by Sharon Rondeau

(Apr. 10, 2020) — Friday’s White House Coronavirus Task Force briefing occurred earlier than usual, beginning at approximately 1:30 p.m. EDT.

President Trump reported that the U.S. and Mexico have agreed on mutual actions to reduce the “glut of oil” now on the market.

“In the midst of grief” from coronavirus deaths, Trump said, there are indications that fewer people are becoming ill.  “Nobody knows what the number is, but we had a number of 100,000 lives…that was the low end…with a tremendous amount of work…our people had to be extremely strong and brave to put up with what they’ve put up with…and I think we’ll be substantially under that number.”

He said that “60,000,” deaths, though significant, is fewer than “100,000.”

New Orleans “appears to be stabilizing,” he said, where FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers are building a field hospital of 1,000 beds.  “We’re in the midst of doing another thousand,” he said, although he believes they will “not be needed.”

The State of Michigan “is going much better than we thought,” Trump said.

“We don’t think we need any more hospitals,” he added, and in New York, improvement is observed.

“Working with elected representatives and the doctors, the nurses, everybody…everybody has been so amazing,” he said, including grocery-store clerks and other food-associated employees.

“With the tireless devotion of American doctors and nurses…we’ve kept our fatality rate very low compared to other countries,” he said.  He said the African-American community “has been hit hard,” a point Surgeon General Jerome Adams would be illuminating later.

Elective surgery, he said, if already postponed, could be reconsidered “pretty soon.”

The USDA will be sending aid to “farmers, ranchers, and U.S. producers” Trump said, “to make sure that our food supply is stable and safe” and to support ongoing growing operations.  “We have a lot of money, and we’re going to help out our farmers,” he said.

To date, he said the FDA has issued 47 emergency-use authorizations and “cut through the red tape” so that physicians can access experimental but promising possible therapies for coronavirus.

The Department of Defense is providing 10 million N95 masks to the coronavirus effort, Trump said, although he said “very few calls from governors” for medical equipment are now coming in.  Some states may peak later, he said.

Approximately 1.2 million tests have been conducted, Trump said.  UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who spent two days in intensive care in a London hospital, is improving, he reported. Many individuals have had the virus and experienced very few or no symptoms, he said.

“We’re leading the world now in testing, by far, and we’re going to keep it that way,” he said, and the U.S. will be providing testing capability to other nations.

“Every American should be proud of what our country has achieved,” he said.  Invoking the Defense Production Act achieved results, he added.

Essential state stockpiles of supplies will be built, Trump said.  “Operation Airbridge” has brought in nearly 300 million pieces of medical supplies and equipment, he said.  N95 masks can now be sterilized “up to 20 times,” he reported, through a new process recently approved by the FDA.

He noted that the stock market saw four days of increases this week, which does not include Friday, after a tumultuous several weeks.  “We’ve done well, and I guess the market thinks we’ve done well,…because we had the biggest market increase…in 50 years,” he said.

Every resource is being brought to bear “to defeat the virus,” he said.

He said some members of the team are off today for Good Friday, “as they should be.”

At 2:11 p.m., Trump brought up Task Force Coordinator Dr. Deborah Birx, who said the improvement in New York stems from social distancing in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey and Connecticut.

In Boston and Chicago, the “rate of increase seems to be stabilizing,” she said.  “Our mortality in the United States is significantly lower” than many other nations, she said.

“We are incredibly proud of our public leaders…to change the course of this pandemic,” Birx said, and of “Americans who have really taken this to heart.”

“As encouraging” as the signs are, she said, “we have not reached the peak.”

She said the West Coast states of California, Oregon and Washington set an example by preventing the virus from “becoming logarithmic.”

Dr. Anthony Fauci reminded viewers that “this is the end of the week” identified as particularly difficult due to the number of deaths but that “now is not the time” to relax mitigation efforts.  He said that “several of the governors” who did not issue stay-at-home orders called him to express their “commitment” to preventing a resurgence of the virus.

“There are a lot of candidate interventions” for clinical trials currently, Fauci said, “and it will probably be months” until the results will be available.

FDA Commissioner Dr. Stephen Hahn said that increasing the number of N95 masks is a priority and that 60 sterilization machines are to be purchased soon.  He invoked Vice President Mike Pence’s reference to gown sterilization, reporting that the FDA is issuing new guidance permitting it.

The agency has issued new specifications for the manufacturing of cloth gowns, Hahn said, without “further regulatory red tape.”

