Remarks by President Trump in a Press Briefing on COVID-19 Testing (May 11)
THE PRESIDENT: We’re here today to provide an update on the unprecedented testing capacity developed by the United States — the most advanced and robust testing system anywhere in the world, by far. This afternoon, I’ll also announce new steps that we’re taking to make tests even more widely available.
To battle a virus, my administration marshaled every resource at our nation’s disposal: public, private, military, economic, scientific, and industrial — all at your disposal. We launched the largest manufacturing ramp-up since the Second World War. There’s been nothing like it since.
At the center of this industrial and scientific mobilization was the development of our coronavirus testing capabilities. In the span of just a few short months, we’ve developed a testing capacity unmatched and unrivaled anywhere in the world, and it’s not even close. This is a core element of our plan to safely and gradually reopen America. And we’re opening, and we’re starting, and there’s enthusiasm like I haven’t seen in a long time.
Every American should be proud of the amazing array of talent, skill, and enterprise our nation has brought to this challenge. In three months, the FDA has authorized more than 92 different tests, and over 9 million have been performed here in the United States. Three weeks ago, we were conducting roughly 150,000 tests per day. Now we’re doing approximately 300,000 tests per day — a 100 percent increase — and it will go up substantially from that number.
This week, the United States will pass 10 million tests conducted — nearly double the number of any other country. We’re testing more people per capita than South Korea, the United Kingdom, France, Japan, Sweden, Finland, and many other countries — and, in some cases, combined.
On Friday, the FDA authorized coronavirus antigen tests, an alternative testing technology that can be much more readily manufactured. Quidel Corporation, which makes this newly authorized point-of-care test, estimates that it will be able to manufacture 150,000 tests per day, immediately increasing to 300,000 tests per day within just a few weeks.
To further expand our nation’s testing capabilities, this afternoon I am announcing that my administration is — and that we’ve got this all approved; it’s all done — is sending $1 billion to America’s states, territories, and tribes. So this has all been approved. We’ve gotten it done, completed. The money is going out. This major investment will ensure that America continues to conduct more tests than any country on Earth by far.
I said from the beginning that the federal government would back up the states and help them build their testing capability and capacities, and that’s exactly what’s happened. This partnership has truly flourished. We have really had a very good relationship with the states and the governors and other representatives within the states — a relationship like, I think I can honestly say, has not been seen in this country for many, many years.
The governors and us are working together very closely not only on testing, but on ventilators, where we have a capacity that’s, at this point, virtually unlimited. And we’re sending ventilators — as you probably heard from other countries, we’re sending many, many thousands of ventilators to other countries because they’re in tremendous need. And I think building up a lot of goodwill, but much more importantly than that, we’re saving a lot of lives.
Most states are now doing a great job. My administration located 5,000 machines in 700 labs across all 50 states, and governors have learned how to maximize these testing resources.
The federal government is also supporting states with vital supplies, quick approvals of new tests, and one-on-one coaching from the team here at the White House on how to increase capacity and increase it very quickly.
In recent weeks, we’ve held multiple conference calls with every state, as well as with D.C. and Puerto Rico. We jointly developed testing projections and goals for each state for the month of May, altogether totaling 12.9 million tests. Think of that: 12.9 million tests.
Today, I’m announcing that my administration will provide the collection supplies to help states meet their targets and meet them rapidly.
During the month of May, FEMA and HHS will be delivering 12.9 million swabs to states nationwide. We already have them; the delivery will be very quick. We’re prepared to provide millions of additional swabs if any state is on a pace to surpass its goal. And their goals are very high. We’ve set them very high, and we’ve told them to set them very high.
My administration will also provide approximately 9 million transport media, which are used to transfer swabs to the lab processing. A complicated process, but we’ve made it simple. As a result of these actions, every single state will be able to test more people per capita in May alone than South Korea has tested in four months since the outbreak began.
This major commitment is possible because of the massive mobilization of American industry, including Puritan Medical Products, U.S. Cotton, Abbott Labs, and Thermo Fisher. Some of these incredible companies produced and produce rapidly for us, and their products are here with us this afternoon. These are all different products that were literally just developed, and — if you can imagine that. And these are the best machines and the best equipment anywhere in the world. And other countries are calling us, and we’re trying to work as much as we can, not only on ventilators, but also with testing.
My administration also continues our tireless effort to expand testing in the most underserved communities. Through our partnership with the private sector, leading pharmacies and retailers are now operating over 240 testing sites across the country, and that’s in addition to all of the other sites that we have working. Seventy percent of these sites are located in communities with unique vulnerabilities.
There will be more than 300 sites by the end of this week, and retailers are making plans to open up hundreds and hundreds more locations within the next 30 days. These additional sites are helping us ensure access to testing in every community. My administration is fighting relentlessly to protect all citizens of every color and creed from this terrible virus, the invisible enemy.
In addition to vast amounts of testing supplies, my administration has partnered with the private sector to coordinate the delivery of more than 90 million N95 masks, and these are of the highest quality — many are made right here in the United States, a capacity we didn’t have at all at the beginning — 126 million surgical masks — likewise, many are made here; 9 million face shields; 21 million surgical gowns; 993 million gloves; and 10,690 ventilators. We’re building thousands of ventilators in numerous plants all across our country. It’s incredible, actually.
This global pandemic has inflicted great pain and hardship on our people. It should have never been allowed to happen. It should have been stopped at the source. We mourn for every life the virus has claimed, and we share the grief of all of you who have lost a loved one — and that goes worldwide, too. Many, many countries — 184 countries, at least.
Thanks to the courage of our citizens and our aggressive strategy, hundreds of thousands of lives have been saved. And we have saved — and if you look at on a per-100,000 basis, we’re at the best part of the pack, right on the bottom. Germany and us are leading the world. Germany and the United States are leading the world — lives saved per hundred thousand.
In every generation, through every challenge and hardship and danger, America has risen to the task. We have met the moment, and we have prevailed. Americans do whatever it takes to find solutions, pioneer breakthroughs, and harness the energies we need to achieve a total victory.
