• Joseph Bonner

Remarks by President Trump in Press Briefing

White House Press Release

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Please.  Very importantly, I’d like to begin by saying that we’ve just reached agreement — the Secretary of Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, with the major airlines, all of our great airlines — to participate in a Payroll Support Program.  This agreement will fully support airline industry workers, preserve the vital role airlines play in our economy, and protect taxpayers.  Our airlines are now in good shape, and they will get over a very tough period of time that was not caused by them.

The United States is continuing to make substantial progress in our war against the virus.  We grieve at every precious life that has been lost to the invisible enemy, but through the darkness, we can see the rays of light.  We see that tunnel.  And at the end of that tunnel, we see light.  We’re starting to see it.

More than ever before, we’ve held our rate, the numbers — everything we’ve done.  We’ve been very, very strong on it and very powerful on it.  You look at what’s happening in other countries — Spain, Italy, United Kingdom.  We’re working with them.  We’re trying to help them, especially with ventilators.  They’ve been calling a lot.  They need ventilators so badly.

Fifteen percent of counties within the United States have zero cases, and many counties within the United States have a very small number of cases.  Large sections of our country are really looking at other sections and saying, “Wow, that looks bad.”  But they don’t have the problem.

I salute the American people for following our guidelines on social distancing — even you people.  It’s so different looking out there when I look at you.  Their devotion, your devotion is saving lives.

Today I’m instructing my administration to halt funding of the World Health Organization while a review is conducted to assess the World Health Organization’s role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus.  Everybody knows what’s going on there.

American taxpayers provide between $400 million and $500 million per year to the WHO.  In contrast, China contributes roughly $40 million a year and even less.  As the organization’s leading sponsor, the United States has a duty to insist on full accountability.

One of the most dangerous and costly decisions from the WHO was its disastrous decision to oppose travel restrictions from China and other nations.  They were very much opposed to what we did.  Fortunately, I was not convinced and suspended travel from China, saving untold numbers of lives.  Thousands and thousands of people would have died.

Had other nations likewise suspended travel from China, countless more lives would have been saved.  Instead, look at the rest of the world.  Look at parts of Europe.  Other nations and regions, who followed WHO guidelines and kept their borders open to China, accelerated the pandemic all around the world.  Many countries said, “We’re going to listen to the WHO,” and they have problems the likes of which they cannot believe.  Nobody can believe.

The decision of other major countries to keep travel open was one of the great tragedies and missed opportunities from the early days.  The WHO’s attack on travel restrictions put political correctness above lifesaving measures.  Travel bans work for the same reason that quarantines work.  Pandemics depend on human-to-human transmission.  Border control is fundamental to virus control.

Since its establishment in 1948, the American people have generously supported the World Health Organization to provide better health outcomes for the world and, most importantly, to help prevent global health crises.  With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have deep concerns whether America’s generosity has been put to the best use possible.

The reality is that the WHO failed to adequately obtain that and share information in a timely and transparent fashion.

The world depends on the WHO to work with countries to ensure that accurate information about international health threats is shared in a timely manner, and if it’s not, to independently to tell the world the truth about what is happening.

The WHO failed in this basic duty and must be held accountable.  It’s time, after all of these decades.  The WHO failed to investigate credible reports from sources in Wuhan that conflicted directly with the Chinese government’s official accounts.  There was credible information to suspect human-to-human transmission in December 2019, which should have spurred the WHO to investigate, and investigate immediately.

Through the middle of January, it parroted and publicly endorsed the idea that there was not human-to-human transmission happening despite reports and clear evidence to the contrary.  The delays the WHO experienced in declaring a public health emergency caused valuable time, tremendous amounts of time.  More time was lost in the delay it took to get a team of international experts in to examine the outbreak, which we wanted to do, which they should have done.  The inability of the WHO to obtain virus samples, to this date, has deprived the scientific community of essential data.

New data that emerges across the world on a daily basis points to the unreliability of the initial reports, and the world received all sorts of false information about transmission and mortality.

The silence of the WHO on the disappearance of scientific researchers and doctors and on new restrictions on the sharing of research into the origins of COVID-19 in the country of origin is deeply concerning, especially when we put up, by far, the largest amount of money.  Not even close.

Had the WHO done its job to get medical experts into China to objectively assess the situation on the ground and to call out China’s lack of transparency, the outbreak could have been contained at its source, with very little death — very little death — and certainly very little death by comparison.  This would have saved thousands of lives and avoided worldwide economic damage.

Instead, the WHO willingly took China’s assurances to face value, and they took it just at face value and defended the actions of the Chinese government, even praising China for its so-called transparency.  I don’t think so.  The WHO pushed China’s misinformation about the virus, saying it was not communicable and there was no need for travel bans.  They told us, when we put on our travel ban — a very strong travel ban — there was no need to do it.  “Don’t do it.”  They actually fought us.

