The White House

January 29, 2020

Statement from the Press Secretary Regarding the President’s Coronavirus Task Force

Today, President Donald J. Trump announced the formation of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force.  Members of the Task Force have been meeting on a daily basis since Monday.  At today’s meeting, which the President chaired, he charged the Task Force with leading the United States Government response to the novel 2019 coronavirus and with keeping him apprised of developments.

The Task Force is led by Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, and is coordinated through the National Security Council.  It is composed of subject matter experts from the White House and several United States Government agencies, and it includes some of the Nation’s foremost experts on infectious diseases.

The Task Force will lead the Administration’s efforts to monitor, contain, and mitigate the spread of the virus, while ensuring that the American people have the most accurate and up-to-date health and travel information.

The President’s top priority is the health and welfare of the American people.  That is why, in 2018, President Trump signed the National Biodefense Strategy, which improves speed of action in situations such as this.  The Administration, led by the President’s Task Force, will continue to work to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus.

The risk of infection for Americans remains low, and all agencies are working aggressively to monitor this continuously evolving situation and to keep the public informed.  For more information, please visit

Members of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force:

Secretary Alex Azar, Department of Health and Human Services

Robert O’Brien, Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs

Dr. Robert Redfield, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

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

Deputy Secretary Stephen Biegun, Department of State

Ken Cuccinelli, Acting Deputy Secretary, Department of Homeland Security

Joel Szabat, Acting Under Secretary for Policy, Department of Transportation

Matthew Pottinger, Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Advisor

Rob Blair, Assistant to the President and Senior Advisor to the Chief of Staff

Joseph Grogan, Assistant to the President and Director of the Domestic Policy Council

Christopher Liddell, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy Coordination

Derek Kan, Executive Associate Director, Office of Management and Budget

The White House
issued on Feb. 27, 2020

Remarks by President Trump, Vice President Pence, and Members of the Coronavirus Task Force in Press Conference

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
February 26, 2020

6:37 P.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much, everybody.  Thank you very much.

Before I begin, I’d like to extend my deepest condolences to the victims and families in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  Earlier today, a wicked murderer opened fire at a Molson Coors Brewing Company plant, taking the lives of five people.  A number of people were wounded, some badly wounded.

Our hearts break for them and their loved ones.  We send our condolences.  We’ll be with them.  And it’s a terrible thing.  A terrible thing.  So our hearts go out to the people of Wisconsin and to the families.  Thank you very much.

I have just received another briefing from a great group of talented people on the virus that is going around to various parts of the world.  We have, through some very good early decisions — decisions that were actually ridiculed at the beginning — we closed up our borders to flights coming in from certain areas, areas that were hit by the coronavirus and hit pretty hard.  And we did it very early.  A lot of people thought we shouldn’t have done it that early, and we did, and it turned out to be a very good thing.

And the number one priority from our standpoint is the health and safety of the American people.  And that’s the way I viewed it when I made that decision.  Because of all we’ve done, the risk to the American people remains very low.  We have the greatest experts in the world — really, in the world, right here — people that are called upon by other countries when things like this happen.

We — we’re ready to adapt and we’re ready to do whatever we have to as the disease spreads, if it spreads.  As most of you know, the — the level that we’ve had in our country is very low, and those people are getting better, or we think that in almost all cases they’re better, or getting.  We have a total of 15.  We took in some from Japan — you heard about that — because they’re American citizens, and they’re in quarantine.  And they’re getting better too.

But we felt we had an obligation to do that.  It could have been as many as 42.  And we found that we were — it was just an obligation we felt that we had.  We could have left them, and that would have been very bad — very bad, I think — of American people.  And they’re recovering.

Of the 15 people — the “original 15,” as I call them — 8 of them have returned to their homes, to stay in their homes until fully recovered.  One is in the hospital and five have fully recovered.  And one is, we think, in pretty good shape and it’s in between hospital and going home.

So we have a total of — but we have a total of 15 people, and they’re in a process of recovering, with some already having fully recovered.

We started out by looking at certain things.  We’ve been working with the Hill very, very carefully, very strongly.  And I think we have very good bipartisan spirit for money.  We were asking for two and a half billion, and we think that’s a lot, but the Democrats, and, I guess, Senator Schumer wants us to have much more than that.  And normally, in life, I’d say, “We’ll take it.  We’ll take it.”

If they want to give more, we’ll do more.  We’re going to spend whatever is appropriate.  Hopefully, we’re not going to have to spend so much because we really think we’ve done a great job in keeping it down to a minimum.  And again, we’ve had tremendous success — tremendous success — beyond what people would have thought.

Now, at the same time, you do have some outbreaks in some countries.  Italy and various countries are having some difficulty.  China, you know about it, where it started.

I spoke with President Xi.  We had a great talk.  He’s working very hard, I have to say.  He’s working very, very hard.  And if you can count on the reports coming out of China, that spread has gone down quite a bit.  The infection seems to have gone down over the last two days.  As opposed to getting larger, it’s actually gotten smaller.  In one instance where we think we can be — it’s somewhat reliable, it seems to have gotten quite a bit smaller.

With respect to the money that’s being negotiated, they can do whatever they want.  I mean, again, we’ll do the two and a half.  We’re requesting two and a half.  Some Republicans would like us to get four, and some Democrats would like us to get eight and a half.  And we’ll be satisfied whatever — whatever it is.

We’re bringing in a specialist — a very highly regarded specialist — tomorrow, who works, actually, at the State Department.  Very, very tremendously talented in doing this.

I want you to understand something that shocked me when I saw it that — and I spoke with Dr. Fauci on this, and I was really amazed, and I think most people are amazed to hear it: The flu, in our country, kills from 25,000 people to 69,000 people a year.  That was shocking to me.

And, so far, if you look at what we have with the 15 people and their recovery, one is — one is pretty sick but hopefully will recover, but the others are in great shape.  But think of that: 25,000 to 69,000.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve lost 360,000.  These are people that have died from the flu — from what we call the flu.  “Hey, did you get your flu shot?”  And that’s something.

Now, what we’ve done is we’ve stopped non-U.S. citizens from coming into America from China.  That was done very early on.  We’re screening people, and we have been, at a very high level — screening people coming into the country from infected areas.

We have in quarantine those infected and those at risk.  We have a lot of great quarantine facilities.  We’re rapidly developing a vaccine, and they can speak to you — the professionals can speak to you about that.  The vaccine is coming along well.  And in speaking to the doctors, we think this is something that we can develop fairly rapidly, a vaccine for the future, and coordinate with the support of our partners.  We have great relationships with all of the countries that we’re talking about.  Some fairly large number of countries.  Some it’s one person, and many countries have no problem whatsoever.  And we’ll see what happens.

But we’re very, very ready for this, for anything — whether it’s going to be a breakout of larger proportions or whether or not we’re — you know, we’re at that very low level, and we want to keep it that way.

So we’re at the low level.  As they get better, we take them off the list, so that we’re going to be pretty soon at only five people.  And we could be at just one or two people over the next short period of time.  So we’ve had very good luck.

The Johns Hopkins, I guess — is a highly respected, great place — they did a study, comprehensive: “The Countries Best and Worst Prepared for an Epidemic.”  And the United States is now — we’re rated number one.  We’re rated number one for being prepared.  This is a list of different countries.

I don’t want to get in your way, especially since you do such a good job.

This is a list of the different countries.  The United States is rated number one most prepared.  United Kingdom, Netherlands, Australia, Canada, Thailand, Sweden, Denmark, South Korea, Finland.  These — this is a list of the best-rated countries in the world by Johns Hopkins.

We’re doing something else that’s important to me, because he’s been terrific in many ways, but he’s also very good on healthcare.  And we really followed him very closely — a lot of states do — when Mike was governor — Mike Pence — of Indiana.  They’ve established great healthcare.  They have a great system there.  It’s a system that a lot of — a lot of the other states have really looked to and changed their systems.  They wanted to base it on the Indiana system.  It’s very good.  And I think — and he’s, really, very expert at the field.

And what I’ve done is I’m going to be announcing, exactly right now, that I’m going to be putting our Vice President, Mike Pence, in charge.  And Mike will be working with the professionals, doctors, and everybody else that’s working.  The team is brilliant.  I spent a lot of time with the team over the last couple of weeks, but they’re totally brilliant, and we’re doing really well.  And Mike is going to be in charge, and Mike will report back to me.  But he’s got a certain talent for this.

And I’m going to ask Mike Pence to say a few words.  Please.  Thank you.  Mike?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Mr. President.  President Trump has made clear from the first days of this administration: We have no higher priority than the safety, security, health, and wellbeing of the American people.

And from the first word of a outbreak of the coronavirus, the President took unprecedented steps to protect the American people from the spread of this disease.  He recounted those briefly, but the establishment of travel restrictions, aggressive quarantine effort of Americans that are returning, the declaration of a public health emergency, and establishing the White House Corona[virus] Task Force are all reflective of the urgency that the President has brought to a whole-of-government approach.

As a former governor from the state where the first MERS case emerged in 2014, I know full well the importance of presidential leadership, the importance of administration leadership, and the vital role of partnerships of state and local governments and health authorities in responding to the potential threat of dangerous infectious diseases.

And I — I look forward, Mr. President, to serving in this role.  I’m bringing together all the members of the Corona Task Force that you’ve established: HHS, CDC, DHS, the Department of Transportation, and State.  This team has been, at your direction, Mr. President, meeting every day since it was established.

My role will be to continue to bring that team together; to bring to the President the best options for action; to see to the safety and wellbeing and health of the American people.

We’ll also be continuing to reach out to governors, state and local officials.  In fact, in recent days, the White House met with over 40 state, county, and city health officials from over 30 states and territories to discuss how to respond to this — to the potential threat of the coronavirus.  We’ll be working with them in renewed ways to make sure they have the resources to be able to respond.

And as the President said, we’ll be adding additional personnel here at the White House to support our efforts on the President’s behalf.

We’ll also be working with members of Congress to ensure that the resources are available for this whole-of-government response, and we’ll be working very closely with Secretary Azar and his team that have done an outstanding job communicating to the public to ensure the American people have the best information on ways to protect themselves and their families, and also that the public has the most timely information on the potential threat to the American people.

Mr. President, as we’ve been briefed, while the threat to the American public remains low of a spread of the coronavirus, you have directed this team to take all steps necessary to continue to ensure the health and wellbeing of the American people.

And the people of this country can be confident that, under your leadership, we will continue to bring the full resources of the federal government, in coordination with our state and local partners, to see to the health and wellbeing and to the effective response to the coronavirus here in the United States of America.

With that, the President has asked me to recognize the Secretary of Health and Human Services, Alex Azar, and also the Deputy Director of CDC, Dr. Anne Schuchat, for remarks.

Mr. Secretary?

SECRETARY AZAR:  Well, thank you, Mr. Vice President, and thank you, Mr. President, for gathering your public health experts here today and for your strong leadership in keeping America safe.

And I just want to say I could not be more delighted that you’ve asked the Vice President, my old friend and colleague, to lead this whole-of-government approach with us under the Emergency Support Function Number 8.

As of today, we have 15 cases of COVID-19 that have been detected in the United States, with only one new case detected in the last two weeks.  We also have three cases among Americans repatriated from Wuhan and 42 cases among Americans repatriated who had been stuck on the Diamond Princess in Japan.

The President’s early and decisive actions, including travel restrictions, have succeeded in buying us incredibly valuable time.  This has helped us contain the spread of the virus, handle the cases that we have, and prepare for the possibility that we will need to mitigate broader spread of infections within the United States.

The President’s actions taken with the strong support of his scientific advisors have proven to be appropriate, wise, and well-calibrated to the situation.

We’re grateful for the hard work that healthcare workers, first responders, communities, and state and local leaders have put into the response so far.  Because of this hard work and the President’s leadership, the immediate risk to the American public has been and continues to be low.  Our containment strategy has been working.

At the same time, what every one of our experts and leaders have been saying for more than a month now remains true: The degree of risk has the potential to change quickly, and we can expect to see more cases in the United States.  That is why we’ve been reminding the American public and our state, local, and private sector partners that they should be aware of what a broader response would look like.

CDC has recommended that the American public, and especially state and local governments, businesses, and other organizations should refresh themselves on how they would respond in the event that the situation worsens.

