OFFICIALS RECOGNIZE “REMARKABLE” CHANGES IN BEHAVIOR TO “PROTECT THE MOST VULNERABLE”
by Sharon Rondeau
He suggested that this week, known as Holy Week for Christians, Americans contemplate their relationship with God. He said that many more Easter Sundays will be celebrated “together” in the future.
The number of countries now afflicted with the coronavirus is now 184, Trump said, an increase of two over Tuesday.
At 5:50 p.m. EDT, Trump introduced Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo, who provided a report on the repatriation of Americans who were trapped in foreign countries after the pandemic outbreak. “We have brought back people from all across the world,” he said, while employing “safe” practices for State Department employees.
Some countries closed their airports, Pompeo said, and the State Department did not “leave them stranded.”
While he spoke, a world map showed the dozens of flight routes employed by State to repatriate Americans during the pandemic. Pompeo recognized that foreign nationals who desire to return to their countries must be allowed to return.
He said many Americans who found themselves abroad traveled for vacations or on church trips.
The U.S. embassy in Wuhan, China, where the virus originated, has been closed, Pompeo said in response to a question from CNN’s Jim Acosta.
“Every country needs to be transparent about what’s gone on in their country,” Pompeo said. “It started in China, and so they had that special responsibility…Do it right, and when we do, we’ll get this thing back on track.”
As to the U.S.’s funding for the World Health Organization (WHO), which Trump has accused of being “very China-centric,” Pompeo said “they have to executive on the mission they were designed…it hasn’t accomplished what it was designed to deliver.”
Some overseas State employees have tested positive for coronavirus, or COVID-19, Pompeo confirmed in response to another question.
Iran did not accept the U.S.’s offer of humanitarian assistance once COVID-19 was reported there, he said.
Regarding exports of medical supplies, Pompeo said, “We’re making sure the American people have what they need” while helping foreign countries be “better prepared” for another similar situation.
He said that Americans not in the employ of the U.S. government located in Wuhan after the outbreak were screened carefully before boarding flights back to the U.S.
The State Department has lost three individuals to the virus, Pompeo said.
Approximately 11 million N95 masks were distributed on Wednesday, Trump said. “Today we’ve shipped out more than 8,000 ventilators…and an additional 2,200 newly-manufactured ventilators come online on Monday.” He said Phillips will double its production of ventilators “by May” and will quadruple it soon thereafter. “We’re going to have a big stockpile when we’re finished,” he said. “It looks like our projections were right on ventilators,” he added, “which we’re very happy about.”
Next month, “almost 300 million face masks will be staring to be delivered,” he reported. Another 200 million will be added to that, he said.
“Ten drugs are now in clinical trials,” he said, and that his administration is attempting to speed the approval of different drugs for treating coronavirus. Hydroxychloroquine, a medication Trump has touted based on various personal stories and some studies, is coming in large quantity from India, he said.
Trump reiterated that along with azithromycin and zinc, hydroxychloroquine has been reported to be effective in combating the coronavirus.
As to the WHO, he said “hundreds of millions of dollars a year” serve to fund it, “and China would do proportionately just a small fraction of that number.” “I think they have to get their priorities right…and it doesn’t seem that way, does it?” he said, reiterating from Tuesday that the U.S. will reevaluate its funding for the organization, which is a division of the United Nations. “They also minimized the threat very strongly, and, uh, not good,” he concluded his thought.
He thanked medical professionals, sanitation employees, cashiers, clerks and others who have been “working in conditions” which are less than optimal. He expressed optimism that soon that will change.
“We’re seeing signs that our aggressive strategy to slow the spread is working,” he said at 6:11 p.m. “We’re going to have some wonderful days ahead,” he said, while recognizing those who have lost loved ones.
He said that continuing “social distancing” and experiencing “some terrible days ahead” will lead to economic recovery. He likened a return to work as “a second opening.”
“We do not have time for the partisan games,” he said of another $250 billion Congress is considering adding to the Paycheck Protection Program which opened on Friday. He said members of both parties are “coming together” and said, “We have a chance to be stronger than ever before.”
He said he wants to see a potential fourth rescue bill be targeted toward rebuilding America’s infrastructure. “We’re going to rebuild our country,” he said.
Examples of bravery and selflessness abound, he said.
To a question about reopening the U.S. for business, Trump said he will rely heavily on his medical experts and that “meetings” on the endeavor will be taking place “relatively soon.”