Day after day, we’re making tremendous strides. With the dedication of our doctors and nurses — these are incredible people, these are brave people, these are warriors — with the devotion of our manufacturing workers, food suppliers, and lab technicians, and with the profound patriotism of the American people, we will defeat this horrible enemy, we will revive our economy, and we will transition into greatness. That’s a phrase you’re going to hear a lot because that’s what’s going to happen.
We’re going into the third quarter, and we’re going to do well. In the fourth quarter, we’re going to do very good. And next year, I think we’re going to have one of the best years we’ve ever had because there’s a tremendous pent-up demand. It’s a demand — and I’m feeling it. I’ve felt things a lot over my life, and I’ve made a lot of good calls. It’s a demand like I don’t think I’ve ever seen. There’s a pent-up demand. There’s a — there’s a spirit of this country like few have seen. And I think you can say — and we’ve helped a lot of the countries a lot. Really, a lot. There’s a tremendous spirit all over the world to beat this terrible, terrible thing.
But we’re transitioning to greatness, and the greatness is going to be in the fourth quarter, but it’s really going to be next year, and it’s going to be a year like we’ve never had before. I really believe that. As good as we’ve done — and we’ve done great; we had the best economy in the history of the world, not just here, but anywhere in the world. You can talk China, you can talk any other country, we had the best economy anywhere in the world.
And we were going for numbers, whether it was unemployment numbers, where we had our best numbers; employment, also, numbers — a little different — where we had our best numbers, almost 160 million people. All of that — we had the greatest stock market numbers ever. I think we had 142 days where we set records in a short period of time. A hundred and fifty-two days we set records in the stock market. We rebuilt our military, all built in the United States. All of our equipment built — $1.5 trillion plus.
On the southern border, the wall is being built. It’s being built rapidly. And now you don’t hear the opponents talking too much about the border. They don’t like to talk about it because it seemed that we were right on a lot of things. One of the things we were right about — one of the many things was the border. We have a very powerful border. Now, we had one of the best weeks in the history of our border, between the United States and Mexico — our southern border. We have very few people coming in — very, very few. Almost record low numbers.
And the wall is being built. It’s up to 181 miles already. It’s being built. It’s being built rapidly. People don’t talk about it anymore because it’s very successful. In the area where the wall has built — that is a lot still, but we want to be up to 450 by a very short period of time. Early next year, we should be up to 450. And very shortly after that, over 500 miles to be completed.
But it’s had a tremendous impact. But again, we’ve had the best numbers. The last thing we want now with this pandemic is for people to come across our southern border. And again, we’re doing record numbers, meaning record low numbers.
So I just want to thank everybody, and I want to introduce Admiral Giroir — if you could, please come up — and Brad, if you would — Brad Smith. And they’re going to do a little explaining as to what we’ve done with regard to testing and how successful it’s been. And then we’ll take some questions after that.
Thank you very much.
ADMIRAL GIROIR: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership and for your high expectations that really made this all come together and for the uniform support of everyone in the White House and the administration. And thank you, Secretary Azar, for providing his leadership at HHS and allowing both Brad and I the opportunity to work on this project.
I think it’s clear that America does lead the world in testing. I’ll go through some of the charts that show that we lead quantitatively. I will also suggest that we lead in the diversity of tests, which are very important to establish the testing ecosystem to keep America safe. And clearly, as we’ve said multiple times, no one beats America when it comes to quality.
So let’s start potentially with the next slide.
This may be hard to see, but if you look at the line on top, that’s the total numbers of tests done by the United States. No other country in the world comes close to the total numbers. Again, as the President has said, today we will top over 9 million tests. And if you look at per capita — everyone talks about South Korea being the standard — today, we will have done more than twice the per capita rate of testing that was accomplished in South Korea. No matter how you look at it, America is leading the world in testing.
And how did we get there? Let’s look at the next slide. Next slide please.
A very important component of how we came to this point was the authorization by the FDA, under the leadership of our Secretary, of many different diagnostic tests, of diagnostic devices, and now of serology tests.
So you’ve heard a lot about the different testing and you see some of the machines up here. Most of the diagnostic tests — all but one — rely on the amplification of the viral RNA, the viral genetic material. And we’ve talked to you about the diversity of tests. There are very high-throughput tests that are done at big reference labs like LabCorp and Quest. But very importantly, there are also tests — and you heard us talk about Cepheid, delivering over 2 million tests vitally important to rural America’s — and to places that do not have very large infrastructure.
You’ve also seen the Abbott tests we’ve talked about — there it is on the left of the President — delivering about 1.4 million tests as a point-of-care test. You get the result within 5 to 15 minutes. And we have deployed over 235,000 of these tests to the state public health laboratories in every state of this country to make sure that that point-of-care testing capability is there to research outbreaks, like in nursing homes or in certain industrial capacities, and well over 90,000 to the Indian Health Service, so they could test at a point of care in remote locations.
The President also talked about a new first-in-class test; it’s listed there as an antigen-based test. This is very important — and you’ve heard Ambassador Birx talk about this multiple times — because antigen testing, although complex, is much less complex than the nucleic acid testing that we’ve had.
Quidel had this authorized by the FDA. And as the President said, we’ll soon be making over 300,000 tests per day. Do the math. That’s 9 million point-of-care tests that we will have every month in just a few weeks. It will clearly add to and, to a certain degree, transform our landscape.
What you don’t see up here is the important work the FDA did. I’m a swab guy now. I’m very interested in swabs. In order to make all these tests work, you have to show that a certain swab, made of a certain material, performed in a certain way, delivers a highly accurate result.
And what you’re seeing up here is some of the fruits of that labor. Without the authorizations of, for example, the foam nasal swab, we would be blowing through PPE all across the country because of the need for full PPE just to take a test. That has really been changed by this diverse authorization and a recent authorization that allows the great manufacturer, U.S. Cotton, to join our foundational industry of Puritan.
Last week, we did over 1.9 million tests, and that number is growing. And again, as the President said and Brad will talk about, our states aspire to do well over 12 million tests over the next four weeks.
You see the graph growing. What you also see very importantly is that little orange bar on the bottom is the cumulative number of positives. Our percent positives are going down, and that’s what we want to see. In fact, in 31 states as of last night, the positivity rate is less than 10 percent, which is not a litmus test, but is a good idea that we’re doing plenty enough testing that we can enter phase one for careful reopening.