We’re encouraging Americans to learn what future steps might be necessary to keep themselves and their communities safe.  Knowing these potential steps now can help keep the risk to you and your community low.

Americans can find useful information at  And we’re working closely with government and private sector partners to educate them about preparedness.

Finally, we’ve begun working with Congress to secure the funding that we need.  There are five major priorities in the White House request to Congress that the White House made on Monday.

These priorities are: First, expanding our surveillance network.  Second, support for state and local governments’ work.  Third and fourth, development of therapeutics and vaccines.  And fifth, manufacturing and purchase of personal protective equipment like gowns and masks.

As chairman of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, I’m committed to providing regular updates from our coordinated interagency process.  We’ve had our top public health leaders, like those joining me here today, speaking to the media many times per day to inform the American public.  The Trump administration is going to continue to be aggressively transparent, keeping the American people and the media apprised of the situation and what everyone can do.

With that, I’m going to hand things over to Dr. Anne Schuchat.  Dr. Schuchat is the senior career official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Principal Deputy Director with an over 30-year career at the CDC in public health, and is a member of the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps.

So, Dr. Schuchat, I’ll turn it over to you.

DR. SCHUCHAT:  Thanks so much, Mr. Secretary.  As you know, this has been a difficult and challenging time, and our hearts go out to the individuals who have been directly affected by the virus, and to all those who have been working tirelessly in responding to it.

Our aggressive containment strategy here in the United States has been working and is responsible for the low levels of cases that we have so far.  However, we do expect more cases, and this is a good time to prepare.

As you heard, it’s the perfect time for businesses, healthcare systems, universities, and schools to look at their pandemic preparedness plans, dust them off, and make sure that they’re ready.  And we have lots more information at the CDC’s website and in partnership on how to do that.

But it’s also a really good time for the American public to prepare and for you to know what this means for you.

The coronavirus that we’re talking about is a respiratory virus.  It’s spread in a similar way to the common cold or to influenza.  It’s spread through coughs and sneezes.

And so those everyday sensible measures that we tell people to do every year with the flu are important here: covering your cough, staying home when you’re sick, and washing your hands.  Tried and true, not very exciting measures, but really important ways that you can prevent the spread of respiratory viruses.

So this — the trajectory of what we’re looking at over the weeks and months ahead is very uncertain.  But many of the steps that we have taken over the past 15 years to prepare for pandemic influenza, and our experience going through the 2009 H1N1 pandemic of influenza, remind us of the kinds of steps that our healthcare system, our businesses, our communities, and schools may need to take.

We’re in this together, all of government, the public and the private sector.  And the CDC wants to make sure you have the best information available every day.  Thank you.


DR. FAUCI:  I just want to give you a very quick update on the —

Q    Your name please?  Could you tell us who you are please?

DR. FAUCI:  My name is Dr. Tony Fauci.  I’m the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at NIH.

Just a very quick update on the countermeasure development in the form of vaccines and therapeutics.  I had told this audience at a recent press briefing that we have a number of vaccine candidates and one prototype, to give you a feel for the timeframe of a vaccine and what its impact might be now and in subsequent years — is that I told you we would have a vaccine that we would be putting into trials, to see if it’s safe and if it induces a response that you would predict would be protective in about three months.

I think it’s going to be a little bit less than that.  It’s probably going to be closer to two months.  That would then take about three months to determine if it’s safe and immunogenic, which gives us six months.  Then you graduate from a trial — which is phase one — of 45 people, to a trial that involves hundreds if not low thousands of people to determine efficacy.  At the earliest, an efficacy trial would take an additional six to eight months.

So although this is the fastest we have ever gone from a sequence of a virus to a trial, it still would not be any applicable to the epidemic unless we really wait about a year to a year and a half.

Now, that means two things.  One, the answer to containing is public health measures.  We can’t rely on a vaccine over the next several months to a year.  However, if this virus — which we have every reason to believe it is quite conceivable that it will happen — will go beyond just a season and come back and recycle next year — if that’s the case, we hope to have a vaccine.

And then finally and briefly: therapeutics.  There are a number of anti-viral drugs that are being tested.  A few days ago, we initiated a randomized controlled trial of a drug called remdesivir, which has anti-viral activity in vitro and in animal model.  The good news about that is that it’s a trial that’s randomized to either placebo or standard of care, and drug and standard of care, which means that we will know reasonably soon whether it works.  And if it does, we will then have an effective therapy to distribute.

Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay.  Thank you.  Go ahead, please.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  First of all, you have just come from a long and busy trip from India.

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s a great country.  A long trip.

Q    And as far as this coronavirus is concerned, you have a great scientific and medical team behind you and with you —

THE PRESIDENT:  It’s true.

Q    — and I’m sure they will keep America safe.

THE PRESIDENT:  They will.

Q    As far as your trip to India, Mr. President, where do we go from here as far as India-U.S. relations are concerned?

And also, Mr. President, you are very famous in India, and Prime Minister Modi is very famous in America.  What is the future?  And the Indian American community is with you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, we won’t talk too much about that other than I just got back.  A long flight.  It’s a long flight.  He’s a great gentleman, a great leader.  It’s an incredible country.  We were treated very, very well, and we really enjoyed it.

A lot of tremendous progress was made in terms of relationship.  Our relationship with India is extraordinary right now.  And we’re going to be doing a lot of business with India.  They’re sending billions and billions of dollars now to the United States.

But we’d rather talk about this right now.

Q    Mr. President, the CDC said yesterday that they believe it’s inevitable that the virus will spread in the United States, and it’s not a question of “if” but “when.”  Do you agree with that assessment?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t think it’s inevitable.  It probably will.  It possibly will.  It could be at a very small level or it could be at a larger level.  Whatever happens, we’re totally prepared.  We have the best people in the world.  You see that from the study.  We have the best prepared people, the best people in the world.

Congress is willing to give us much more than we’re even asking for.  That’s nice for a change.  But we are totally ready, willing, and able.  It’s a term that we use.  It’s “ready, willing, and able.”  And we have — we have — it’s going to be very well under control.

Now, it may get bigger, it may get a little bigger.  It may not get bigger at all.  We’ll see what happens.  But regardless of what happens, we are totally prepared.


Q    You talked a little earlier about the screening measures that you put in place and the travel restrictions you’ve put in place regarding China.  At this point, as the virus spreads in Italy and South Korea, are you planning on adding those countries to the list?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, just so you understand — you know, I’m the President of the United States.  I’m not the President of other countries.  Other countries — some on the list that are very respected in what they do in terms of what we’re talking about.

But I really want to be responsible for this country, if it means placing very strong — a very strong situation on the border so people can’t come into our country from a country that is infected.  That’s — we’re doing that, and we’ve already done it with numerous countries.

But we have to focus on this country.  I don’t think it’s right to impose our self on others.  But if others aren’t taking care or we think they’re doing it incorrectly — you know, we’re dealing with World Health, and we have terrific people.  And CDC does go around and help other countries give them recommendations as what to do.  But they’re working on their countries and we’re working on our countries.  And, so far, from our standpoint, it’s really worked out very well.

Q    Just to follow up on Zeke’s question, can you clarify: Are you considering restricting travel to and from South Korea, Italy, and other countries that have been affected by this?

THE PRESIDENT:  At a right time, we may do that.  Right now, it’s not the right time.  But at a right time — and we are checking people as they come through, specifically for the problem, the problem that we’re dealing with.  So we’re checking a lot of people if they’re coming from — South Korea has been hit pretty hard; Italy has been hit pretty hard.  China — it’s obvious what’s happened in China.

But again, the numbers seem to be leveling off and going down in China, which is very good news.  So we’ll see what happens.

Q    The White House has spent the day denying that they are going to appoint a czar to run point on the coronavirus response.  Today, the — Secretary Azar testified that he didn’t think one was necessary and they were going to run it out of HHS.  And you yourself have been downplaying this.  So why are you now selecting the Vice President to run point on this?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, Mike is not a czar.  He’s Vice President.  He’s in the administration.  But I’m having everybody report to Mike.  Mike has been very good, very adept.  Anybody that knows anything about healthcare, they look at the Indiana model, and it’s been a very great success.  It’s been a tremendous model in terms of healthcare.  And this is really an offshoot of that.

So this isn’t a czar.  I don’t view Mike as a czar.  Mike is part of the administration.  But I’m having them report to Mike.  Mike will report to me.

They’ll also be reporting, in some cases, to both.  I’ll be going to meetings quite a bit depending on what they want to do and what message we want to get out.  But we’ve done, really, an extraordinary job.  When you look at a country this size, with so many people pouring in — we’re the number one in the world for people coming into a country, by far.  And we have a total of 15 cases, many of which, or most — within a day, I will tell you most of whom are fully recovered.  I think that’s, really, a pretty impressive mark.

Now, we did take in 40 people that were Americans, and they’re also recovering.  But we brought them in, so I call that — I have a different group.  But we felt we had an obligation to American citizens outside of the country that were trying to get back in.  We thought it was very important.

Q    Mr. President, the stock market has taken a big hit over the past few days.


Q    What can you do about that?  And if the CDC is right in saying that the spread is inevitable, are you going to be dealing with stock market issues and economy issues for some time to come?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I really think the stock market — of something I know a lot about — I think it took a hit maybe for two reasons.  I think they look at the people that you watched debating last night and they say, if there’s even a possibility that can happen, I think it really takes a hit because of that.  And it certainly took a hit because of this, and I understand that also, because of supply chains and various other things and people coming in.

But I think the stock market will recover.  The economy is very strong.  The consumer is the strongest it’s ever been.  Our consumers are incredible. They’re incredible.  That’s why we’re doing well and other countries have not, even before the virus.  We’re doing great.  Other countries have not been doing great.  Our consumer is very, very strong and very powerful economically.

Yeah, please.

Q    Mr. President, have you been any plans that would involve quarantined cities, like we saw in China?  And what would have to happen for you to take a step like that?

THE PRESIDENT:  We do have plans of a much — on a much larger scale, should we need that.  We’re working with states, we’re working with virtually every state.  And we do have plans on a larger scale if we need it.  We don’t think we’re going to need it, but, you know, you always have to be prepared.

And, again, Congress is talking to us about funding, and we’re getting far more than what we asked for.  And, I guess, the best thing to do is take it.  We’ll take it.

Q    Mr. President, how much are you willing to give?  How much money are you willing to give Congress if they’re going six billion more than you’ve offered?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll we’re going to see, but we’ll take care of states because states are working very hard.  We have hospitals in states that make rooms available, and they — they’re building quarantine areas — areas where you can keep people safely.  We’re working really well with states.  It’s a very big part of it.

So, you know, my attitude: If Congress wants to give us the money so easy — it wasn’t very easy for the wall, but we got that one done.  If they want to give us the money, we’ll take the money.  We’ll just do a good job with it.

Yeah, please.

Q    Mr. President, should Americans be going out getting protective equipment such as masks and so forth?  And if so, what is the U.S. doing to boost production of masks?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we can get a lot of it.  In fact, we’ve ordered a lot of it just in case we need it.  We may not need it; you understand that.  But in case — we’re looking at worst-case scenario.  We’re going to be set very quickly.

But we — I don’t think we’re going to ever be anywhere near that.  I really don’t believe that we’re going to be anywhere near that.  Our borders are very controlled.  Our flights in from certain areas that we’re talking about are very controlled.  I don’t think we’ll ever be anywhere near that.

Please, go ahead.

Q    Back to the stock market for a second.  Travel-related stocks have especially been —


Q    — hammered here —


Q    — in the last couple days.  What would you say to Americans out there who right now are looking forward to the summer or the upcoming months and saying to themselves, “Should I make my summer plans?  Should I go travel abroad?”?

Well, hopefully, they’re going to be able to do that.  We think — we hope — that it’s going to be in good shape by that time.  But, you know, they’re going to have to remain a little bit flexible.

Yeah, I would say travel-related company, certainly right now, that would be — that would be — they would be hurt.

At the same time, this ends.  This is going to end.  Hopefully it’ll be sooner rather than later.  And I think the business that they lost will be picked up at a later date.

But, you know, right now, I think they’re not going to be — probably not going to be going to China; they’re not going to be going to certain countries where the problem is far greater than it is in the United States.

What it’s going to do is keep people home, and they’re going to travel to places that we have.  We have the greatest — it’s the greatest tourism country in the world.  So instead of leaving our country, leaving our shores, they’ll stay here.