The WHO’s reliance on China’s disclosures likely caused a 20-fold increase in cases worldwide, and it may be much more than that.

The WHO has not addressed a single one of these concerns nor provided a serious explanation that acknowledges its own mistakes, of which there were many.

America and the world have chosen to rely on the WHO for accurate, timely, and independent information to make important public health recommendations and decisions.  If we cannot trust that this is what we will receive from the WHO, our country will be forced to find other ways to work with other nations to achieve public health goals.  We’ll have no choice but to do that.

Our countries are now experiencing — you look all over the world — tremendous death and economic devastation because those tasked with protecting us by being truthful and transparent failed to do so.  It would have been so easy to be truthful.  And so much death has been caused by their mistakes.

We will continue to engage with the WHO to see if it can make meaningful reforms.  For the time being, we will redirect global health and directly work with others.  All of the aid that we send will be discussed at very, very powerful lettel [sic] — letters and with very powerful and influential groups and smart groups — medically, politically, and every other way.

And we’ll be discussing it with other countries and global health partners: what do we do with all of that money that goes to WHO.  And maybe WHO will reform, and maybe they won’t.  But we’ll be able to see.

As you know, in other countries hit hard by the virus, hospitals have been tragically forced to ration medical care and the use of ventilators.  But due to our early and aggressive action, the skill of our healthcare workers, and the resilience of our healthcare system, no hospital in America has been forced to deny any patient access to a ventilator — with all of the talk you’ve heard, where some states wanted 40,000 ventilators.  I said, “That doesn’t work,” 40,000.  And they ended up with seven or eight thousand, and they had no problem.  Forty thousand ventilators for one state is ridiculous.

The scariest day of my life was about a month ago when, after a long day of meetings, my team told me that we were going to be needing 130,000 ventilators; that we were short hundreds of thousands of ventilators.  This is the system we inherited.  I had governors requesting unreasonable sums that the federal government just didn’t have.

And you look at the states.  The states didn’t have — the states were not prepared.  I knew that every person who needed a ventilator and didn’t get one would die.  And that’s what we were told: They would die.  I saw another country’s doctors having to make decisions on who got a ventilator and who didn’t.  And I knew that this would be a defining challenge of the crisis.  Those that didn’t get ventilators were said to be in a position only of one alternative — and that was death.  Would we be able to prevent Americans from dying because we couldn’t get them ventilators and the ventilators that they needed and they needed immediately?  I instructed my team to move Heaven and Earth to make sure that this didn’t happen.

We started to smartly ration and distribute the ventilators that we had and that others had.  And I got daily updates on the supply we had from requests coming in and people wanting to have updates.  We had a great group of people working on it.

I instructed my team to use the Defense Production Act.  And the Defense Production Act was used very powerfully — more powerfully than anybody would know.  In fact, so powerfully that, for the most part, we didn’t have to officially take it out — it was a hammer; it was a very powerful hammer — in order to manufacture as many ventilators as possible.

Last year, America manufactured, from a dead start, 30,000 ventilators.  And this year, the number will be over 150,000 ventilators.  It could be as high as 200,000 — far more than we’ll ever need.  So we’ll be able to stockpile.  We’ll be able to talk to states about stockpiling.

These are high-quality ventilators.  We had a choice: We could do inexpensive, less productive ventilators or high-quality.  We’ve done a high-quality ventilator.

So we should have anywhere from 150- to 200,000 ventilators.  In addition to that, we have 10,000 ventilators right now in the federal stockpile ready to move should we need them — we might not — should we need them in New York or New Jersey or in Louisiana or in Illinois or any other state that may need them if we have a surge.

I’d like to ask Adam Boehler to come up and just say a few words.  He’s done a fantastic job — a young man who worked 24 hours a day on handling this situation.  And I’d just like to have — have Adam, wherever he may be, come up and say a few words.

Adam, please.  Thank you very much.

MR. BOEHLER:  Thank you.  Thank you, Mr. President.  At your direction, this country has worked hard over the past few weeks to ramp up ventilator production through all means possible.  Thousands of ventilators are coming in now monthly, with over 100,000 by the end of June.

At the same time, there are over 60,000 ventilators in our hospitals right now that are not in use.  Knowing this and at your direction, we reached out to the American Hospital Association to design a system that allows hospitals to lend ventilators to other hospitals right when they need it.