I also want to take the opportunity to say this doesn’t happen by accident. I’m seeing everyone in the audience here, and I’m so pleased that they can be here. People sitting in the front have been working, literally, 18 to 20 hours a day, every single day of the week, for at least the past two months. None of this happens by accident. It happens because their hard work, their sacrifice, their sacrifice to their family all for a common good. And I’m very, very honored to consider you all as my colleagues.
And my last slide, as the President said, $11 billion are now being announced to be delivered to the states for the sole support of testing. This will give them the resources to partner, as they have, with the federal government, with the President, the Vice President, the task force, with Brad and I, to achieve their testing goals. And we’re going to be very specific, and they know it, that there needs to be minimum numbers to be planned to test. They have to have plans for their vulnerable communities, including nursing homes, including those who are disabled, including those who are in prisons or who have working environments that they may have a more likelihood to spread the infection.
And combined with that, the Secretary’s Office of Minority Health will soon be awarding a large contract to guarantee a national network of state, local, and community-based organizations to assure that those underserved, particularly racial and ethnic minorities, are linked to the services that they need — not only testing, but in care as well.
And with that, I’d like to hand it over to Brad Smith, who’s the Director of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation, but has really been the chief operating officer to make all of this come together.
MR. SMITH: Thank you, Admiral. I want to talk through a little bit, specifically the work that we’ve been doing with the states.
So, as the Admiral mentioned, over the past few weeks, we’ve been working with each state to set a target for their testing goal for May. With — over the series of a couple of different calls, we’ve aligned on what those goals are. And as the Admiral mentioned and the President mentioned, they add up to over 12.9 million tests in the month of May.
For every state, this is greater than 2 percent of their population in the entire state being tested in May, and for many states, it’s a much higher number than that. When you compare this, as the President mentioned, to South Korea, South Korea is actually below that 2 percent not for a month, but for their total tests to date since the start of the year. And so our states have come together to set really ambitious goals that we’re excited to support them in meeting.
If you go to the next slide. As I talked about last time in the press briefing, there are really three parts to making sure that tests can happen. The first part is the specimen collection supplies, the second part is the machines, and the third part are the lab supplies that the machines need to run. And what we’ve been working to do is to make sure that each state has all three of those parts to be able to conduct the number of tests.
The first part is the specimen-collection supplies. The commercial market today is providing a large number of these supplies already to states and already to hospitals, but we wanted to ensure that every state had more than what they needed to be able to conduct the number of tests they’re aiming in May. So what we’ve done is we’ve purchased enough tests to support the state testing goals for May and June. So we will be sending more than 12.9 million swabs and over 10 million media to the states over the course of May, and a similar or greater number over the course of June.
In addition, we have several million in reserve. So if states are able to exceed their goal in third and fourth week of May, we can provide them even more swabs and transport media. And again, this is in addition to what’s already available on the commercial market.
If you go to the next slide. There are large numbers that have been talked about many times — a large number of testing machines across the country, over 5,000 different machines that can conduct these tests. The key part is making sure that the machines and that the labs have enough supplies to run the machines. There will be, in the month of May, commercially produced, over 25 million test kits, which is either the PCR and extraction kits or the cartridges, to be able to support tests in their effort — states in their testing effort.
And what we’ve been working to do with each state is understand their total goal. And each of the manufacturers has been a great partner with us and told us how many tests they’re shipping to each lab in each state over the course of May. And what we know is that, in the aggregate, the number of test kits the state is getting is greater than their testing goal for the month of May.
In addition to what the states have already purchased, there’s over 7 million additional tests that remain unpurchased — the majority of those from Thermo Fisher, which is the most common machine in the country. So we feel very confident that states will not only have the specimen-collection supplies and the machines, but also the extraction kits and the reagents they need to be able to hit or potentially exceed their testing goals.
And if you go to the last slide. The last piece of the puzzle is making sure that Americans have access to these tests. Healthcare providers, hospitals, primary care physicians are already providing these tests today. And we, for the past six or seven weeks, have been partnering with the retailers who have massively been ramping up their effort.
Today there are over 240 retail sites. We’ve been working with the retailers to make sure that they’re specifically targeting low-income and other vulnerable communities across the country, and we are talking with them about potentially opening more than another thousand additional sites over the next month or two.
So we hope that we’ve put together the right pieces of the puzzle: having access points for patients and Americans across the country, having the specimen-collection supplies needed to take the test, having the machines, and then also having the lab testing supplies with the machines.
So, thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Brad. And maybe you’ll both stay there. Could be some questions.
Okay. Please, John. Go ahead.
Q We had a situation here at the White House on Friday, where a member of the Vice President’s staff tested positive for coronavirus, which has now caused three of the top U.S. officials involved in the coronavirus response to self-isolate. A two-part question: Where did the system break down to allow that to happen? And where — what would you say to employers who look at the experience here at the White House and say, “Are we ready for this?”
THE PRESIDENT: I don’t think the system broke down at all. One person tested positive, surprisingly, because, the previous day, tested negative. And three people that were in contact — relative contact, who I believe they’ve all tested totally negative, but they are going to, for a period of time, self-isolate. So that’s not breaking down. It can happen. It’s the hidden enemy. Remember that. It’s the hidden enemy. And so things happen. But the three tested negative. The one who tested positive will be fine. They will be absolutely fine.
Q And what do you — what do you say, Mr. President, to other companies who may look at this and say, “I don’t know if we’re ready for all of this”?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think, you know, we have a lot of people in the White House. And we had one. Basically, we had one person. So — and we had a lot of people that work here. This building is shocking, if you looked at the numbers. And it’s also tremendous numbers of people coming in. Normally, you wouldn’t do that. But because we’re running a country, we want to keep our country running. So we have a lot of people coming in and out. Many of those people — most of those people are tested depending on what portion of the Oval Office area they’re going in. Everybody coming into the President’s office gets tested. And I’ve felt no vulnerability whatsoever, John.
But the two people, as I said, and three people, are — they have been tested, and it’s negative, and they’ll be probably out of quarantine very quickly. Okay?