And again, when you have 15 people, and the 15 within a couple of days is going to be down to close to zero, that’s a pretty good job we’ve done.

Q    What is your response to Speaker Pelosi who said earlier today, “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” about the coronavirus?  I’m also wondering if you want to address critics who say you can’t be trusted about what your administration is saying?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, sure.  Sure.  I think Speaker Pelosi is incompetent.  She lost the Congress once.  I think she’s going to lose it again.  She lifted my poll numbers up 10 points.  I never thought that I would see that so quickly and so easily.

I’m leading everybody.  We’re doing great.  I don’t want to do it that way.  It’s almost unfair if you think about it.  But I think she’s incompetent, and I think she’s not thinking about the country.  And instead of making a statement like that, where I’ve been beating her routinely at everything — instead of making a statement like that, she should be saying we have to work together, because we have a big problem, potentially.  And maybe it’s going to be a very little problem.  I hope that it’s going to be a very little problem.  But we have to work together.

Instead, she wants to do that — same thing with Cryin’ Chuck Schumer.  He goes out and he says, “The President only asked for two and a half billion dollars.  He should have eight and a half.”  This is the first time I’ve ever been told that we should take more.  Usually, it’s we have to take less.

And we should be working together.  He shouldn’t be making statements like that, because it’s so bad for the country.  And Nancy Pelosi — I mean, she should go back to her district and clean it up, because it’s the number one — if you look at percentage down, that was one of the finest in the world, and now you look at what’s happening.

And I’m just saying, we should all be working together. She’s trying to create a panic, and there’s no reason to panic because we have done so good.  These professionals behind me and over here, and over there, and back here, and in some conference rooms — I just left a group of 45 people that are the most talented people in the world.  Parts of the world are asking us, in a very nice way, can they partake and help them.

So Nancy Pelosi shouldn’t — and she knows it’s not true.  She knows — all — all they’re trying to do is get a political advantage.  This isn’t about political advantage.  We’re all trying to do the right thing.  They shouldn’t be saying, “This is terrible.  President Trump isn’t asking for enough money.”  How stupid a thing to say.  If they want to give us more money, that’s okay; we’ll take more money.  Some Republicans think we should have more money too.  That’s okay.  We’ll take more money.

But they shouldn’t demean the people that are on the stage, who are the finest in the world.  They’re not demeaning me.  They’re demeaning the greatest healthcare professionals in the world and people that do exactly what we’re talking about.

Q    Your campaign today sued the New York Times for an opinion piece.


Q    Is it your opinion or is it your contention that if people have an opinion contrary to yours, that they should be sued?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, when they get the opinion totally wrong, as the New York Times did — and, frankly, they’ve got a lot wrong over the last number of years.  So we’ll see how that — let that work its way through the courts.

Q    But that’s an opinion, right?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no.  If you read it, you’ll see it’s beyond an opinion.  That’s not an opinion.  That’s something much more than an opinion.  They did a bad thing.  And there’ll be more coming.  There’ll be more coming.

Q    Mr. President, Tokyo will host Summer Olympic Games this July.  Do you expect Tokyo will be?

THE PRESIDENT:  I hope so, because Shinzo Abe is a very good friend of mine.  I love the people of Japan.  And I hope it’s going to be in good shape.

As you know, you have a number of people in Japan who have been infected.  I hear they’re doing a very professional job, which doesn’t surprise me at all, with Shinzo and with all of the people you have.  I know Japan very well.  I think they’re going to handle it very well.

It’s a little tight, you know.  It’s a little tight.  They spent billions of dollars building one of the most beautiful venues I’ve ever seen, and your Prime Minister is very proud of it.  I hope it’s going to be fine.  We hope it will.

Q    Thank you very much, Mr. President.  The doctor at CDC just talked about dusting off preparedness plans.  But coming from you, it has more weight.  Do you feel like U.S. schools should be preparing for a coronavirus spreading?

THE PRESIDENT:  I would think so, yes.  I mean, I haven’t spoken specifically about that with the various doctors, but I would think so, yes.

I think every aspect of our society should be prepared.  I don’t think it’s going to come to that, especially with the fact that we’re going down, not up.  We’re going very substantially down, not up.

But, yeah, I think schools should be preparing and, you know, get ready just in case.  The words are “just in case.”  We don’t think we’re going to be there.  We don’t think we’re going to be anywhere close.  And again, if you look at some countries, they are coming down.  It’s starting to go in the other direction.

This will end.  This will end.  You look at flu season.  I said 26,000 people?  I’ve never heard of a number like that.  Twenty-six thousand people going up to sixty-nine thousand people, Doctor — you told me before.  Sixty-nine thousand people die every year — from 26 [thousand] to 69 [thousand] — every year from the flu.  Now, think of that.  It’s incredible.

So far, the results of all of this that everybody is reading about — and part of the thing is you want to keep it the way it is.  You don’t want to see panic because there’s no reason to be panicked about it.

But when I mentioned the flu, I said — actually, I asked the various doctors.  I said, “Is this just like flu?”  Because people die from the flu.  And this is very unusual.  And it is a little bit different, but in some ways it’s easier and in some ways it’s a little bit tougher.

But we have it so well under control.  I mean, we really have done a very good job.

Go ahead.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you, Mr. President.  You mentioned the stock market earlier.  To go back to that: To be clear, the Dow Jones dropped more than 2,000 points this week.  Are you suggesting that that was overblown?  Are financial markets overreacting here?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think the financial markets are very upset when they look at the Democrat candidates standing on that stage making fools out of themselves.  And they say, “If we ever have a President like this…” — and there’s always a possibility.  It’s an election.  You know, who knows what happens, right?  I think we’re going to win.  I think we’re going to win by a lot.

But when they look at the statements made by the people standing — standing behind those podiums, I think that has a huge effect, yeah.

Q    You don’t think the sell-off had to do with the coronavirus (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I think it did.  I think it did.  But I think you can add quite a bit of sell-off to what they’re seeing.  Because they’re seeing the potential.  You know, again, I think we’re going to win.  I feel very confident of it.  We’ve done everything, and much more than I said we were going to do.

You look at what we’ve done.  What we’ve done is incredible, with the tax cuts and regulation cuts and rebuilding our military, taking care of vets and getting them Choice and Accountability.  All of the things we’ve done — protecting our Second Amendment.  I mean, they view that — the Second Amendment, they — they’re going to destroy the Second Amendment.

When people look at that, they say, “This is not good.”  So you add that in.  I really believe that’s a factor.  But, no, this is — what we’re talking about is — is the virus.  That’s what we’re talking about.

But I do believe that’s — I do believe — in terms of CNBC and in terms of Fox Business, I do believe that that’s a factor.  Yeah.  And I think after I win the election, I think the stock market is going to boom like it’s never boomed before — just like it did, by the way, after I won the last election.  The stock market, the day after, went up like a rocket ship.

Q    At what point would you be considering loosen the travel restrictions regarding China?

THE PRESIDENT:  When we’re at a point where we don’t have a problem.  You know, we’re not going to loosen the travel restrictions.  That’s what saved us.

Had I not made — Mike alluded to it — had I not made a decision very early on not to take people from a certain area, we wouldn’t be talking this way.  We’d be talking about many more people would’ve been infected.

I took a lot of heat.  I mean, some people called me racist because I made a decision so early.  And we had never done that as a country before, let alone early.  So it was a, you know, bold decision.  It turned out to be a good decision.

But I was criticized by the Democrats.  They called me a racist because I made that decision, if you can believe that one.

We have to all work together.  We can’t say bad things, and especially when we have the best team anywhere in the world.  And we really gave it an early start.  We gave it a very early start.

Q    Your budgets have consistently called for enormous cuts to the CDC, the NIH, and the WHO.  You’ve talked a lot today about how these professionals are excellent, have been critical and necessary.  Does this experience at all give you pause about those consistent cuts?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, because we — we can get money and we can increase staff.  We know all the people.  We know all the good people.  It’s a question I asked the doctors before.  Some of the people we cut, they haven’t been used for many, many years.  And if — if we have a need, we can get them very quickly.

And rather than spending the money — and I’m a business person — I don’t like having thousands of people around when you don’t need them.  When we need them, we can get them back very quickly.  For instance, we’re bringing some people in tomorrow that are already in this, you know, great government that we have, and very specifically for this.

We can build up very, very quickly.  And we’ve already done that.  I mean, we really have built up.  We have a great staff. And using Mike, I’m doing that because he’s in the administration and he’s very good at doing what he does, and doing as it relates to this.

Yeah.  Go ahead, please.  Go ahead, please.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, go ahead.

Q    So far — so far, your administration —

THE PRESIDENT:  I picked him, but you’re fine.

Q    So far, your administration is only testing less than 500 people.  And health officials are questioning whether that’s enough, comparing to other countries who have tested more than tens of thousands of people.  Are you planning to test more people?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re testing everybody that we need to test.  And we’re finding very little problem.  Very little problem.

Now, you treat this like a flu.  We were — in fact, I might ask one of the doctors to come up and explain it.  You want to wash your hands a lot.  You want to stay — if you’re not feeling well, if you feel you have a flu, stay inside, sort of quarantine yourself.  Don’t go outside.

But there are certain steps that you can take that won’t even be necessary.  You know, in many cases, when you catch this, it’s very light; you don’t even know there’s a problem.  Sometimes they just get the sniffles, sometimes they just get something where they’re not feeling quite right.  And sometimes they feel really bad.

But that’s a little bit like the flu.  It’s a little like the regular flu that we have flu shots for.  And we’ll essentially have a flu shot for this in a fairly quick manner.

Yeah, go ahead.

Q    Two weeks ago, Mr. President, your Acting OMB Director was in this room and was talking about what he expects to be GDP growth for this coming year.  He said it was 3 percent.  And we’ve talked about the effects of the coronavirus on the supply chain, the declines in the financial markets.  Are you still confident that you’ll see that kind of economic growth this year?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, we’re going to have tremendously low unemployment.  We’re setting records on that one.  In fact, the administration has the — as you know, the lowest average unemployment of any administration in history.  Our numbers are very low, very good — 3.5, 3.6.  But you can’t really see what this does in terms of GDP.

It could affect it, but that’s irrelevant compared to what we’re talking about.  We want to make sure it’s safe.  Safety, number one.

But this would have, you know, an impact on GDP.  But we’re still very, very — we’re doing great.  But this will — just like — I’ll tell you what has a big impact: Boeing has a big impact.  How did that happen?  A year ago, all of a sudden, that happened.  I think that took away a half a point to a point, even.  You know, it’s a massive company.  I think Boeing — we had the General Motors strike; that was a big impact on GDP.

And, of course, we’re paying interest rates.  I disagree with the head of the Fed.  I’m not — I’m not happy with what that is because he’s kept interest rates.

President Obama didn’t have near the numbers.  And yet, if you look at what happened, he was paying zero.  We’re paying interest.  Now, it’s more conservative.  And, frankly, people that put their money away are now getting a return on their money as opposed to not getting anything.

But I think, you know, we’re the — we’re the greatest of them all.  We should be paying the lowest interest rates.  And when Germany and other countries are paying negative rates — meaning, they’re literally getting paid when they put out money.  I mean, they — they borrow money and they get paid when it gets paid back.  Who ever heard of this before?  It’s a first.  But we don’t do that.

So I totally disagree with our Fed.  I think our Fed has made a terrible mistake, and it would’ve made a big difference, as good as we’ve done, even without the 2,000 points.  And we started off at 16,000, and we’ll be at 28,000 without.  We were going to crack 30,000.  We have had increases like nobody has seen before.  But we’re doing well.

But we have to watch — we’re doing well, anyway, in other words, even despite the 2,000 points.  It sounds like a lot, and it’s a lot.  But it’s noth- — it’s very little compared to what we’ve gone up.

But we’ll be watching it very closely.  But we have been hurt by General Motors.  We’ve been hurt by Boeing.  And we’ve been hurt by — we’ve been hurt, in my opinion, very badly, by our own Federal Reserve, who has also created a very strong dollar.  That’s something nice about a strong dollar, but it makes it much harder to do business outside of this country.