Within the past week alone, 20 top health systems have signed up for this Dynamic Ventilator Reserve, representing over 4,000 ventilators.  Not only do we have top academic systems, like Cleveland Clinic and Mayo Clinic, but we also have top health systems from New York City, New Orleans, Washington State, and California.  Over a week ago, these places would have needed help, but now they are here to help.  There’s been no American that has needed a ventilator that has not received one.

This Dynamic Virtual [Ventilator] Reserve, combined with our strategic stockpile will ensure that this is always the case.  I’d like to thank the President for his leadership and directive to focus on public-private partnerships like this one.  I’d also like to thank Sam Hazen from HCA, Lloyd Dean from CommonSpirit for leading this effort with the AHA and the Federation of American Hospitals.

These have been difficult times.  A few weeks ago, the Vice President came into my office and he reminded us of the power of the resilience of the American people and of private companies.  We needed it that day, Mr. Vice President.

This partnership is another example of Americans helping Americans.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Fantastic job.

MR. BOEHLER:  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  I’d shake his hand, but I’m not allowed to.  Times have changed, haven’t they?  Thank you very much.  You did a fantastic job.  We’re very proud of you — you and your whole team.  Thank you.

Today, we are taking further action to maximize our oversupply and available ventilators.  This afternoon, I met with the leaders — the top people of many of America’s big, powerful, beautiful, and, you know, very, very important hospitals and hospital associations who join us today.  We had a great meeting, learned a lot.  And they’ve been going through a lot and they’ve been doing a fantastic job, as everybody here will attest.

I’m pleased to announce that my administration is partnering with the hospitals across the country to create an innovative new system called the Dynamic Ventilator Reserve, so that we’re going to have tremendous numbers of ventilators that we’re able to help our states with at a later date if there’s ever a problem like this, which we hope to God will never happen again.  It was 1917, 1918.  That’s a long time ago.  We hope it never happens again.

And I’d like to ask Rick Pollack, CEO of American Hospital Association; Sam Hazen, CEO of HCA Healthcare — that’s the largest in the United States; Warner Thomas, CEO of Ochsner Health.  And if I could, Mihal- — you — are you here from Cleveland Clinic?  Somebody?  Good.  Thank you.  Come on up, folks.  Please.

Thank you.  Say a few words please.

MR. POLLACK:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  We appreciate the opportunity to work with you and your team on the Dynamic Ventilator Reserve program.  This will provide a really important mechanism for us in serving our patients and communities by ensuring that this vital equipment will be available to critical areas that are in need.

You know, as this battle against this disease has affected the country a little bit unevenly, the rates of infection, hospitalization, and ICU use varies from one region to another.  In some places with lower infection rates, some ventilators may not be in use, while other areas are potentially stretched beyond their capacity.  The database of available ventilators that we are creating will allow us to flex so that we can make sure that available equipment can be shared with those in need.

We appreciate the leadership of the health systems that are here today that has stepped forward.  And Adam mentioned a few — I don’t know if he caught Dr. Fritz Francois from NYU Langone, and David Dill, the CEO of LifePoint, as well.

We appreciate the work of the administration in helping us find innovative solutions to ensure the best care for our patients.  We’ll continue to work with hospitals and health systems across the country to add to this reserve further.  Your team has provided us with important leadership, and we look forward to working with you in making this a success.

Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

MR. HAZEN:  Thank you, Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, Adam, the team.  I stand here before you, in front of our 285,000 colleagues who provide care to patients every day across the country.

One of the guiding principles we had when we went into this COVID-19 battle was to find partnerships — partnerships with other components of the industry, partnerships with other health systems, but partnerships with governments, both local and federal.  And we’re proud to be a part of this private-public sector partnership, and I think it’s going to do great good for the community.

So thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job.  Thank you.

MR. THOMAS:  Thank you, Mr. President.  It’s great to have Ochsner Health be part of this program.  We certainly have been a recipient, and the state of Louisiana has been a recipient of help getting ventilators to our state and Ochsner Health.

We’re currently taking care of about 60 percent of the COVID patients in New Orleans, and we did see a spike over the past few weeks.  But we’re starting to get on the other side of that and heading in the right direction.

I also want to thank you personally for helping Ochsner Health a couple weeks ago.  We were running short on surgical gowns, and you and your team were able to direct some to New Orleans, which was helpful to us, and other hospitals around the New Orleans area.

So we’re excited to be part of this Dynamic Ventilator Reserve, and we are proud to be part of that and help other communities around the country.  Thank you.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.

DR. MIHALJEVIC:  Thank you, Mr. President, for the invitation here.  On behalf of the Cleveland Clinic, I would just like to offer a slightly different story about a COVID pandemic.