Q Mr. President, if I can follow up on that: Your staff, your senior staff, as you just referenced, is able to get tested every day. When will it be that Americans across the country will be able to get tested every day, as they go back to work?
THE PRESIDENT: Very soon. I mean, really, very soon. It’s an interesting question because normally you would have said that “you are not tested,” and you would have been, you know, knocking us for not getting tested. So, if we get tested, it’s a problem. And if we don’t get tested, it’s a problem.
But I like the way your question was phrased better this way because it is a positive. We are tested and we have great capability. You look at all of these machines here. They’re incredible machines. They’re the best anywhere in the world. No — no place in the world has this kind of equipment. Other countries are calling — sophisticated countries — and they’re calling. Lots of countries. And we’re trying to make as much as we can available to them, because there’s nothing like what we’ve been able to do in a — literally a couple of months.
What they’ve been able to do — the private sector, what they — how they got it done. This is a 5- to 15-minute test, as an example — the Abbott Laboratories’ test. These tests are highly sophisticated — very quick, very good. This is things that didn’t even exist a short while ago.
So we do have a great testing capability at the White House. We’re doing it. And I think, generally speaking — we had a call with a governors the other day — generally speaking, without exception, they were all extremely happy with what’s going on, with respect to their testing. Okay?
Q But should people be told to go back to work until they have that assurance that they and their coworkers are able to get a test —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — which we’re still not there?
THE PRESIDENT: We’re leaving that up to the governors, as you know. And if we see something wrong, we’ll call them out and we’ll stop it. But we are leaving it up to the governors. Some are being not aggressive enough, in my opinion, and some are being a little bit aggressive, but they’re being very careful.
And the people of the country, they’ve learned a lot over the last two months. They’ve learned about social distancing and washing your hands and other things that we’ve all learned and talked about. They’ve learned about — I see everybody — just about everybody has a facemask on. They’ve learned about facemasks — the good and the bad, by the way. It’s not a one-sided thing, believe it or not.
But our country has learned. Our country has been incredible. And you see the numbers; they’re dropping very substantially. The numbers are dropping around our country very, very substantially.
So we leave that, Jon, up to the governors, and I think they’re making a lot of good decisions. We’ve had, as I said, a great relationship with governors, Democrat and Republican. And I think, overall, they’re making very good decisions.
Nobody in this group. All of the ones behind the rope. That’s interesting. Please.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said in your comments earlier, “We have met the moment. We have prevailed.” To you, sir, is the mission accomplished? Even with 1.4 million —
THE PRESIDENT: No, we’ve prevailed on testing, is what I’m referring to. That was with regard to testing. You never prevail when you have 90,000 people, 100,000 people; when you have 80,000 people, as of today; when you have this — the kind of death you’re talking about, when you have potentially millions of people throughout the world that are dying. That’s not prevail- —
What I’m talking about is: We have a great testing capacity now. It’s getting even better. There’s nobody close to us in the world. And we certainly have done a great job on testing. And testing is a big — is a very big, important function. By the way, some people consider it more important than others, to be honest with you. But testing certainly is a very important function, and we have prevailed. We have the best equipment anywhere in the world.
Okay, please. Yeah. Please, go ahead.
Q There are a variety of reports that Chinese hackers are attempting to steal technology related to vaccine research. Is this something you’re concerned about? What can you say?
THE PRESIDENT: So what else is new with China? What else is new? Tell me. I’m not happy with China. They should’ve stopped this at the source. They could’ve stopped it right at the source. So now you’re telling me they’re hacking? So, I just say this, Steve: What else is new? We’re watching it very closely.
Q Sir, the — if I could follow up, sir: The South China Morning Post, the Beijing newspaper, says that China would like to reopen negotiations on the trade deal to make the terms more favorable to them. Is this something you’d be interested in doing?
THE PRESIDENT: No. Not at all. Not even a little bit. No, I’m not interested. We signed the deal. I had heard that, too — they’d like to reopen the trade talk to make it a better deal for them.
China has been taking advantage of the United States for many, many years, for decades because we had people at this position, right here where I’m standing, sitting right in that office — the Oval Office — that allowed that to happen.
No, I’m not interested in that. Let’s see if they live up to the deal that they signed. Okay?
Please, go ahead.
Q Mr. President, what are your thoughts about a second round of direct payments to Americans that’s included in the House Democratic bill?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, we’re talking about that with a lot of different people. I want to see a payroll tax cut. I want to see various things that we want. I want the workers to be taken care of.
But we are talking about that. We’re negotiating with the Democrats. We’ll see what happens. But as I said, it’s a transition, and it’s a — this is really going to be, in my opinion — we’ll see, but I think it’s going to be something that’s going to be very special. It’s a transition to greatness, and greatness is next year, right from the beginning. I think we’re going to do fantastically well.
I view the third quarter, as I said, as a transition quarter. It could be pretty good, but a transition quarter. Toward the end of the fourth quarter, you’re going to see some numbers that are going to be tremendous, I think. And next year you’re going to have potentially the kind of numbers that you saw before, and maybe even better, because there is that pent-up demand that is — you know, a lot of people wanted to do things. They were ready to do things, and they’ve had to hold back because of the virus.
So I think you’re going to have, with that pent-up demand, a phenomenal year next year, unless somebody messes it up by coming along and raising taxes — doubling, tripling, quadrupling your taxes. Like a certain party, namely the Democrats want to do. You’ll mess it all up.
You know, we had the greatest in the world. I presided –this administration presided over it. It got great for a reason. And we’ll do it again, and we’ll do it very quickly and very easily. I see that happening.
Yes ma’am. Please.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. Almost everyone, as you noted, in the Rose Garden is wearing a mask today. Why haven’t you required everyone at the White House to wear masks before now?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, if they’re a certain distance from me or if they’re a certain distance from each other, they do. In the case of me, I’m not — I’m not close to anybody. I’d like to be close to these two gentlemen. They’re hardworking, great men, but they just said, frankly, “Let’s keep it this way.” So, obviously, in my case, I’m very far away from everyone.
But if you look at all of those people over there, every one of them from what I see — these are White House staffers, they’re White House representatives, they’re White House executives, and everybody has a mask on.