Q    Thank you, sir.  A number of your supporters online have embraced these theories reported — these theories that the CDC may be exaggerating the threat of coronavirus to hurt you politically.  Rush Limbaugh the other day said this has been advanced to weaponize the virus against you.

THE PRESIDENT:  You don’t mean my supporters.  You mean my — my people that are not supporters?

Q    Right.  Your opponents.

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I agree with that.  I do.

Q    Have you seen evidence of that?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think they are.  I think — and I’d like it to stop.  I think people know that when Chuck Schumer gets upset — I mean, he did the same thing with a couple of trade deals that are phenomenal deals now — everybody has acknowledged they’re phenomenal deals — before he ever saw the deal.  He didn’t even know we were going to make a deal.  They said, “What do you think of the deal with China?”  “I don’t like it.  I don’t like it.”

He talked about tariffs.  I left the tariffs on: 25 percent on $250 billion.  He said, “He took the tariffs off.”  He didn’t even know the deal.  And he was out there knocking it because that’s a natural thing to say.  But when you’re talking about especially something like this, we have to be on the same team.  This is too important.  We have to be on the same team.

Q    Have you seen evidence that the CDC is trying to hurt you?  That there are career officials —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I don’t think the CDC is at all.  No, they’ve been — they’ve been working really well together.  No, they really are.  They’re professional.  I think they’re beyond that.  They want this to go away.  They want to do it with as little disruption, and they don’t want to lose life.  I see the way they’re working.  This gen- — these people behind me and others that are in the other room, they’re incredible people.  No, I don’t see that at all.

Q    First off, I would like to thank you for doing a briefing.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  I just —

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  I appreciate that.  I don’t know who said that, but I appreciate it.

Q    That was me.

Q    Thank you, Mr. President.  Tonight, you’re minimizing the risk of danger of the virus.  Are you telling the Americans, except for the ones who are sick, not to change any of their behaviors?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I think you have to always — look, I do it a lot anyway, as you’ve probably heard.  Wash your hands, stay clean.  (Laughter.)  You don’t have to necessarily grab every handrail unless you have to.  You know, you do certain things that you do when you have the flu.

I mean, view this the same as the flu.  When somebody sneezes — I mean, I try and bail out as much as possible when they’re sneezing.  I had a man come up to me a week ago.  I hadn’t seen him in a long time, and I said, “How you doing?”  He said, “Fine.  Fine.”  And he — he hugs me, kiss.  I said, “Are you well?”  He says, “No.”  (Laughter.)  He said, “I have the worst fever and the worst flu.”  And he’s hugging and kissing me.  So I said, “Excuse me.”  I went and I started washing my hands.  (Laughter.)  So you have to do that.

You know, this is — I really think, Doctor, you ought to treat this like you treat the flu, right?  And, you know, it’s going to be — it’s going to be (inaudible).

Q    Mr. President, on —

THE PRESIDENT:  Wait.  I want to have — I loved — that was so nice of you to say “thank you very much.”

Q    Well, thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Go ahead.  Give me a nice question then.  Don’t ruin it.  Don’t ruin it with a bad question.  Go ahead.

Q    It’s really nice to talk to you without the helicopter.  I got to say that.

But also, I want to talk to you about 2014.  During the Ebola crisis, you said you wanted a “full travel ban.”  You said Obama was a “stubborn dope” not for doing it.  You said, “Just stop the flights dummies!”  You also said it was a “total joke” to appoint someone to lead the Ebola response with, quote, “zero experience in the medical field.”  Now you’ve appointed Mike Pence.

THE PRESIDENT:  They listened to a lot of what I had to say.  And they —

Q    I did.  So how does that square with what you’re doing right now?

THE PRESIDENT:  They listened to a lot.  Well, because this is a much different problem than Ebola.  Ebola, you disintegrated, especially at the beginning.  They’ve made a lot of progress now on Ebola.  But with Ebola — we were talking about it before — you disintegrated.  If you got Ebola, that was it.

This one is different.  Much different.  This is a flu.  This is like a flu.  And this is a much different situation than Ebola.

But — and we’re working on Ebola right now, by the way.  We’re working on certain areas of the Congo.  The Congo has Ebola and caused largely by the fact that they have war and people can’t get there.  We can now treat Ebola.  In that — at that time, it was infectious and you couldn’t treat it.  Nobody knew anything about it.  Nobody had ever heard of anything like this.  So it’s a much different situation.

Q    Mr. President, the rate of mortality —

Q    I think it was to me.  Thank you.  Mr. President, let me ask you this —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, go ahead.

Q    In just the course of the last couple of minutes, you have disputed some of what the officials that are working in your administration behind you have said about the risk of coronavirus and its spread.  Do you trust your health officials to give you good information?


Q    Or do you trust your own instincts more?

THE PRESIDENT:  I don’t think I have.  They’ve said it could be worse, and I’ve said it could be worse too.

Q    You said you don’t believe it’s inevitable.  That contradicts what the CDC —

THE PRESIDENT:  I also think —

SECRETARY AZAR:  They said it will be worse.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I don’t think it’s inevitable.  I don’t think it’s inevitable.  I think that we’re doing a really good job in terms of maintaining borders and turning — in terms of letting people in, in terms of checking people.

And also, that’s one of the reasons I’m here today: getting the word out so people can — they’ll know.  They’re going to know.

No, I don’t think it’s — I don’t think it’s inevitable.  I think that there’s a chance that it could get worse.  There’s a chance it could get fairly substantially worse.  But nothing is inevitable.

Q    Mr. President, Brazil has its first case.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  Brazil.

Q    Right, Brazil.


Q    And you have many Americans now in Brazil for Carnival.  What are your concerns?  And what are the procedures and practices that you plan to implement as those Americans are trying to come back home?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes, we’ve gotten very strong on people coming in from Brazil.  Now, it only has one case.  It’s a big country, but it only has one case.  But still, it’s a case.

We deal with Brazil very well.  The President is a very good friend of mine.  In fact, he ran on exactly — it’s called “Make Brazil Great Again.”  That’s what he ran on.  We get along very well.  I know you’re so thrilled to hear that.  We get along very, very well, and we’re working with Brazil.

But we have much worse instances than Brazil.  You know, you have Italy and you have other countries where they have much more than one person.  They have one person right now.  As of now — as of just a little while ago — one person in Brazil.  But Italy is, you know, a deeper problem.

And we’re checking people coming in very, very strongly from those.  And at some point, we may cut that off.  You know, at some point, depending on what happens, we may cut certain additional countries off, like we’ve had to do with China.  And we hope we can open it up to China as soon as possible.

And we — and we hope the numbers we’ve been getting — we hope the numbers that we’ve been getting are true on China, where it really has leveled off and started to go down, because eventually, sometime, that’s going to happen.

Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, thank you very much.  You’ve said repeatedly that you think the federal government is very prepared, that you’re ready for this.


Q    But if you think that Secretary Azar is doing such a great job, why did you feel the need to make a change and put Vice President Mike Pence in charge of the federal response to this virus?

THE PRESIDENT:  Because — and I think — I think Secretary Azar is doing a fantastic job but he also has many other things.  I mean, we’re working on many, many things together.  If you look at his schedule of what he’s doing, including drug prices and — I think it’s perhaps the most complicated job that we have in government.  And I want him to be able to focus on that.

And Mike is really good at it.  They’re going to work together.  They’re going to work very closely together.  And they’re both in the administration.  I see them all the time, so it really works.  This isn’t a czar.  This isn’t going out and getting somebody that’s never been in the administration.  I have two people that are very talented.  And it’s something I feel good about.

I don’t want to — I don’t want to spare the horses.  I have very talented people.  I want to use them on this because I want it to stay low or as low as possible.

Q    Mr. President.  Thank you, Mr. President.  I want to get to China.  At the beginning of this outbreak, the Chinese Communist Party covered it up.  That has been — that has been the general consensus of everyone.  How can you now legitimately trust President Xi and the Chinese —


Q    — Communist regime?  President Xi.  And the Chinese Communist regime —

THE PRESIDENT:  Took me awhile to figure that one out.

Q    — to be forthcoming and forthright with this pandemic?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I can tell you this: I speak to him; I had a talk with him recently.  And he is working so hard on this problem.  He is working so hard.  And they’re very tough and very smart.

And it’s a significant — it’s a significant group of very talented people that are working.  And they’re calling up Dr. Fauci.  They’re calling up our people.  We’re dealing with them.  We’re giving them certain advice.  We actually have — through World Health, we have them over there also.  And we have a lot of our people making up that group that went over there.

No, he’s working very hard.  It would be very easy for me to say, you know — it doesn’t matter what I say, really.  I can tell you, he is working — I had a long talk with him the other night.  He is working really, really hard.  He wants it to go away from China and go away fast, and he wants to get back to business as usual.

Q    Mr. President, you talked about the flu and then in comparison to the coronavirus.  The flu has a fatality ratio of about 0.1 percent.


Q    This has a fatality ratio somewhere between 2 and 3 percent.  Given that and the fact —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we think.  We think.  We don’t know exactly what it is.

Q    Based on the numbers so far —

THE PRESIDENT:  And the flu is higher than that.  The flu is much higher than that.

Q    There’s more people who get the flu, but this is spreading — or is going to spread, maybe, within communities.  That’s the expectation.

THE PRESIDENT:  It may.  It may.

Q    Does that — does that worry you?  Because —


Q    — that seems to be what worries the American people.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, because we’re ready for it.  It is what it is.  We’re ready for it.  We’re really prepared.  We have — as I said, we’ve had — we have the greatest people in the world.  We’re very ready for it.  We hope it doesn’t spread.  There’s a chance that it won’t spread too, and there’s a chance that it will, and then it’s a question of at what level.

So far, we’ve done a great job.  When you have 15 people, with this whole world coming into the United States, and the 15 people are either better or close to being better, that’s pretty good.

All right, we’ll do — we’ll do one more.  Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, there have been many cases of price gouging on the sales of medical equipment, masks, and so on.  Should the government be investigating that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I think they —

Q    Looking into it?  Do you have a message on that?

THE PRESIDENT:  If you tell me that’s happening, we will definitely investigate.  We don’t want that.

All right, one more.  Go ahead.  Go ahead.

Q    Mr. President, thank you.

Q    Mr. President, just one —

THE PRESIDENT:  Go ahead.  No.  Yes.  Go ahead.

Q    Are you working with China right now?


Q    And specifically, in what areas?  Also, do you worry about the —

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re working with China.  We just did the biggest trade deal in history.  We did two of them.  Between USMCA and the China deal, it’s the biggest in history.

The relationship with China is a very good one.  And I can tell you that, again, President Xi is working really hard.  He wants this problem solved.  As hard as you can work.

Thank you all.  Thank you all.  I’m going to leave you behind and you can answer a few more questions.  So you can ask them a few, okay?

Q    Mr. President, are you going to do this more often?


Q    You are?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, we’ll do it.  If you like it, we’ll do it.

Q    Yes.

Q    Yes, we would.

Q    Yes.  We would like it.

Q    Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  We’ll do it.  We’ll do it more often.

Q    Mr. President, sir, do you still have —

THE PRESIDENT:  Wish him —

Q    — confidence in Secretary Azar?

THE PRESIDENT:  Wish him good luck.  In who?

Q    Secretary Azar, given the Pence move.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.

Q    Do you think the Vice President —

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, no, I have great confidence in him.  Great confidence.

SECRETARY AZAR:  I think — if I could just clarify, I think you’re not getting the point here of this.  I’m still chairman of the task force.  Mick Mulvaney has been serving, actually, an invaluable role for me as acting Chief of Staff, helping to coordinate across the government with my colleagues and the whole-of-government approach.

Having the Vice President gives me the biggest stick one could have in the government on this whole-of-government approach.  So —

Q    So you don’t feel like you’re being replaced?

SECRETARY AZAR:  Not in the least.  I’m — I —

THE PRESIDENT:  He’s not.  He’s not being.

SECRETARY AZAR:  When the — when this was mentioned to me, I said I was delighted that I get to have the Vice President helping me.  Delighted.  Absolutely.

Q    Will you answer a few more questions, Mr. Secretary, then?

SECRETARY AZAR:  Not tonight.  I testified for eight hours today in three hearings.  So maybe tomorrow, okay?


