TRUMP CORONAVIRUS COVID-19 UPDATE, THURSDAY, MARCH 19, 12:30 P.M.
This is the daily White House press conference on the coronavirus.
President Donald Trump’s remarks:
“Today we are bringing home another American citizen,” Amer Fakhoury, who is on the way back home after being imprisoned in Lebanon since September 2019, and who is battling late stage cancer.
The safety of Americans is a priority for his administration, he said, adding he is trying to free American Austin Tice from Syria.
Yesterday he signed into law “critical support” for workers with sick and medical leave for those affected by the virus. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin is at Capitol Hill right now working on more aid.
“If people had known about it, it could have been stopped in place,” Trump said, chastising the Chinese government for not alerting the world earlier about the virus.
The Defense Production Act has been signed into law but not activated. He is working on small business relief.
“When this is defeated…I think we’re going to go up very rapidly, our economy.”
The FDA is slashing red tape “like nobody has ever done before” to develop vaccines and therapies. A vaccine trial has started. We are pursuing antiviral therapies. We’re looking at things to make people better.”
The FDA is slashing outdated rules and bureaucracy to launch “safe, effective treatments.” Drugs with “really good promise” are in the works. The FDA approved “compassionate use” for some patients. Drugs approved abroad or here for other uses are in play. Right to try for extremely ill patients is in play – Trump said he signed this law a year and a half ago.
If treatments are known to be safe in China or Europe, “nothing will stand in our way.”
One promising drug is Chloroquine, a common drug and for malaria and strong arthritis. This will be made available almost immediately by prescription.
FDA commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn:
“I have great hope how we’re going to come out of this situation. The American people have great resiliency.”
The president asked us to break down barriers. FDA’s responsibility is to ensure products are safe and effective even as it cuts red tape. Since early January, FDA worked with CDC.
We are expanding therapeutic options for coronavirus patients.
“We are looking at everything coming across our desk” for coronavirus treatments.
Even with promising drugs, the existing dosage may not be right. Regarding compassionate use, if there is an experimental drug, a doctor may ask to use it – the FDA will collect the data and make the right decisions on the safety and efficacy of the treatments.
The FDA is looking at drugs in the short term for drugs that are approved for other diseases, like Chloroquine. That’s a drug the president has ordered us to take a look at” in a clinical trial.
Convalescent plasma: If you have been exposed to the virus and are better, we can collect the blood and concentrate it to give to other patients and possibly help them. That could happen in a couple of weeks.
There is a Phase 1 trial which should take 12 months to approve a vaccine.
Vice President Mike Pence:
The coronavirus act provides testing, food assistance and more. The Senate should start to work on an economic relief package. Trump and I are meeting with FEMA today.
On testing: Testing is available in all 50 states. The public-private partnership with labs: tens of thousands of tests are being performed every day. State and private labs by law must report all coronavirus testing to the CDC.
If you don’t have symptoms you don’t need a test to save them for other cases.
Supplies: We are working to identify available supplies in business stockpiles. Honeywell and 3M now may sell to hospitals their industrial N95 masks because of the new production law. All those masks have liability protection for producers. Many construction businesses are donating their masks to hospitals.
Ventilators: We are working with healthcare providers and supplies and found tens of thousands of ventilators that can be converted for patient use.
We hear of cases where people practice the 15 days of social distancing. These guidelines should be practiced by every American in every community to protect the most vulnerable.
Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus task force coordinator:
New cases are a result of our ability to test more people and reducing the backlog. The number of positives is increasing. Those with mild symptoms are staying at home. Positives are 10 to 11 percent of test results.
Over half the cases come from three states so they get priority for testing. Many cases come from 10 counties.
She thanked healthcare centers that reduced elective procedures and the construction industry with masks and other protective gear.
There is a need for Millennials and Generation Z members to donate blood. Blood donation is safe and centers are taking extra precautions.
Responding to questions:
On guarantee no executive bonuses or stock buybacks. Trump said, “I would tell them not to.”
The Defense Production Act has not been enabled, a reporter said. Trump said governors should do a lot of this work in buying masks and such items. This is for the local governments. The administration is working on ventilators. More will be known in the next few days.
On treatment drugs: Hahn said they are working with a manufacturer but cannot say more because of business confidentiality.
On Austin Tice. Trump said he is trying to determine if he is alive.
Shortage of masks and guidelines suggesting hospitals reuse them or use bandanas. Pence said 3M produces millions a month and by eliminating liability, all those are available to hospitals even though they are not certified for medical use. 3M said they produced 35 million masks since January, and those are now available for sale to hospitals. “They’re in the marketplace now.”
When will life return to normal? Trump said he hopes it is soon. It could have been stopped if we had known sooner.
A reporter asked Trump why he didn’t prepare sooner even though he said before he thought this would be a pandemic. Trump said the media called him a racist for banning travel from China.
Other protective gear for medical workers: What is the holdup on the production act? Trump said that is the governors’ job.
A reporter asked the president about the gap between what he is saying about the availability of masks and tests vs. people not being able to get tested. Trump said he is working with governors. The system that was in place was broken.
There is a growing backlash among Republicans about a corporate bailout, a reporter said. Trump said if a company goes out of business, that can hurt thousands of workers.
What about an overseas travel ban? Trump said he is meeting later with the State Department so he does not have an announcement.
The president refused to comment on possible sanctions against China for quashing early reports of the virus outbreak.
On Congressional members testing positive for the virus and others who are self-quarantining: “Hopefully they’re all going to get better. Most people get better.”
On stimulus: Is $1 trillion enough? Trump: We’ll see. If this virus is stopped in its tracks, it’s plenty. Trump said he supports the government taking an equity stake in some companies. Help will likely come to hotels, cruise lines, airlines for example. Small businesses will get help.
How long should those not working expect this shutdown? Trump said that will be known in the near future.
On when school can resume. Birx said that is a local decision. The modeling studies are being updated. This depends on people following the self-isolation guidelines.
Trump said that if Chloroquine works, the numbers will come down rapidly.
On cancelling the Olympics: That is Japan’s call.
Oil supply glut by Saudi Arabia and OPEC. This helps drivers but hurts American producers. The administration is trying to find a middle ground.
There is talk of using Carnival cruise ships as hospitals.