We’ve had — just about everybody I’ve seen today has worn a mask.
Yeah. Please, go ahead.
Q Were you the one who required that, sir?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, I did. I did. I required it. Yes.
Please. Go ahead.
Q Mr. President, you’re now promising that everyone who needs a test will be able to get one at some point soon. Can you give us some figures on what you’re changing to ramp up testing? When will that be a true statement, exactly? And how exactly are you going to accomplish that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, it’s a true statement already. We have more testing than any country in the world by far. But I’ll let Admiral go into a little bit of the future.
ADMIRAL GIROIR: When you look at the testing numbers that we worked with collaboratively with the — with the state leadership — it’s not just with the governor, but the state health officers, the state epidemiologists, the public health labs — it’s really a combination of testing those who need something for diagnosis, diagnostic testing; tracing — so testing those who have been around the people with a diagnosis.
But the largest fraction of that is really moving into surveillance; that is testing those who are asymptomatic. And when you do the numbers, this amount of testing on a state-to-state basis really is in the range that we need to accomplish all of that, certainly within the range that we need. So it really encompasses those three things.
The other thing I would say is, particularly as we move into the summer, there are surveillance mechanisms — and I talked about them before — like a weather radar. And just think about that weather radar. The influenza-like illness network, which is at about 75 percent of healthcare institutions and syndromic surveillance. So if we see a blip on that weather radar, combined with CDC personnel in every single state, and with contact tracers, we really run to the fire, right? And that’s when you detect, you trace, and you shut off that outbreak right when it starts.
Q Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: Phil, go ahead.
Q — there does seem to be a double standard here, Mr. President, where members of your own staff can get tests frequently when they need it, but ordinary Americans cannot.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q So when will the rest of America have the same access that members of your own White House have to testing?
THE PRESIDENT: And you know what? If we didn’t get the tests, if we did no tests in the White House, you’d be up complaining, “Why aren’t you getting tests for the White House?” See, we can’t win, because if we didn’t get the tests, you’d be up — I understand you very well, better than you understand yourself — and, frankly, if we didn’t get tests done, you’d be up complaining about the fact that we didn’t have the tests done.
Now that we’re doing so well on tests and so quick and so fast — five minutes, et cetera — and so accurate, you’re complaining that we’re getting too many tests. So, you can’t win.
Go ahead, Phil.
Q Yeah, Mr. President, many Americans want to return to their normal lives, but they’re afraid to do so. How can you ensure Americans that it’s safe to go to their own workplaces when the most secure workplace in the country, the White House, cannot contain the spread of the coronavirus that’s infected some of your own staff?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, when you say “some,” so we have a person and the person got — something happened right after a test was done. Three other people met that person, came into relative contact — very little contact — and they’re self-quarantining. That is not exactly not controlling it. We — I think we’ve controlled it very well.
We have hundreds and hundreds of people a day pouring into the White House. It’s a massive office complex, including the very large building right behind us that you know so well. So I think we’re really doing a very good job in — in watching it. And I think it’s very well contained actually.
And part of the reason, it is because of all the tests we’re able to give. But it was one person, and the other people were only people — they’re quarantined. You understand this, Phil; they’re quarantined for a specific reason. The reason is they were in the general proximity of the one person. And the one person, I believe, will be fine in a very short period of time.
Q Why hasn’t Vice President Pence followed the CDC guidelines of self-isolation and other people who might have been exposed to that person?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, that, I’m going to have to ask that he will give you that information. Whatever he is proceeding and doing, he will give you that information. I’ll make sure that they put out a notice.
John. Go ahead. Please.
Q Mr. President, up until now, it’s thought that the most vulnerable people were those above the age of 60 or 70 or 80 and that children were pretty much, I don’t want to say immune from this, but weren’t affected by it. But all day long in the news today, we have been hearing and seeing this terrible syndrome —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — that some 85 children have now. Three of them have died. What is the task force talking about in terms of that? And what could be done about it?
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah, we’re seeing that all over the world now with young children. A very, very tiny percentage, but it’s still — it’s the swelling and the skin rash. And we’re looking at that very closely, John. It’s a phenomena that’s just been brought to everyone’s attention a couple of weeks ago.
Admiral, you may have something to say about that.
ADMIRAL GIROIR: So thank you for pointing that out. And again, I’ve said many times, I’m a pediatrician and a pediatric ICU doctor. This syndrome, which we call — are similar to Kawasaki syndrome. It has been seen in a novel coronavirus before and it’s associated with illnesses. So we have a very strong activation on this.
We do know treatments for this, but the CDC is act- — is interacting actively with the pediatric intensive care unit network to create case definitions and to understand how this is going and if there are predispositions. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute — I spoke to Dr. Gary Gibbons who directs that, who is advancing many research projects, based on that. The ASPR, the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, has a team out in several areas looking at if there are any special treatments.
We know what the basic treatment is, but this is a little bit different than we normally see. So there really is an activation among all the branches within HHS, working with networks at children’s hospitals and ICU nets. It is a small percentage, but it is quite frightening. And this reflects the fact that this virus affects the vasculature. We see clotting; we see strokes. And this is a vasculature phenomena of inflammation we see in children.
Q Mr. President, with this newly emerging syndrome now among young children, what do you say to parents who would like to get their children back to school but are now looking at this and potentially afraid to do that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, again it’s a tiny percentage. But you’re right, so we’re looking into it very strongly. And the Admiral, as he said, he’s known about this for long before this happened.
But it is a very, very small percentage. And people recover from that; the children recover from that. Right?
ADMIRAL GIROIR: Yes, sir. Most do recover from this, but it is a serious, and it can be a fatal, condition. So we do want to make sure that parents understand that high fevers, red rashes, particularly on your child, you may need to contact your healthcare provider. There are treatments for this. They work very effectively if gotten early, at least for the vast majority of the cases.
THE PRESIDENT: We’re studying that very closely, and it’s been on the radar for weeks actually, because we’ve seen this for quite a while. But it’s been very rare, but we’re — we’re looking at it very closely. It’s very important to us.