7:32 P.M. EST

The White House
March 6, 2020

Remarks by President Trump After Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Atlanta, Georgia
March 6, 2020

4:43 P.M EST

THE PRESIDENT:  I said, “I’d like to walk the press down the hall to see how professional this is.”  It’s incredible.  If you people would like, we would do that.  Are they able to do that, Doctor?  Can they do that?

DR. MONROE:  (Inaudible.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  Yes.  (Laughter.)  Why don’t you tell them a little bit about what you’re doing and how it’s going?  And here they are, right over there.  They’re actually very nice people.  But they’re told not be (inaudible) by the editors.

Dr. Monroe is a tremendously talented man.  They’ve done tremendous work here.  Doctor, please.

DR. MONROE:  Well, thank you, Mr. President.  And —

Q    Could speak up just a little bit for us?

Q    Yeah, we can’t hear.

Q    It’s really low.

DR. MONROE:  Thank you, Mr. President.  In this laboratory is where we generate materials that go into all of our diagnostic tests, not just for the coronavirus, which you have the electron micrograph here, but also for all of the other infectious agents that we work with.

And the advantage of having this facility here is the CDC is constantly listening for infectious disease spreads, both within the U.S. and around the world.  And when we first heard about this unusual illness in Wuhan, China, we started paying close attention to see if there was any indication of what might be the cause.

And as soon as the Chinese announced that it was a coronavirus and made available to the general public the sequence of that virus, we immediately started using that information — our scientists — to develop a test so that we could detect the virus.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can you hear that okay?

Q    No.

THE PRESIDENT:  Can we go over there?

(The participants move to a closer location.)

This is Dr. Monroe, everybody.  If you could maybe go through that, Doctor.  This is a little more comfortable, right?

DR. MONROE:  Sure.  So the CDC is always listening for infectious disease threats, both in the U.S. and around the world.  And we heard early on, at the beginning of — end of December — about this unusual illness that was taking place in Wuhan, China.  And the fact that it was associated with the seafood market led some evidence that it might be this — what we call a zoonotic transmission, from animals to people.

As soon as the Chinese announced that it was a novel coronavirus — and the Chinese, to their credit, made that sequence information available right away — our coronavirus experts here at CDC used that sequence information to design a test so that we would be able to detect the virus even though, at that time, there were no cases in the U.S. and we had no samples of the virus because we had no clinical materials.

And so we quickly went from designing the test, and the materials were made in these laboratories.  The quality control is done here.  And then our scientists used that to validate that it would work against what they could make as the coronavirus, using just the sequence information.  But importantly, so that it would not affect other things, because you want a positive to only be for the coronavirus, not for other kinds of viruses that create similar respiratory samples.

THE PRESIDENT:  Does everybody understand that?

Q    Can we ask some questions, please?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, sure.  Just one second.  Let him finish up.

DR. MONROE:  And then, in relatively short order, as the information coming out of China indicated that this was more serious than was originally thought — originally seven cases — we stood up our incident management system here at CDC so that we would have all the right components together — the epidemiology, the laboratory, the communications, the policy folks.

And then once it became clear that it was even more serious, that’s when we started to work with our colleagues at FDA to say, “We need to make this test available to the larger public health laboratory community.”

And so, worked with FDA to get —

THE PRESIDENT:  So tell them about how you’ve done with the tests (inaudible) over 4 million.

DR. MONROE:  — to get what we call “emergency use authorization” so that we could distribute the test to our — originally to our public health laboratory counterparts.

And now, working with the commercial manufacturers, we’re in position to scale up that production beyond what we can do with our own facility here, so that there’s the capacity to test more and more Americans.  And we are — as we work today to qualify more of those materials to go out.

And it’s important to note that at no time during this response has CDC ever denied a request that came from a public health official, either state or local, to test a patient.  So all the patients who needed to be tested, in the opinion of the public health officials, have been tested.

THE PRESIDENT:  They have plenty of materials is what you’re saying.

DR. MONROE:  And, yeah, all of our state labs now have the ability to — to test for this virus —

THE PRESIDENT:  And they have had.

Doctor, do you want to make a little statement, here?

Q    Tell us your name again, sir.

DR. MONROE:  Dr. Steve Monroe.

DR. REDFIELD:  Well, I think I — first, I want to thank you for your decisive leadership in helping us, you know, put public health first.  I also want to thank you for coming here today and — and sort of encouraging and bringing energy to the men and women that you see that work every day to try to keep America safe.  So I think that’s the most important thing I want to say, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  I appreciate it.  And the whole situation is — the testing has been amazing, actually.  What they’ve been able to produce in such a short period of time.  You had mentioned 4 million tests before — 4 million?

DR. MONROE:  By the end of the — the week, hopefully, it will be —

SECRETARY AZAR:  The following — next week.

DR. MONROE:  And the following week, we’ll be at —

THE PRESIDENT:  What — what number will it be?

SECRETARY AZAR:  Up to 4 million tests available in the United States by the end of next week.  We’ve got commercial labs getting validated as we speak.

By the end of this weekend, we’ll, as promised, have enough testing for seven- — that CDC has produced for — to test 75,000 people is already out.  And then enough tests for another million tests to be done.  And that’s — most of that is shipped, but last lots are here being validated by Dr. Monroe’s team as we speak.

DR. REDFIELD:  The one thing I would like to add: You know, the purpose of all of this, as Dr. Monroe said, is to have the capacity to detect the unknown.  You know, this lab has developed tests for Zika, SARS, MERS, and now this coronavirus.

And I think it really is remarkable that the capacity we had here — once we got the sequence, I think this lab team had a functional test in about seven days that — they worked with the FDA to make sure it was regulated.

I think it’s — that’s really what we do.

THE PRESIDENT:  And they started working when they saw there was a problem in China.  That was many weeks ago.  So they saw there was something going on in China long before anybody even heard of it.  That was actually before it was even in the print.

They heard there was a problem in China.  That’s when they started working on this, and that’s pretty incredible.  That’s why we’re in good shape.

Q    Sir, is the coronavirus contained in the United States?


DR. REDFIELD:  Yeah, I think at this point, again — and we’ve said this before and the Secretary can add — you know, the overall risk to the American public does remain low.  And, again, I think we owe a lot to the decisive decisions initially to have travel restrictions and the number of areas of screening in airports.

And then the most important is to get the public health community to do early case recognition, isolation, and contact tracing, which — again, the fact that we now had a test allowed us to do that a lot more effectively than if we didn’t have a test.

We do have some areas where there’s significant community transmission now.  Obviously, we’ve seen that in the Seattle area, we’ve seen it in parts of — of California.  We’re working hard with the local and state health departments and those groups to continue to try to control this — this infection in that area.

I think, as the President said — or maybe the Secretary — you know, we still have only around 200 cases that we’ve diagnosed in the United States.  We’re going to see more cases because we’re getting more diagnostics out there.  But I would say that — again, what I said before that — that, at the present time, the general risk to the American public remains low.  We’re going to concentrate and help those communities, though, that are now fighting — fighting the battle, like in the state of Washington.  Some of you were there, I think, the other day, when we were out there so.

Q    I have a question for Dr. Monroe, please.  Would you admit that the CDC did have problems with the tests?  And you say that there were people who — that these health officials never had to request — anyone who wanted the test.  But you set such strict guidelines so people were coming in and saying they couldn’t get the tests.  And we’ve talked to dozens of people that have contacted us saying they couldn’t get the test, even though they had the symptoms because they didn’t meet your criteria, because your test were faulty.

DR. MONROE:  So we did learn shortly after we distributed the first batch of our tests to the — some of the state health labs that there was an issue with one component of the test.  And so we quickly put together a team to try to figure out what that issue was and we suggested that people not test until we could sort that out.  But what we — what we have are three different signatures that we test for.  And we — in working with FDA colleagues, we identified that two of those were sufficient to have a positive conclusive test.

And so we’ve moved forward now with testing with just the two signatures.  And this is something that could easily happen where we’re — we’re just, again, starting from scratch with sequence information, building a test rather rapidly.  We did small-scale testing here before rolling it out because our — our goal was to get it out to the public health labs as quickly as possible.

Q    But you didn’t have to start from scratch.  You could’ve just used the WHO’s test.  Why did you choose to start from scratch when it would be a longer process?

DR. MONROE:  But we started with our test probably the same time the Germans and the other — Italians and the other groups that have worked with WHO were developing their own test.

Nobody could start with test development until the sequence information was made available by the Chinese.

Q    Right, but theirs didn’t have any faults — the WHO.  So why did we use that?

DR. REDFIELD:  I would like — I’d like to make one thing clear.

Q    Please.

DR. REDFIELD:  When this test was developed in — in really very rapid time, it was first offered here at CDC.  So all the public health labs in this nation could use CDC as we do when any new disease comes, and we can help them understand if this new pathogen is in that individual.  That was available as soon as our test was approved by the FDA — not a faulty test, a very accurate test.

But the challenge was you had to send the sample here to CDC.  That’s the same test we use today.  So no state lab never had no access.  They always had the ability to send it here.

Q    But they had to send it here because there were false reads?

DR. REDFIELD:  No, they had to send it here because that’s how we started it.  Then we developed the test to expand, and in the manufacturing, there wasn’t — then, after that, we sent it out to the states to see if they could verify that it worked.

We found that, in some of the states, it didn’t work.  We figured out why.  I don’t consider that a fault.  I consider that doing quality control.  I consider that success, making sure this test was going to perform out there with the same proficiency that it performed here.

THE PRESIDENT:  And now it’s all performing perfectly, right?

DR. REDFIELD:  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Just so you understand, now it’s all performing perfectly.

Q    And you have confidence in the CDC and how it rolled out?

THE PRESIDENT:  They’re fantastic people.  These are fantastic people.  No, it’s performing very well, and it has been performing very well.  And as you said, you had two of the three that worked perfectly.  And that’s all you need is two of the three.  In fact, you could have one of the three and it will work.  So he had two of the three, but now it’s performing perfectly in all places.

SECRETARY AZAR:  Dr. Monroe, could you — could you explain on the testing criteria and how that compares?  You explained to the President how that compared to China and international standards.

DR. MONROE:  Right.  So, early on, it — and when we submit our test to the FDA for emergency use authorization, we have to specify what are the conditions under which a person should be tested.  And certainly, at the beginning, we wanted to be clear that all of the cases at that time were associated with travel to one of the endemic areas or other things like that.

And so the criteria in the package insert were — were strict about who could be tested because we didn’t want just a lot of people with compatible symptoms who had no history of exposure to be tested.

But, as was stated, there was never a time when a public health official contacted CDC to ask for testing and it was not done, even if they didn’t quite meet the strict definition.

SECRETARY AZAR:  I understand even China — even China had a geographic travel restriction on who they tested.  And they were in —

DR. MONROE:  Right.

SECRETARY AZAR:  They were the epicenter.  Is that right, Dr. Monroe?

DR. MONROE:  Right.  At the very beginning, they were only testing people who had direct contact at the seafood market in Wuhan.

Q    Is there a chance that the limited testing means that the numbers are low and the public has been misled about how widespread this is?

DR. REDFIELD:  Yeah, we have been diagnosing cases here from the beginning originally linked to travel, associated with very aggressive public health measures of contact tracing.  So you might find one confirmed case and you might evaluate another 300 people.  Right?  And as you — we went out to do that.  The only contacts, initially, from the beginning that we found were two spouses — spouses who came back from Wuhan.  And all the other contacts were — were negative.

Over time, when the state of Washington sent a sample from an individual, they made the first diagnosis.  That individual was also a traveler.  But, clearly, as the — as they continued to diagnose more, we found people that had no risk of travel.  And this is what we call “community spread.”

So we do have community spread.  We are continuing to look.  We are enhancing our surveillance.  We’re blending surveillance for coronavirus into our flu surveillance system.  But at this point, I think we have isolated a number of clusters.  But it’s not as if we have multiple, multiple — hundreds and hundreds of clusters around the United States.

Q    Mr. President, this is obviously —

THE PRESIDENT:  I do think — I do think what’s happening, though, is you have people that are sick, but they don’t go to the hospital or they’re not very sick; it’s a more minor case and it could be of this virus.  But you have a lot of people that aren’t going to the hospitals.  So we’re not seeing those people.  And if you did see those people, I believe — if you did see those people — the statistics actually become much better, because they heal, they get better, they don’t see a doctor, they don’t see a hospital, they have a problem, they have the sniffles or a cold or all — you know, some of the symptoms.  And over a period of time, a short period of time or even longer period of time, they get better.

