • The second group of testing fits exactly perfectly with the influenza-like surveillance system that is the monitoring. This is the weather radar that would be out there — we’re not testing people who are symptomatic. We want to do testing on people who are asymptomatic because you can have asymptomatic carriage.
  • The strategy is an unprecedented. Number one, nursing home and long-term care facilities. We know that from the history of this virus, it can circulate and be devastating. It could circulate even in a way that you don’t have symptoms. We’re going to survey, in a very controlled way, driven by the CDC, supervised by the CDC, surveying in the areas to cover, in a selective way, the 15,000 or so nursing homes.
  • Second, we want to work in vulnerable members in cities. The way we think about that is community health centers. There are there are about 30,000 community health center sites. They take care of 30 million people: children, adults, elderly. They care for about one third of Americans below the poverty level. They are arrayed to take care of our most vulnerable populations. We want to survey asymptomatic people in those community health centers.
  • We also want to do in some of our indigenous population. 1,800 members of the Public Health Service provide care to the Indian Health Service, and their Director and Chief Medical Officer are both admirals in the Indian Health Service.
  • Workplace monitoring, particularly for workplace environments that may have very close contact or may have a high risk. Some of those could be agricultural facilities.
  • Let’s just total that up: 200,000 people who need a diagnosis. To make that diagnosis, we want to test 2 million. We’re going to contact trace 1 million. Let’s just throw you a fudge factor of about 25 percent on that; so that’s 4 million. We have this background testing of about 400,000 per month. To safely do the testing, we need to be in the range of four and a half million per month for phase one.
  • Right now, we’re doing about 1 million to 1.2 million per week. We’re going to continue to push that farther and further, as we open up the laboratories and we’re able to open all the supplies that we need for that.

Full remarks and topics covered in the answer and question portion of the briefing can be found here: April 17 Briefing

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