I think one of the things we’re most proud of is — this just came out — deaths per 100,000 people, death — so deaths per 100,000 people: Germany and the United States are at the lowest rung of that ladder. Meaning, low is a positive, not a negative. Germany and the United States are the two best in deaths per 100,000 people, which, frankly, to me, that’s perhaps the most important number there is.
Please, go in the back, please.
Q Thank you. Thank you, Mr. President. I have two questions: one on the Ahmaud Arbery case and one on the coronavirus. The first on the coronavirus: The Vice President is said to be in some sort of self-isolating — keeping his distance from people. What do you say to Americans who say, “How can you — how can you keep me safe? How can you reopen the government, if even the Vice President is self-isolating?” And why hasn’t testing gotten up to the point where every American who wants to test can get a test?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the Vice President, first of all, has been tested, and he’s negative — and was tested yesterday, tested today, and he’s negative. He’s in very good shape. And I think that that’s going to be fine.
As far as Americans getting a test, they should all be able to get a test right now. They should be able to get a test.
That’s the problem with a question like that. We go through a whole announcement saying “We’re number one in the world by far,” by a factor of two, and even three and four depending on where you’re looking, and I get a question, “When will everybody be able to get tested?” If somebody wants to be tested right now, they’ll be able to be tested.
As far as the incident, I think it’s horrible, and it’s certainly being looked at by many people. I’m speaking to many people about it. He looked — I saw the picture of him in his tuxedo; it was so beautiful. I mean, he looks like a — a wonderful, young guy. Would have been a wonderful — I mean, just a wonderful guy. I think it’s a horrible thing. I think it’s a horrible thing.
Now, with that being said, as you know, they’re studying the case very carefully. They’re interviewing everybody involved, and we’ll see what happens. To me, it’s a very sad thing.
I spoke to a number of people that are very much involved in it. I’ve been following that one very closely. It breaks your heart to watch it. It breaks your heart. And certainly, the video was a — it was a terrible-looking video to me.
But you have a lot of people looking at it, and hopefully an answer is going to be arrived at very quickly. But it’s something that is heartbreaking.
Q I have a specific question about the case, if I could ask it.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead.
Q The specific question I have is, you’ve said that there possibly are things that happened that were not recorded on the tape. Could you just expound on what you mean by that and your thoughts —
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q — on what (inaudible) —
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I saw the tape, and when they moved left, I don’t believe — when they moved left, outside of the tape, nobody saw what was going on. Nobody saw it. It’s an empty spot on the tape, I guess.
Now, do they have additional tapes? I hope. But I will say that it’s something that, based on what I saw, doesn’t look good. Somebody that I have a lot of respect for is — Senator Scott of South Carolina, you know who I’m talking about. He’s a great gentleman. He’s a great senator. He’s a great gentleman. Tim Scott. And I called him two days ago. I said, “Tim, what do you think? Tell me. What do you think?” He’s very disturbed by it. He’s very disturbed. And I’m very disturbed also.
Please, go ahead.
Q President Trump, thank you. I have two questions — one on testing and one on Democratic states that you’ve tweeted about. First, the money for this new testing support today comes from the CARE Act — CARES Act, which you signed into law 42 days ago. Did your delay in embracing widespread testing have anything to do with the desire to suppress the official number of U.S. cases and deaths as you try to reopen the country?
THE PRESIDENT: No, we just wanted to make sure that we had the proper machinery apparatus and everything else out there before people started wasting money. It’s method of saving money. We wanted to make sure we had even things like this. Plus, they have machines that are far more complex than this. They have massive machines at some of the laboratories that can do millions of tests. We wanted to make sure everything was in place. Okay?
Q And earlier today, you tweeted that Democrats are moving slowly for political purposes. Why do you believe that their motive is politics rather than public safety? And how do you respond to criticism that you’re also motivated by politics to try to grow the economy ahead of the election?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I think that if you look at Pennsylvania, as an example; if you look at various other states — I won’t get into them — the people want to go back. The numbers are getting to a point where they can, and there just seems to be no effort on certain blue states to get back into gear. And the people aren’t going to stand for it; they want to get back.
They’re not going to stand for it. They want our country open. I want our country open too. I want it open safely, but I want it open.
Don’t forget, people are dying the other route. You can go with the enclosed route: Everything is closed up, you’re in your house, you’re not allowed to move. People are dying with that too. You look at drug addiction, you look at suicides, you look at some of the things that are taking place, people are dying that way too. You could make the case it’s in even greater numbers.
So it’s a — it’s a situation that some people — and I’ve noticed that some states could be moving more quickly. And also, at the same time, safety. Look, safety is paramount. But people are dying in the lockdown position too. And everybody understands that. They’re just starting to find out. And look at what’s going on with drugs, and look at what’s happening with suicides.
Yeah, please. Please, go ahead.
Q Hi, Mr. President. So Americans have been self-quarantining for several months now, social distancing, yet we’re still seeing about 20,000 new cases a day, 1 to 2,000 deaths. Is there anything else the administration is planning to do to get these new cases under control? Because we seem to be on a plateau. Or is this just (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, excuse me. There are 20,000 — the numbers are way down from what they were two weeks ago. I mean, the numbers are really coming down, and very substantially. And this weekend was one of the lowest we’ve had. This is — you know, the numbers are coming down very rapidly all throughout the country, by the way. There may be one exception. But all throughout the country, the numbers are coming down rapidly. I think you see that, Admiral.
Q Yeah, but does this — the models, sir, are projecting now 130,000 cases that go through August. Is that — do you agree with those models? Is that your expectation as well?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, the models haven’t been exactly accurate. These are models done by a lot of think tanks, a lot of universities. If you look at some of the models, they have been way off. Few of the models have been accurate.
But as far as the models are concerned, if you go by the model, we were going to lose 2.2 million people. And because we took — we mitigated — we did things that were very tough for our country to do, frankly. We had to turn off our whole magnificent economy. We had to turn down the whole country. We’re at the lowest of all of the models.
I mean, if you look at, I guess, 120- — 100 to 120 thousand people would be at the low side. And we’re at — there’s nothing low. Look, nothing low. One is too many people. And I say it all the time: One person to lose for this is too many people. It’s a disgrace what happened.