If you look at that, then all of a sudden you’re coming into a much lower category of risk in terms of death-type risk.  Because I think a lot of people aren’t going to doctors.  A lot of people aren’t going to hospitals.  And so you’re not seeing those people.

SECRETARY AZAR:  And, just, Mr. President, you wouldn’t — you wouldn’t have seen this but actually today, Dr. Fauci published, in the New England Journal of Medicine, a revised estimate of fatality counts very much consistent with what the President was saying, which is the WHO numbers are just a math problem: This many people died.  This many were diagnosed.

But if you then extrapolate to — from the number of diagnosed to how many likely cases there are that never came to the doctor or hospital or got tested, Dr. Fauci’s paper in the New England Journal says he thinks it’s less than 1 percent, which is, I think, word for word, Mr. President, what you were saying.

Q    Can I just ask one question about containment?  I mean, we’re — you’re saying that you have noticed — you’ve seen these clusters, but from last Friday to today, we’ve gone from something like 57 or 59 cases.  In 7 days, we have 200.  And we even haven’t had the testing to see if there’s more than that.  So now we’re actually getting the testing.  Don’t you think it’s likely there are a lot more people out there who are going to come and actually be sick?

DR. REDFIELD:  I think there’s no doubt we’re going to see more community cases.  And I just want to say — and there’s no doubt that the public health system of the United States is enhancing surveillance in a variety of ways to try to really understand: Is there any hidden pockets?  And I really just — that’s all in process.

But I will say everyone has been aggressively using the single case they diagnose and then to go look at all contacts to try to begin to understand this.  This how the nursing home was having a lot of infections in Seattle.  And tragically — and they’re all in our prayers — a number of deaths from that nursing home.

So I just assure the American public that we are enhancing our surveillance, not just CDC, but the entire public health systems in this nation so that we will have very accurate eyes on where this virus is.

Q    Obviously, Mr. President, we’ve talked a lot about the health ramifications, which of course is very important.  But there are also economic ramifications; the stock market dropped again today.  The travel industry — airlines, cruise ships, other companies — travel companies have been hit especially hard.  Can you give us a sense of what you’re considering to help offset this pain?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re considering different things.  But we’re also considering the fact that last year we had approximately 36,000 deaths due to what’s called the flu.  And I was — when I first heard this four, five, six weeks ago — when I was hearing the amount of people that died with flu, I was shocked to hear it.  Anywhere from 27,000 to 70,000 or 77,000.  And I guess they said, in 1990, that was in particular very bad; it was higher than that.

As of the time I left the plane with you, we had 240 cases.  That’s at least what was on a very fine network known as Fox News.  And you love it.  But that’s what I happened to be watching.

And how was the show last night?  Did it get good ratings, by the way?

Q    I — I don’t, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, really?  I heard it broke all ratings records, but maybe that’s wrong.  That’s what they told me.  I don’t know.  I can’t imagine that.

But what happened is, if you look at the number at the time we left, it was 240 cases, Peter, and 11 deaths.  That’s what it has been.  Now, you look at — throughout the world, I mean, other countries have — South Korea, Italy, and in particular China have many.

Now I also hear the numbers are getting much better in those places.  And I’ve heard the numbers are getting much better in China, but I hear the numbers are getting much better in Italy, et cetera, et cetera.  But what I hear — so we have 240 cases, 11 deaths.  Everything is too much and it’s true.  I don’t want 11 deaths.  I don’t want any deaths, right?

But over the last long period of time, when people have the flu, you have an average of 36,000 people dying.  I’ve never heard those numbers.  I would — I would’ve been shocked.  I would’ve said, “Does anybody die from the flu?”  I didn’t know people died from the flu — 36,000 people died.  Twenty-seven thousand to seventy-seven thousand, that’s your flu.

And again, you had a couple of years it was over 100,000 people died from the flu.  So I start to say, “I wonder what’s going on here.”

Now, you look at the percentage: The percentage for the flu is under 1 percent.  But this could also be under 1 percent because many of the people that aren’t that sick don’t report.  So they’re not putting those people in there.

And you’re smiling when I say that.  Who are you from, by the way?

Q    I’m — I’m from CNN.

THE PRESIDENT:  You are?  I don’t watch CNN.  That’s why I don’t recognize you.

Q    Oh, okay.  Well, nice to meet you.

THE PRESIDENT:  I really don’t — I don’t watch it.  I don’t watch CNN because CNN is fake news.

Go ahead.

Q    Can you just address the economic piece, though, because there is obviously a lot of fear about the economy?

THE PRESIDENT:  Of course it’s an effect.  I mean, it is effect — now, you know, if you know anything about me, I like when people happen to stay in the United States and spend their money in the United States.  Okay?  So I think people are staying in the United States more.  They’re going to spend their money in the United States.  And then this is ended.  It will end.  People have to remain calm.

I do think that if you look at the numbers and you look at the numbers from other years on other things, and you look at these numbers, it’ll be interesting to see what you find.  And statistics will soon be coming out.  But there was a big statistic today that it’s way under 1 percent.  They said one tenth of 1 percent in one case.  But nobody really knows.  We’ll be able to find out.

The problem is the people that get better, that don’t see a doctor, don’t go to a hospital, those people get better.  If they were in the numbers, the numbers would look much better in terms of death rate.

Q    Are you concerned there will be some bankruptcies (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Oh, I think you’ll have other things that are — the amazing thing — look at the job numbers today.  We had a tremendous job number today.

We had a number today that, when you add last month’s number, which was a correction of plus-80,000 jobs — wasn’t it a 350,000 jobs number today?  That was shocking.  I was watching a particular network and they said on the net- — that — but they’re pros.  They said, “Wow, these are unbelievable numbers.”  They were shocked by the numbers — over 350,000, when you add last month’s correction.


Q    All of these organizations that are canceling conventions and trips and study abroad programs and all these — all the organizations and businesses that are canceling conventions and meeting and travel, even within the United States, are they overreacting or are they taking the right precautions?

THE PRESIDENT:  I think it’s fine if they want to do it.  I don’t think it’s an overreaction, but I wouldn’t be generally inclined to do it.  I really wouldn’t be.  Now, it depends in what country you’re talking about.  If you’re talking about — if they’re going through another country or are you talking about within the United States?

Q    Within the United States, a lot of places are —

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, I — I mean, they have to feel comfortable.  People have to feel comfortable to have a good time.  If you look at — do I want to go to China?  Do I want to go to certain parts of Italy?  Do I want to go to South Korea right now?  You know, that’s a different decision.

But you have some parts of the world that — some parts — many — most parts of the country — look, in this big, vast land of ours, this great country of ours, we have 240 cases.  Most of those people are going to be fine.  A vast majority are going to be fine.  We’ve had 11 deaths, and they’ve been largely old people who are — who were susceptible to what’s happening.

Now, that would be the case, I assume, with a regular flu too.  If somebody is old and in a weakened state or ill, they’re susceptible to the common flu too.  You know, they were telling me just now that the common flu kills people and old people is sort of a target.

DR. MONROE:  And also the very young.

THE PRESIDENT:  And the young.  Now, the interesting thing here — it’s very interesting.  The interesting thing here is that the young seem to be doing unbelievably well — actually better than they do with the flu.  Young people and very young people are doing very well, which is another thing, I guess, they’re trying to figure out.

Q    Mr. President, you were shaking a lot of hands today, taking a lot of posed pictures.  Are you protecting yourself at all?  How are you — how are you staying away from germs?

THE PRESIDENT:  Not at all.  No, not at all.  Not at all.  You know, I’m a person that was never big on the hand-shaking deal throughout my life.  They used to criticize me for it or laugh about it or have fun with it.  But if you’re a politician — like, I walk in, and the doctors have their hands out — “Hello, sir.  How are you?”  I — if you don’t shake hands, they’re not going to like you too much.  And I guess that’s my business; I never thought I’d be a politician.  I guess, I’m a politician.

But the fact is I feel very secure.  I feel very secure.

Q    Are you going to tell us what happened here last night and today that at one point you cancelled the trip and then put it back on?  What happened here in the last —

THE PRESIDENT:  I was told that one person, maybe, that works someplace in the building, at I’m not even sure what level — but that one person may have had the virus.  And therefore, they said, “Sir, because of the fact that one person may have had the…”  Because this is a big building with a lot of great scientists, frankly.  One person had the virus.  And that turned out to be a negative report.  That turned out to be negative.  And so they called me.  But it was already cancelled.

But this morning, I said, “Wait a minute.”  I’m going to Tennessee.  We’re going down to Florida.  I have a meeting on Monday, as you know.  And so we’re going to Florida.  I’d love to stop at the CDC.  That was a big deal with Secret Service, but they’re fantastic and they worked it out.  So we stopped.

But it was a report and the person — it was a negative diagnosis.

Q    Mr. President, that convention on Monday has been cancelled because of coronavirus, where you were supposed to speak.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, we had another big deal.  There were two of them.  And there was a thing that we recommended, because there’s a lot of people.  And we recommended that if they want, let them cancel that one.  But there was another one in a similar area.

Q    Have you considered not having campaign rallies?

THE PRESIDENT:  No, I haven’t.

Q    Like, you don’t have one scheduled in Michigan this coming week and —

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll tell you what: I haven’t had any problems filling them.  I mean, we just had one in North Carolina, South Carolina — all over the place.  And we have tens of thousands of people standing outside the arena.  So, we haven’t had —

Q    Isn’t it a risk if there’s that many people close together?

THE PRESIDENT:  It doesn’t bother me at all and it doesn’t bother them at all.

Q    What should be done about that cruise ship that’s docked (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, that’s a big question.  So I was just on the phone with the Vice President, and they’re trying to make a decision.  I mean, frankly, if it were up to me, I would be inclined to say, “Leave everybody on the ship for a period of time, and use the ship as your base.”  But a lot of people would rather do it a different way.  They would rather quarantine people when they land.

Now, when they do that, our numbers are going to go up. Okay?  Our numbers are going to go up.  The 240 is going to go up.  And I assume that, perhaps, you know — it’s a very big ship with thousands of people on it, including the sailors and the crew.  It’s — you’re talking about a massive number of people.  That is a big ship.  If it were up to me, I would do it that way.  A lot of people think we should do it the other way. They’re Americans, or mostly Americans.  And we have to take care of Americans.

Q    The other way being take them off the ship and quarantine them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Bring them off the ship.

Q    Is that the —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, they’ll be under quarantine, and they’ll be tested very carefully.  Everyone is tested very carefully.

Somebody said today — in fact, the Governor said a story that a friend of yours — you know Governor Kemp?  A friend of yours was saying how tough it is to get into the United States with all the testing.  Maybe you’d like to say?

GOVERNOR KEMP:  Yeah, so John Selden, who’s running — the general manager of Atlanta International Hartsfield Airport — he’s on our coronavirus task force here.  And he did a great job yesterday in our press conference explaining the procedures that the President and others had put in place to make sure that everybody who is coming from northern Italy and South Korea are being screened multiple times before they get on the airplane.  I think that just gives people great confidence as they’re traveling through all of the airports across the country that the people that are coming in have been screened from those problem areas.  Their — their Customs and Border people are checking them as well and having conversations.

I think they may have tested one person at the Atlanta airport.  They have over 300,000 people go through there a day.  That test was negative.

And so, I mean, it is safe to travel right now.  People just need to be very careful, do the things that the CDC and Dr. Redfield and Secretary Azar and the Vice President and this task force are telling people to do.  And that’s — you know, keep your hands clean and just be careful where you’re going.  If you’re sick, don’t go to the airport.  You know, don’t go to sporting events.

THE PRESIDENT:  But he was very impressed with how hard it is to get on the plane.  He was tested two times — and then one person said three times — just to come in.

I mean, we’re watching it very closely.  The people are doing a good job.  And instead of being negative, you should be positive.  These scientists are doing a phenomenal job with something that came from out of nowhere a very short time ago.

Q    I’m not trying to be negative.  I’m trying to help people understand when they can get the test.  And I want to ask Secretary Azar because he said most of them had shipped out.  Can you tell me exactly how many people, as of right now, can be tested?  You told me yesterday you thought it’d be 475,000.  How many kits have been shipped, and how many people do you think can be tested by the end of —

SECRETARY AZAR:  Well, you’ve got the CDC Director, who is doing it.  Why don’t we have Dr. Redfield talk to you?