To a second question from Acosta, Trump said that the number of deaths thus far in the U.S. are better than were projected; he then called upon Dr. Deborah Birx to expound.
“We are doing much better in many cases” than other nations, Birx said. She said that other nations’ response to the pandemic “is modeled on” the “behavioral changes” Americans have made with the goal of “decreasing fatalities.”
“We are still in awe of the America people’s” efforts to mitigate the effects of the virus, Birx said.
CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield then said that he has observed a “remarkable” change in behavior to protect those most vulnerable.
As to a “national database” for coronavirus test results, Trump said he “has not heard of it,” meaning the idea, and “would have to look at it” even while constitutional issues would arise.
At 6:28, Trump answered a reporter’s question by stating that Americans are “going stir-crazy” after nearly a month of social distancing and unemployment. “Americans want to go back to work,” he said. As for a hypothetical “May 1” return-to-work date, Trump said, “We’re doing well as far as the numbers” but that he could not confirm “a date” for when America will be officially reopened. “People want to sit next to each other at restaurants…at a baseball game, hockey game…At some point, we expect to be back like it was before, and hopefully it’ll never happen (again).” “The last one was in 1917,” he said of the Spanish influenza epidemic.
Regarding “mail-in voting,” Trump said the process is ripe for fraud and advocated “voter ID in this country.”
He said hydroxychloroquine “is being distributed in large amounts” across the country, “and again, I’m not a doctor, but I’m a person with common sense…” He again cited the case of Michigan State legislator Karen Whitsett, who claims Trump’s touting of the drug “saved her life.”
Trump expressed optimism that businesses could reopen not far beyond his initial hypothetical date of Easter as he expressed last month.
Vice President Mike Pence offered his sympathies to those who have lost loved ones and recognized the “extraordinary work the American people are doing” as evidenced by lowering numbers of cases in California and Washington State as well as a “leveling-off” of cases in New York and New Jersey.
He advised Americans to heed the advice of state and local public health officials. To those in the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas, he advised practicing social distancing so that they will not “have to endure” the losses other similar areas have experienced.
As a clarification, he said that banks processing PPP funds to small businesses “can use their own closing documents.”
Pence recognized the work of the State Department in its repatriation efforts.
A clinical trial is under way at the Henry Ford Center for hydroxychloroquine, Pence said, and that “several more clinical trial paths” will be added in the near future.
As to “supplies and support,” Pence said Trump has signed 52 emergency declarations. On ventilators, he said the Navajo Nation and Colorado “received more today” and that newly-manufactured ventilators from General Electric were placed in the national stockpile.
Four flights from overseas had millions of medical gloves, Pence said. He said FEMA is distributing the medical supplies to places in need.
Focus on the challenges of the coronavirus on “the Afircan-American community” is emerging given that population’s common underlying health conditions, Pence said.
He said that “in some cases,” the number of hospitalizations is “going down” and serves as “an encouragement to every American to keep doing what you’re doing…to make sure that the fewest number of Americans possible are exposed to the coronavirus.”
“Each of us has a role to play,” he said. “Ultimately, it is about saving lives.”
“This is one American at a time; it’s one heartbreak at a time,” Pence said.
Dr. Birx spoke about honoring the fallen given her military service. “We all need to continue to do our work,” she said, but said that “micro-epidemics” still exist in the New York City-Connecticut-New Jersey area. “Everyone needs to continue to follow the guidelines,” she said.
She said the numbers are being “looked at” by the percentage of “sero-positivity,” the highest of which is the aforementioned tri-state area.
Birx said she spoke with pediatricians earlier on Wednesday and assured pregnant women that extra precautions are being taken to protect them against “a bad outcome.”
As far as the number of deaths each day, “it could be so much worse,” Birx said. She thanked Americans for protecting the most vulnerable, which include those with hypertension, cardio-vascular issues, diabetes, and renal disease.
NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said that despite early signs of success, “We need to keep mitigating.”
“It is very painful to see the health disparities” between African-Americans and “the general population,” Fauci said. He urged African-Americans to “prevent people who are put at higher risk because of the demographic group to get into a situation that is much, much more deleterious” than that of other Americans.
Redfield then spoke about “new guidance” issued by the CDC about “essential critical workers” exposed to COVID-19. Regarding maintaining “essential” employees during the pandemic, Redfield said, involves checking one’s temperature before entering the workplace, staying at home if ill, and avoiding gathering in lunch rooms and break rooms.