But if you look at the models, we’re at a — at a low — at the lowest of those projections. But the models are not models done necessarily by the White House. They’re models done by many people all over the world. And if you take the most respected of those people, many of those models are wrong. I mean, they’ve been wrong as far as the U.S. is concerned, because those numbers are nowhere near what was projected, potentially.
Q Do you have an expectation of what the death toll is going to look like by the summer, by the —
THE PRESIDENT: You know what? I don’t want to think about it, even. I know that we’re doing everything we can. We’re doing a good job. We acted very early. We acted extremely early in keeping China out of our country and banning people from China coming in, other than our citizens, which we obviously had to take. And they were quarantined or watched carefully. They were tested. They were watched very carefully.
But we had about 40,000 people coming in from China, from Asia, and we had to obviously take the people. Can you imagine if I said, “You’re a U.S. citizen and we’re not going to take you”? That doesn’t work.
So — but they were very carefully — I was with Ron DeSantis. He said they put — literally put the people that came in from China in quarantine for a substantial period of time.
No, that was a big decision. I think we saved hundreds of thousands of lives by acting very early. And when I did this — I think the Admiral can say it — everybody was against my doing it. Everybody. Everybody was: the professionals, the doctors. I was pretty much by myself on that one. And it was a lucky thing we did it because we saved hundreds of thousands of lives.
Yeah, please. Go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. Earlier today, the Vice President urged governors to have all their nursing home residents tested. Why not just mandate that? Why not require that? Have you considered that?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I — I would certainly consider that. I will mandate it if you’d like. I would — I think it’s important to do, and I think, frankly, some of the governors were very lax with respect to nursing homes. It was obvious right from the beginning. The State of Washington, where 26 or 28 people died very early on. And I would have said, “nursing homes.” And I did say “nursing homes.” That’s what they should. Now, some of the states — many of the states are doing that, but I think all of the states should be. They have the capacity to do it. They should be doing nursing home. That is a real vulnerability.
Q The two staffers that were announced last week as testing positive, are you aware of any additional White House staff (inaudible)?
THE PRESIDENT: No, not at all.
Q Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: I’m only aware of people that saw them, were tested, the tests were negative, and they’re quarantining anyway. So —
Please, go ahead.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. I wanted to ask: Are you now, or are you considering, separating some more with Vice President Pence as a precautionary measure?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, first of all, the job he’s done on task force, the job he’s done, frankly, as the Vice President of the United States has been outstanding. And he’s a warrior too, just like doctors and nurses. I mean, he is working so hard, and he’s coming into contact with a lot of people. But again, he tested negative, so we have to understand that. But he comes into contact with a lot of people.
It’s something probably, during this quarantine period, we’ll probably talk about. I have not seen him since then. But I would say that he will — he and I will be talking about that. Yeah, we could talk on the phone.
Q And I have a question for Admiral Giroir, if I could.
THE PRESIDENT: Please.
Q The President just said that Dr. Fauci, Dr. Hahn have tested negative. Then why do they need to be isolating? Is there some concern that they could be spreading the virus in some ways? Are they concerned about the testing? Why do they need to isolate?
ADMIRAL GIROIR: So this is a very fundamental concept, and I’m so happy you brought that up because it underlies a lot of the questions here. If you test negative just at that one point, that just means you have tested negative for that point in time. We know that the incubation period for this virus can be many days.
So the CDC guidelines really says that if you’re in close contact, just testing negative on that one day doesn’t mean you won’t be positive later on. So the prudent and the recommended thing to do is to self-isolate yourself for the entire period of incubation and, really, then some. So that’s what they’re doing. It’s a precautionary manner because they were negative. We all hope that they remain negative, but if they turned positive in a day or two or became symptomatic, that’s still possible, even with a negative test.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay?
Q Thank you, sir.
THE PRESIDENT: Go ahead. Phil.
Q Mr. President, in one of your Mother’s Day tweets, you appear to accuse President Obama of the biggest political crime in American history, by far.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q Those were your words. What crime exactly are you accusing President Obama of committing? And do you believe the Justice Department should prosecute him?
THE PRESIDENT: “Obamagate.” It’s been going on for a long time. It’s been going on from before I even got elected. And it’s a disgrace that it happened. And if you look at what’s gone on, and if you look at, now, all of this information that’s being released — and from what I understand, that’s only the beginning — some terrible things happened, and it should never be allowed to happen in our country again.
And you’ll be seeing what’s going on over the next — over the coming weeks. But I — and I wish you’d write honestly about it, but unfortunately, you choose not to do so.
Yeah. Jon, please.
Q What is the crime exactly that you’re accusing him of?
THE PRESIDENT: You know what the crime is. The crime is very obvious to everybody. All you have to do is read the newspapers, except yours.
Q Yeah, Mr. President, if I can just get a clarification on the — on the testing. We’ve seen clearly that the numbers of tests have gone up.
THE PRESIDENT: Yeah.
Q There have been some advancements on testing. But you’ve said twice here today that every American who wants a test can get a test.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q That’s not the case. 1.9 million tests per day is far short of every American that wants a test to be able to get a test.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, I’m going to have the Admiral — but I will say, just from listening and hearing, like you do — we all do — not everybody should get a test because they have to have certain things. And they’re going to know when they’re not feeling right. Those are the people that will be getting the test. But, Admiral, I’ll let you take it from there, please.
ADMIRAL GIROIR: So everybody who needs a test can get a test. We have plenty of tests for that.
Q (Inaudible.) (Off-mic.)
ADMIRAL GIROIR: Right now, in America, anybody who needs a test can get a test in America, with the numbers we have. If you’re symptomatic with a respiratory illness, that is an indication for a test and you can get a test. If you need to be contact traced, you can get a test. And we hope — and not hope — we are starting to have asymptomatic surveillance, which is very important. Again, that’s over 3 million tests per week. That is sufficient for everyone who needs a test — symptomatic, contact tracing, and, to our best projections, the asymptomatic kind of surveillance we need to get that. And that — that’s the way it is.
And remember, I work at HHS. I work there every day. I don’t get tested every day. I get monitored for my symptoms. Am I febrile? Do I have any other symptoms? I wear a mask when I go in. That’s a safe work environment for the environment we have.