Q    Okay, great.  Perfect.

SECRETARY AZAR:  You may believe him.  You won’t believe me.  Why don’t you talk to Dr. Redfield?

DR. REDFIELD:  No, no, no.  You’ve done a great job.

SECRETARY AZAR:  No.  (Laughter.)

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s all right.  That’s all right.

DR. REDFIELD:  We continue to send — excuse me.  (Inaudible.)

GOVERNOR KEMP:  No, no, no.

DR. REDFIELD:  I’ll stand right here.  We continue — our first responsibility — CDC — as I said, was to develop the eyes — the lab test.  The second responsibility is to get that out to the public health community.  And we have now shipped out — I think it was enough to test 75,000 people into the public health labs now.

THE PRESIDENT:  Anybody that wants a test can get a test.  That’s what the bottom line is.

GOVERNOR KEMP:  And I would just say that we started testing in our lab in Georgia, our Department of Public Health, yesterday, which is a day over — that we thought it would be today.  So we are actually testing today.

Q    Great.

DR. REDFIELD: And the second group was to get — how do you get tests into the clinical arena, since our role is, you know, in the public health arena?  And the FDA, the Secretary, under his leadership, was able to take the test that CDC developed, and one of the companies said they want to develop it and sell it.  And that’s what the Secretary referred to that —

Q    Yeah.  IDC.

DR. REDFIELD:  Yeah.  And by the end of this week, they were supposed to have about a million, a million two tests out —

SECRETARY AZAR:  Yeah.  A million tests.  So they shipped 700,000 already.  The remaining lots are actually being tested here.  Dr. Monroe has got them as of, I think, 10:30 this morning.  And they have to do the quality control, and then, if they pass —

THE PRESIDENT:  But — but I think — I think, importantly: Anybody right now and yesterday — anybody that needs a test gets a test.  We — they’re there.  They have the tests.  And the tests are beautiful.  Anybody that needs a test gets a test.

If there’s a doctor that wants to test, if there’s somebody coming off a ship — like the big monster ship that’s out there right now, which, you know — again, that’s a big decision.  Do I want to bring all those people on?  People would like me to do that.  I don’t like the idea of doing it.

But anybody that needs a test can have a test.  They’re all set.  They have them out there.

In addition to that, they’re making millions of more as we speak.  But as of right now and yesterday, anybody that needs a test — that’s the important thing — and the tests are all perfect, like the letter was perfect.  The transcription was perfect, right?  This was not as perfect as that, but pretty good.

DR. REDFIELD:  I just — I want to add — I want to add one —

Q    Is South Korea handling it better than we are?

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re handling it from South Korea.  We’re testing that you can’t come in from South Korea unless they go through it.

Q    But are they handling it better than we are?

THE PRESIDENT:  I’d have to ask the doctors.

DR. REDFIELD:  Before that, I just wanted to add one other thing to the availability of clinical tests: The Secretary and the Vice President, last week, brought together all of the major diagnostic companies that you all know so well — LabCorp, Quest — and asked them to come together as a group.  And they already formed a consortium to work together to use their capacity, which is really substantial, to bring this test to doctors’ offices around our nation.  And when they presented it, they felt that either by Monday, they’re going to begin to roll out this test now through LabCorp, through Quest.

So, as the President said, the issue now is whether the clinicians believe that this test is indicated in evaluating the patients who come to see them.  It’s not going to be about the availability of the test, it’s going to be about the clinical judgment of the patient and the doctor or the nurse practitioner to get this test.

Q    Can I clarify about the cruise ship?

THE PRESIDENT:  And this is, by the way, the highest level test.

DR. REDFIELD:  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  This is the highest level test anywhere.

Q    About the cruise ship, has a decision been made?

THE PRESIDENT:  Ah, that’s a very good question.  From my —

Q    And are you the final decider?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yes.  From my standpoint, I want to rely on people.  I have great experts, including our Vice President, who is working 24 hours a day on this stuff.  They would like to have the people come off.  I’d rather have the people stay, but I’d go with them.  I told them to make the final decision.  I would rather — because I like the numbers being where they are.  I don’t need to have the numbers double because of one ship.

That wasn’t our fault, and it wasn’t the fault of the people on the ship, either.  Okay?  It wasn’t their fault either.  And they’re mostly Americans, so I can live either way with it.

I’d rather have them stay on, personally.  But I fully understand if they want to take them off.  I gave them the authority to make the decision.

Q    But isn’t that putting the preference over not having more attractive numbers over having the people be treated?

THE PRESIDENT:  No.  No.  No.  I’m saying whatever it is that takes precedence over the numbers.  No, I like the numbers.  I would rather have the numbers stay where they are.  But if they want to take them off, they’ll take them off.  But if that happens, all of a sudden your 240 is obviously going to be a much higher number, and probably the 11 will be a higher number too.

Q    There must be some risk in leaving them on the ship though, right, in terms of community spread?

THE PRESIDENT:  There’s probably risk to both.  Probably risk to both.  You know, ah —

Q    Is there going to be a way for us to advance our testing the way that South Korea has?  They have the drive-through testing now.  They’re testing —

THE PRESIDENT:  We’re working very closely with South Korea.  Yeah.

Q    — 10,000 people a day.  Are we going to be able to have that kind of capacity?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re working closely with South Korea.  They’re also in a much different position.  They have a lot of people that are infected; we don’t.  They’re in a much different position.  But we are working very closely with South Korea.

As you know, we’re allies.  Even though they’ve made much better trade deals in the past than we did, we’re allies with South Korea.  You have heard that, right?  And we’re working very closely with South Korea.

Q    Yeah, I’m just — I’m asking if we match their capabilities.

THE PRESIDENT:  And a lot of the testing — a lot of the testing is very similar testing.  But they’re in a much different position than — they have thousands of people.  And they’re in a — you know, they’ve got some difficulty right now.  But we’re working very closely.  In fact, they’re calling us, asking us and these people for advice.

SECRETARY AZAR:  And if I — and please correct me, doctors, if I’m wrong: If I understand correctly, South Korea is using a technology different than what we use in the United States in our public health labs but that we do use in our commercial labs — the LabCorp, the Quests, the Roches, the Abbots.  And that’s exactly what Dr. Redfield was saying.  We’ve been able to get up and running right away that — is that — am I saying that correctly, Dr. Monroe?

DR. MONROE:  Yeah, just one point of clarification: The South Koreans (inaudible), they’re doing drive-through sample collections.  So this is not like a pregnancy test where you drive through, they take a swab, and they tell you on the spot if it’s positive or negative.  They’re using that as a way to collect samples from a large number of people.  And then they’re using the high-throughput testing platforms in order to do the testing.

Q    And that testing platform is what you’re saying is available through Quest?  And — and so it will likely be available starting Monday, we think, when they’re up and running?

DR. REDFIELD:  And I think it’s important just to emphasize — again, back to the role that CDC had to support the public health labs: We have built the laboratory capacities throughout our public health labs to monitor for flu and other respiratory viral assistance.  The platform that does that is the platform of the test that we developed.  It wouldn’t have helped us to develop a test for the public health labs when they have none of the instrumentation.

We developed, using that platform for public health labs, a platform that the Secretary and Dr. Monroe was saying is a high-throughput platform, which has been put in most hospitals for HIV, hepatitis C.  And so that’s the platform.

And as we sit here today, we’re trying to now validate whether the test we made would be validated to use that on that platform.

But the private sector is already doing it too.  I mean, they’re — they’re moving now to that rapid throughput platform.

THE PRESIDENT:  And don’t forget, these are the people — like as an example: HIV.  I talk about it in the — in speeches and other things.  HIV-free — or essentially free — within nine years now.  It’s a 10-year process.  These are the people that came up with the answers to the stuff that three years ago, four years ago, you would have said it’s impossible.  What they’ve done is incredible — and to others also.  If you look at what they’ve done with HIV, it’s incredible.

Other countries are all calling the same people that you’re dealing with.  And honestly, what you should be doing is giving them a lot of credit because this was a very condensed period of time.  Even the vaccine, they’re going to have tests done in 90 days that other people wouldn’t have — that, two years ago, you were taking two years to do.  And they’re making great progress.  It takes a period of time, but they’re making great progress.

Other countries are dealing with the same people you’re talking to now, and others in this government universe.  They’re incredible people.  And honestly, you should be giving them tremendous credit.  They’ve done a tremendous job.

When you mention South Korea, they’re dealing with us all the time.  When you mention Italy, they’re dealing with us all the time.  We’re working together with China.  We’re working together with everybody.

But these are great people.  These are incredible people.  And you shouldn’t be knocking them; you should be praising them.  They have done an incredible job already.

Q    Mr. President, last night, you said you had not anticipated this kind of thing happening.  Would you rethink then having an Office of Pandemic Preparation in the White House that is point on (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  I just think this is something, Peter, that you can never really think is going to happen.  You know, who — I’ve heard all about, “This could be…” — you know, “This could be a big deal,” from before it happened.  You know, this — something like this could happen.

I think we’re doing a really good job in this country at keeping it down.  We’ve really been very vigilant, and we’ve done a tremendous job at keeping to down.

But who would have thought?  Look, how long ago is it?  Six, seven, eight weeks ago — who would have thought we would even be having the subject?  We were going to hit 30,000 on the Dow like it was clockwork.  Right?  It was all going — it was right up, and then all of a sudden, this came out.

And all I say is, “Be calm.”  We have the greatest people in the world.  Everyone is relying on us.  The world is relying on us.  They’ve done an incredible job in a very condensed period of time.

And the thing is, you never really know when something like this is going to strike and what it’s going to be.  This is different than something else.  This is a very different thing than something else.

So I think they’ve done a great job.  And you know what?  If I didn’t think they did, I’d tell you.

Q    But do you think there’s value in having an office in the White House that’s preparing for this kind of (inaudible)?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I just don’t think — I just don’t think that somebody is going to — without seeing something, like we saw something happening in China.  As soon as they saw that happening, they essentially — not from the White House.  I mean, you know, we don’t need a lab in the White House.  But they saw something happening.

I found it very interesting.  They spotted something going on in China.  When you see these labs that I just saw — and I would love to have them see it if it’s possible — but they spotted something going on in China.  They started working on it immediately just in case it should come here, and also to help China.  I mean, if we could find something that’s beneficial, we want to give it to China like they’re going to want to give it to us.  China is working very closely with us — South Korea, Italy, all of them.  They’ve been working very closely.

But we’re doing — you know, again, 240 and 11.  That’s where we are right now.

Q    Mr. President, on the numbers, where are we now with the forecast?  What sort of numbers are you working to, in terms of —

THE PRESIDENT:  We don’t have a forecast because we don’t know.  We don’t know how many people are — you know, have this, aren’t going to see a doctor, aren’t going to see a hospital.  And the higher that number is, the better the numbers from the standpoint of death — the death count.  They get better without seeing doctors, without seeing hospitals.  So nobody is marking it down.  And I think the number is very high.  I think that number is much higher, but it never gets reported because they’re not going to hospitals or doctors.

The ones that get reported are people that are really sick enough to go to a hospital or to a doctor.  So it makes the numbers look worse.

Q    But how can hospitals be preparing if they don’t know how many people they’re going to have to deal with?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re prepared for anything.  We’re prepared.  We are, really, very highly prepared for anything.  And in a short period of time — I mean, what they’ve done is very incredible.  And I’ve seen what they’ve done back there.  It’s really incredible.

Q    And just from a health perspective —

THE PRESIDENT:  And, by the way, NIH, what they’ve done — I spent time over there — and I like this stuff.

You know, my uncle was a great person.  He was at MIT.  He taught at MIT for, I think, like a record number of years.  He was a great super genius.  Dr. John Trump.

I like this stuff.  I really get it.  People are surprised that I understand it.  Every one of these doctors said, “How do you know so much about this?”  Maybe I have a natural ability.  Maybe I should have done that instead of running for President.

But you know what?  What they’ve done is very incredible.  I understand that whole world.  I love that world.  I really do.  I love that world.  And they should be given tremendous credit.  And the whole world is relying on us.