In our home state of Ohio, with an early institution of social distancing, our ability to scale up the testing and ramping out capacity, we have actually seen a stable number of patients over the last 8 to 10 days.  Only 160 patients have been hospitalized with COVID infection in Cleveland Clinic Health System.

We’re also very grateful for the support from our state government, as well from our federal government.  This is a battle where we’re all in together.  We coordinate our efforts, share our resources, and work together as one.

I’m firmly convinced that we can do a lot of good when we work together.  Thank you very much for having us.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you very much.  Great job.

DR. MIHALJEVIC:  Thank you, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Great job.

That was a terrific meeting.  And thank you all for being here.  Thank you very much.

The United States has far more ICU beds per capita than any other nation.  We have 34.7 ICU beds per 100,000 people, which is the best there is, compared with roughly 12.5 beds per 100,000 in Italy, 11.6 beds in France, 9.7 beds in Spain.  Think of that — 34.7, we have — and 6.6 the UK.  There are more than 60,000 ventilators at hospitals and other healthcare facilities that are not in use at this moment.  They didn’t need them.  We got a lot of them out, and they didn’t need them.  And that’s a good thing that they didn’t need them.

But a lot of good brainpower was involved in making a lot of fantastic decisions.  I want to thank our Vice President for the task force.  And I want to thank all members of your task force on having done an incredible job.  You really have done an incredible job.  Thank you, Mike, very much.

Through this new partnership with the hospitals, unused ventilators will voluntarily lend them.  Where they have unused ventilators, they will voluntary lend those ventilators to other hospitals and other areas of greater need.

Within the last several days, more than 20 of our nation’s largest health systems have already pledged more than 4,000 ventilators should we need them.  And I’ve been told that if they need more, there are more there.  We’re going to be helping very soon when the supply really starts pouring in, which is — which started, but will really start about less than a month.

We’re going to be helping other countries, and they need it very badly.  They have no chance without these ventilators.  They have to have ventilators.

As we continue our medical war against the virus, the FDA has now authorized the first test developed by researchers from Rutgers University that can use saliva from patients.  It’s the first one.  These tests can be self-administered by patients in healthcare settings, which will reduce exposure for medical workers and save personal protective equipment.  Rutgers will begin processing 10,000 tests daily.

So, by using saliva — that’s a first — they’ll be able to do things, in terms of speed and ease, that we haven’t been able to do before.  So, a lot of great innovation is taking place during this period of time.  And that’s innovation.  I call it “innovation under pressure.”  There’s a big difference.  “Innovation under pressure.”  Right?  Cleveland Clinic knows all about that.

As we prepare for the next phase of this great struggle, we must also do everything in our power to restore prosperity for the American worker.  There’s tremendous interest and excitement surrounding the administration’s efforts to get the economy roaring once again, and I think it’s going to roar once it gets open.  I think it’s going to go up tremendously.

You see what’s happening with the stock market already, because a lot of the very smart financial people — the great minds — they’re looking at the stock and they’re saying, “Wow.”  Because they really — what they’re really seeing is how we’re doing.  If we weren’t doing well, the market wouldn’t be at a level that it is today.  They have a lot of confidence that we’re doing the right thing and that our country is going to be open soon and our country is going to be booming.

We’ve had requests to participate from the best in the world as we share their enthusiasm to get our country going.  So I thank them for wanting to contribute.  And we look forward to speaking with many industry leaders, seeking their input on how we can return to what was, until very recently, the greatest economy anywhere in the world — and I can say the greatest economy in the history of the world.  There’s never been an economy like we had.

Just a little bit more than a month ago, we set every record you could set: more people working than we’ve ever had working before — almost 160 million; the best unemployment numbers we’ve ever had; and the best employment numbers we’ve ever had.  Everybody was doing well.  Stock market at a record — 142 days it hit a record.  And I think we’re going to top those records, okay?  And I think we’re going to top them soon, once we get rid of the invisible enemy, which will happen.

The plans to reopen the country are close to being finalized, and we will soon be sharing details and new guidelines with everybody.  I will be speaking to all 50 governors very shortly.  And I will then be authorizing each individual governor, of each individual state, to implement a reopening and a very powerful reopening plan of their state at a time and in a manner as most appropriate.

The day will be very close because certain states, as you know, are in much different condition and in a much different place than other states.  It’s going to be very, very close.  Maybe even before the date of May 1st.  So that will be for some states.  Actually, there are over 20 that are in extremely good shape.  And we think we’re going to be able to get them open fairly quickly, and then others will follow.

The federal government will be watching them very closely, and we’ll be there to help.  We’ll be there to help in many different ways, as we’ve been — where we built hospital beds at a number that nobody has ever seen before, where we did the ventilators that we just discussed at a level that nobody has ever seen before.  Nobody can even believe.