If I became symptomatic, I would get a test. And if it were positive, I would isolate and there’d be contact tracing to stop that just the way it was done here. If I’m not symptomatic, I do the precautions as everyone is recommended in phase one. And that’s the essence of safely opening America.
THE PRESIDENT: And, John, the numbers are coming way down and they’re coming down rapidly, and that’s a beautiful thing to see. And that’s pretty much universally all across the country. They’re coming down very rapidly. So, very important.
Please, go ahead.
Q (Inaudible.) If I can ask the Admiral if –- so, Americans who are going back to work shouldn’t expect — and shouldn’t need, shouldn’t want to have the same thing that people coming to work here at the White House have, which is the ability to get tested regularly, regardless of symptoms? Is that what you’re saying?
ADMIRAL GIROIR: So, let me clarify as well: People who come into close contact with the President get tested on a regular basis. Okay? If I were not in close contact with the President specifically, I would not get tested like most people here do not get tested. That’s a very specific circumstance.
When I work at HHS, I go to HHS; I don’t get tested. I do the exact thing that we ask Americans to do: to monitor your symptoms. If you are symptomatic, self-isolate, get tested with one of our community-based testing sites at your hospitals. There are even at-home testing now that has been authorized. And –- and to cooperate; that if you need to be contact-traced, be contact-traced and cooperate with your local public health.
But not everybody who walks in here gets tested every time they do. If you’re symptomatic here, at HHS, at a meatpacking plant, at a school, you need to get tested.
THE PRESIDENT: And the meatpacking plants now are doing very well. There’s great testing around those plants. And we’re finding out who had the problem. They’re being quarantined. And the meatpacking is moving along very nicely.
But they were — they were trouble spots. They were hot zones, definitely.
And, you know, one thing I think is very important though, Jon, just to finish: we have now — and nobody says it; they just don’t want to write it — by far, more tests than any other country in the world. Not even a contest. And the quality of our test is the best anywhere in the world. That’s very important to say.
Please, go ahead.
Q So, to make sure I understand the White House’s position, are you saying that, right now, you feel there is enough testing — adequate testing — across the United States? Or do you feel that it needs to be ramped up? And by how much, if so, does it need to be ramped up?
ADMIRAL GIROIR: We’ve been — I think we’ve been clear all along that we believe, and the data indicate, we have enough testing to do the phase one gradual reopening that has been supported in the — in the President’s plan and the task force’s plan.
And it has to be a phased reopening. Nobody is saying, “Turn the light switch on and everyone go,” because then it would be really impossible to control the spread of — the spread of the virus.
You know, there are many, many models out there. The Rockefeller Foundation published their recommendations of about 3 million tests per week. That’s exactly what we’re doing. If you look at our agent-based models, it’s far below that. If you take the Safra Center at Harvard and correct their misassumptions — like on the sensitivity of the tests, the mitigation processes, and how many people get hospitalized — you get about that number.
Now, I am not going to come here and say, “We can absolutely swear it’s God’s truth that this is the number we need.” But we know we have enough to open and we’re going to be very careful with our ILINet, with our surveillance programs, and let the data come in to inform us even further as we grow and learn.
And I think Brad may –-
MR. SMITH: And let me just add a little bit to that, because most days I don’t come to the White House to work; I either go to FEMA or I go to HHS. And let me just talk you through what the protocols are there because I would never get tested if I wasn’t coming to the White House.
So, every day when we come in, we get our temperature taken, and we get asked questions about if we have symptoms. If you don’t, then you enter the workplace. And then there’s hand sanitizer all over the place. In rooms that are made for conference rooms, they put pieces of paper that say don’t sit in, essentially, every other or every third seat to separate people.
And so there’s a lot of precautions that we’re taking in the federal government that are separate from testing, and those are the precautions that the agencies use that Admiral Giroir and I are working at every day are using to let us continue working.
Q Mr. President —
THE PRESIDENT: If people want to get tested, they get tested. We have the greatest capacity in the world. Not even close. If people want to get tested, they get tested. But, for the most part, they shouldn’t want to get tested. There’s no reason. They feel good. They don’t have sniffles. They don’t have sore throats. They don’t have any problem. If they do feel there’s something happening, they have the absolute —
(Inaudible) — in fact, Ron DeSantis of Florida, the governor — doing a fantastic job in Florida — he said he’s got a little bit of the opposite problem. He’s got so much testing that people sit around and wait for people to come in, that they have a far — a great over-capacity for testing. And there are numerous other states that have told me the same thing. That’s, by the way, a good problem, not a bad problem. Okay?
Yeah, go ahead, please.
Q Thank you, Mr. President. You said many times that the U.S. is doing far better than any other country when it comes to testing.
THE PRESIDENT: Yes.
Q Why does that matter? Why is this a global competition to you if, every day, Americans are still losing their lives and we’re still seeing more cases every day?
THE PRESIDENT: Well, they’re losing their lives everywhere in the world. And maybe that’s a question you should ask China. Don’t ask me; ask China that question, okay? When you ask them that question, you may get a very unusual answer.
Yes. Behind you, please.
Q Do you want to follow up?
Q Sir, why are you saying that to me, specifically? That I should ask China?
THE PRESIDENT: I’m telling you. I’m not saying it specifically to anybody. I’m saying it to anybody that would ask a nasty question like that.
Q That’s not a nasty question. Why does it matter, when —
THE PRESIDENT: Okay. Anybody else? Please, go ahead. In the back. Please.
Q I have two –- I have two questions.
THE PRESIDENT: No, it’s okay. We’ll go over here.
Q But you pointed to me. I have two questions, Mr. President.
THE PRESIDENT: Next. Next, please.
Q But you didn’t — you called on me.
THE PRESIDENT: I did, and you didn’t respond, and now I’m calling on —
Q Sir, I just wanted to let –-
THE PRESIDENT: — the young lady in the back. Please.
Q I just wanted to let me colleague finish.
THE PRESIDENT: Okay –-
Q But can I ask you a question, please?
THE PRESIDENT: — ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much. Appreciate it.
Q But you called on me.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much.