You know, you hear about — like you’re saying about South Korea.  South Korea is very much reliant on the information we’re giving them.  And they’re reliant on the vaccines that we will come up with.  Very soon, we’re going to come up.  Now it take a bit of time to get them tested and then put into the (inaudible).  It has to be very safe.  You can’t give a vaccine that’s going to be unsafe.  It would be a disaster.  So that’s where we are.

And I think these people deserve — all of them, scientists and doctors — I think they deserve tremendous credit.  I really do.

Q    The Vice President went to the Seattle area yesterday —


Q    — with  Governor Inslee.


Q    He was very complimentary of Washington’s response.  The governor was a little less complimentary of your response.

THE PRESIDENT:  So I told Mike not to be complimentary to the governor because that governor is a snake.  Okay?  Inslee. And I said, “If you’re nice to him, he’s — he will take advantage.”  And I would have said “no.”

Let me just tell you, we have a lot of problems with the governor and — the governor of Washington.  That’s where you have many of your problems.  Okay?  So Mike may be happy with him, but I’m not.  Okay?

And he would say that naturally.  And as I said last night at the town hall, if we came up with a cure today, and tomorrow everything is gone, and you went up to this governor — who is a, you know, not a good governor, by the way — if you went up to this governor, and you said to him, “How did Trump do?” –he’d say, “He did a terrible job.”  It makes no difference.  If we came up with it right now, and tomorrow everything ended, at 8 o’clock tomorrow morning — everything ended — he would say, “Trump did a horrible job.”  Okay?

And I told Mike that would happen.  I said, “No matter how nice you are, he’s no good.”  That’s the way I feel.

Goodbye.  Good luck to CNN.

Q    I have one quick question.  Just for — just for the people who are watching who are concerned and have symptoms: Is it possible, or is it a good thing or is it something that we’re looking into to be able to test people in mass, like they’re doing in other countries, so that they can just show up and get tested and leave?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, they’re not testing.  They’re sampling people in other countries.

Q    Then they’re testing samples.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no — excuse me, there’s a difference.  I heard what he said.  They’re sampling people.  It’s a drive-by.  They give samples.

Now, can we do that?  Yeah, we can do that, but that’s not effective like what we’re doing.  We’re doing the whole thing in one — in one stop.  They’re doing samples in South Korea.  It’s a very different thing.

Go ahead.  Would you like to say something?

DR. REDFIELD:  Well, I would just say, you know, we’re at a stage in our experience with this virus that we are still deeply focused on control.  Some people use the word “containment and control.”

And I said, about the important principles of early diagnosis, isolation, and contact tracing, and then now with some mitigation strategies, as you see in different areas, when they’re deciding should you close large gatherings — I think it’s important to use the data and the science that we have.

I mean, we’re not blind where this virus is right now in the United States.  And we need to focus our resources right now where we know this virus is circulating substantially in the community, like certain parts of California, like certain parts of Seattle.  That’s where we need to put our focus.

It would not be in service to our ability for our American response if all of a sudden 20 million Americans that have no evidence of any risk, and we’ve looked in those areas, really don’t need that.

That’s why we are accelerating, as the President said, our surveillance.  I mean, we’re going out and really testing people that have flu-like symptoms, and going to expand that, from the sites we started to the whole nation.  So we’re going to have eyes on this and see, “Whoops, this virus has now snuck up into northern Maine.  Whoops, we see it down in Kansas.”

And that information will then be used by doctors to know if someone comes in with an upper respiratory to — “Ohp, I better think about maybe testing for the coronavirus.”

So we really want to have the American people to have confidence — it’s not just in the CDC; it’s in the public health community of this nation.  It’s strong.  They’re doing their job.  I tell people, every time we see a new confirmed case, they should think of that as a success, not a failure, because they know their public health community is out doing their job.

THE PRESIDENT:  So the difference is that they’re doing — they’re being proactive.  We are being proactive.  We’re going out and looking for spots.  Nobody else is doing that — not by leaving samples or anything else.  We’re going out and proactively looking to see where there’s a problem.  We don’t have to do that, but we’re doing it to see if we can find areas which are trouble spots.

I even — don’t even know if I agree with that.  You’ll find out those areas just by sitting back and waiting.  But they’re trying to find out before — before you would normally find out by waiting.  And, you know, I think that’s great.  But that’s what they’re doing.

They’re the only — we’re the only country, in that sense, that’s proactive.  We’re totally proactive and we’re totally equipped to handle it.

Q    Is the strategy shifting from containment to risk mitigation?

DR. REDFIELD:  So, right now, it’s — you shouldn’t think of it as one or the other.  All right?  And I’m going to say, we need to stay committed to containment.  And I still believe containment and control is the goal.  But that’s going to be complemented strategically by what we call mitigation or non-pharmaceutical interventions, like asking, you know, churches not to have big gatherings.

So in the state of Washington, in the last couple of days, they announced their initial mitigation strategies.  We’ve been working on mitigation for the whole nation, just in a planning way, but we’ve also been — have our people buried into the Washington Health Department, the California Health Department, to have them start to develop.

And again, Washington started to operationalize theirs this week.  I suspect California will later.  We’re going to continue to work on these, and it’s going to be a community by community, community, community strategy.  They’re not all going to be the same.

But it’s going to be driven by the amount of community transmission that can’t be linked to a contact, that can’t be linked to a trip.  When you see significant, what we call “on-link transmission,” then you start to have to evaluate the value.  So it’s not one versus the other.  But this nation should not give up on containment.

THE PRESIDENT:  Okay?  Thank you very much.  Thank you.  Thank you very much.

END                5:31 P.M. EST

American Bridge PAC
March 9, 2020

UNHINGED: The Trump Coronavirus Response: Unprepared, Erratic, In Denial

As the Coronavirus outbreak continues to spread and with nearly one-in-three Americans living under a state of emergency, Donald Trump’s failure to prepare our public health systems, his erratic communication, and outright denial about the severity of its spread prove how incapable he is of leading the country during a crisis. Even as millions across the country panic over the coronavirus spread, an out-of-touch Trump found time to hit the links, beg for campaign cash, and even host a lavish party – including a conga line

“Amid the chaos, Donald Trump is more focused on partying and spinning disastrous economic news than protecting our public health. We are getting a window into what we knew all along: Donald Trump is incompetent and incapable of leading our nation,” said American Bridge Spokesperson Kyle Morse. “The avalanche of negative headlines, a tanking market, and public outcry shows just how shaky Donald Trump’s grip is on the country and the electorate. With Democratic enthusiasm at an all-time high, Trump and his campaign are in for a rude awakening come November.”

Here’s what news outlets across the country are saying:

Politico: Trump's mismanagement helped fuel coronavirus crisis.
 “For six weeks behind the scenes, and now increasingly in public, Trump has undermined his administration’s own efforts to fight the coronavirus outbreak — resisting attempts to plan for worst-case scenarios, overturning a public-health plan upon request from political allies and repeating only the warnings that he chose to hear. Members of Congress have grilled top officials like Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar and Centers for Disease Control Director Robert Redfield over the government’s biggest mistake: failing to secure enough testing to head off a coronavirus outbreak in the United States. But many current and former Trump administration officials say the true management failure was Trump’s.” [Politico, 3/7/20]

Washington Post: Squandered time: How the Trump administration lost control of the coronavirus crisis.
 “Several experts said the United States should have spent more time making sure hospitals and state and local health departments had the money, training, personal protective equipment and resources they needed to respond to outbreaks. But the White House’s messaging in January and well into late February that the virus was contained and under control probably led health-care facilities to be insufficiently prepared, these experts added.” [Washington Post, 3/7/20]

New York Times: Inside Trump Administration, Debate Raged Over What to Tell Public
. “But from Mr. Trump’s first comments on the virus in January to rambling remarks at the C.D.C. on Friday, health experts say the administration has struggled to strike an effective balance between encouraging calm, providing key information and leading an assertive response. The confused signals from the Trump administration, they say, left Americans unprepared for a public health crisis and delayed their understanding of a virus that has reached at least 28 states, infected more than 300 people and killed at least 17.” [New York Times, 3/9/20]

CNN: Fissures widen between White House and health agencies over coronavirus. “Fissures between the White House and national health agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have begun to expand as the coronavirus pandemic spreads to more American states, creating dissonance between President Donald Trump and the professionals tasked with containing the virus further.” [CNN, 3/9/20]

Vox: Trump’s denialist tweets are the coronavirus reaction we feared
. “In two Monday morning tweets, President Trump made it painfully obvious that he is in complete and utter denial about the coronavirus threat...For Americans counting on the Trump administration to protect them from the disease, this should be deeply disturbing.” [Vox, 3/9/20]

Slate: Trump Plays Golf While Coronavirus Cases Surge.
 “Around the world, leaders and health authorities were struggling to try to get a handle on the rapidly spreading coronavirus. But in the United States, President Donald Trump seems to have thought it would be a great time to hit the links with professional baseball players. On Sunday, the commander in chief played golf with current and former Washington Nationals players at Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach.” [Slate, 3/9/20]

HuffPost: Trump ‘Can’t Bluff His Way Through’ This Crisis, Conservative News Site Says. 
“Donald Trump is revealing how “deeply unsuited he is to deal with a genuine crisis that he can’t bluff his way through,” according to an editorial published Sunday in the Washington Examiner, a conservative political news site and weekly magazine that often has the president’s back. This time, the Examiner had a serious problem with the president’s deceitful approach to the coronavirus threat.” [HuffPost, 3/9/20]

DNC War Room
March 9, 2020

Trump Golfs and Fundraises While Coronavirus Crisis Grows

After failing to provide an adequate response to coronavirus, and contradicting experts to downplay the outbreak, Trump spent his time in Florida golfing and fundraising for his reelection.

After spending his weekend golfing, Trump will spend his day today fundraising for his reelection. 

CNN: “As coronavirus gains a foothold in the nation, it's business as usual for Trump”

Washington Post: “After stopping at the CDC on his way to Mar-a-Lago, Trump heads to the golf course two days in a row”

Top administration officials are claiming that the coronavirus is “contained,” even as the number of confirmed cases continue to rise.

Bloomberg: “Two of President Donald Trump’s top aides each described the coronavirus outbreak as ‘contained’ on Friday morning, even as the number of confirmed cases in the U.S. exceeded 200 and test kits remained in short supply.”

Washington Post: “Since January, public health officials have been urging others in the administration not to use the word ‘contained’ in reference to the virus.”

He tried to keep people exposed to the virus on a cruise ship to not add to the nation’s tally.

Associated Press: “But Trump also detoured from that message, calling Washington state’s governor a ‘snake’ and saying he’d prefer that people exposed to the virus on a cruise ship be left aboard so they wouldn’t be added to the nation’s tally.”

Trump: “I would rather because I like the numbers being where they are. I don't need to have the numbers double because of one ship that wasn't our fault. … I'd rather have them stay on, personally.”

Trump continues to downplay the severity of the coronavirus crisis and spin it as a positive for his presidency.

MSNBC: “White House officials are growing increasingly frustrated at what they see as President Donald Trump's consistent bids to downplay the severity of the coronavirus outbreak, a tendency that has led to a clash in messaging with public health officials.

Associated Press: “For weeks he’s played down the consequences of the public health emergency and also misleadingly played up his poll ratings even as his agencies scramble to manage the crisis. Now he’s suggesting that a robust jobs report might be explained in part by the prospect that Americans are hunkering down and focusing more of their spending in their own country. There’s no evidence that the virus has juiced jobs.”

Trump said we couldn’t expect him to be ready for coronavirus, but Trump repeatedly proposed budget cuts to critical health funding, and left vacant important positions for responding to the outbreak.

New York Times: “Defending against criticism of his handling of the coronavirus, President Trump suggested the other day that he could hardly have been expected to be ready for such an unexpected crisis. ‘Who would have thought?’ he asked during a visit to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the nerve center for the government’s response to the outbreak. ‘Who would have thought we would even be having the subject?’”

Washington Post: “Wall Street and business leaders are looking to the Treasury Department for leadership and aid, but its response is hindered by so many vacancies in top positions, including the assistant secretary for financial markets, several former staff members said.”

NBC News: “President Donald Trump’s decision to downsize the White House national security staff — and eliminate jobs addressing global pandemics — is likely to hamper the U.S. government’s response to the coronavirus, according to veterans of past disease outbreaks and experts who have studied them.”

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