“Mitigation works…and I want to say ‘Thank you’ to America,” Surgeon General Jerome Adams said.  Earlier Friday, Adams said, he participated in a telephone call with African-American advocates including Jesse Jackson and the Black Nurses Association.  He said African-Americans are more likely to develop high blood pressure earlier in life than other races.  He himself is an asthmatic, he revealed, and has carried an inhaler “for 40 years.”

Along with their predisposition to underlying health problems, Adams said that “people of color are more likely to live in dense housing” and more likely to experience complications from the coronavirus.  “It does not have to be our nation’s future,” he said.  “More details will be forthcoming,” and he stressed practicing the Task Force’s guidelines of frequent handwashing, checking on the elderly, and social distancing.

He said the future of the various communities “depends on it,” including his own.

Pence expressed his appreciation to government employees working to stamp out the coronavirus.  He recognized those lost in the pandemic and said that “Good Friday is always followed by Easter Sunday, and there is hope.”

“We’re getting there, America; we’re making progress,” he said, and stressed following the guidelines.

He participated on the call with Adams, he said, and reported that “new guidance” from the surgeon general on the challenges facing minority communities will be issued soon.

Testing is to be expanded, Pence said, and “very soon, we will have an antibody test” which will reveal whether or not an individual has had the virus.

An outbreak at a food-processing plant in Colorado has been identified, he said.

He expressed gratitude to those who work in the food industry.

Going into Easter, Pence said, he is “grateful to all of the churches” which have continued their ministries through food banks and other forms of support.  “On their behalf…if you are able, it’s still a good idea to give,” Pence said, even though church congregations have not convened for some time.  “We know it’s difficult at this time of year to avoid gatherings of more than ten,” Pence said.

“Wherever two or more are gathered, there He is also,” Pence quoted the Bible.

The first reporter’s question focused on the U.S.-Mexico oil agreement, which Trump said will involve the U.S. producing 100,000 fewer barrels a day to offset Mexico’s anticipated reduction, with Mexico compensating the U.S. “at a later date.”

To a coronavirus testing question, Birx said that a “strategy” is under development.  She said that in large urban areas, “per capita we’ve done more tests.”

Fauci confirmed to a reporter’s question that “you’re going to see cases” if the guidelines relax.  To that, Trump said that people will return to work “and be healthy.”

Chanel Rion of OANB asked about Venezuela and China, which she said are reportedly considering a trade agreement.  “I would not be happy” if that were to occur, Trump said.

As to the potential “May 1” date for reopening the economy, Trump said, “I have tremendous respect for these people, and we’ve done very well…,” indicating Birx and Fauci, who were seated to his right.

As for the economy, Trump said he expects the fourth quarter to yield positive results.  “…have we ever been hit like this…probably never been hit like this…with all of this news, what would lead you to believe we’re going to have the best stock-market week, short week…?” Trump asked rhetorically.

“I think with the stimulus, with the people, with all we’ve got going…we’ve got to keep the airlines going…we can’t let anything happen to Boeing; it has so much potential…so we have a lot of very exciting things taking place,” he said.  “I think we have a chance to do really well.”

“We’ve learned a lot about pandemics and epidemics,” he said.  “In New York, they need far fewer hospital beds than they thought.”

“I think we have a chance to be stronger than before,” he concluded.

A reporter asked whether or not credit-card companies should reduce their fees to ease expenses for their customers as a result of the coronavirus, to which Trump said the administration has suggested it.  He then mentioned “Business Interruption” insurance, which he said many restaurants and other businesses have been purchasing for many years, but which policies might not normally cover loss of business revenue due to a pandemic.

Regarding “testing,” Trump said, “you don’t need to test 325 to 327 million people, because it’s unnecessary,” invoking the state of Idaho as an example as opposed to the “hot spots.”

As to a reporter’s premise that the administration might not have been prepared to deal with the higher incidence of complications in the African-American community, Trump said his administration oversaw “the lowest unemployment rate” for that community and all others prior to the arrival of the pandemic.  He then referred the question to Adams, who defended his earlier language urging African-Americans to show concern for their relatives such as “Pop-Pop,” “abuela,” and “Granddaddy.”

Adams says he calls his owned grandfather “Granddaddy” and that his comments were not intended to offend.

“Jerome has done a fantastic job,” Trump said when Adams finished his remarks, and said he hopes no one “steals him away.”

“We’re going to talk about the WHO next week,” Trump said in response to another question involving whether or not the U.S. will continue its financial support in the amount of $500 million annually for the World Health Organization.  He reiterated that he believes the WHO is “China-centric.”  “We’re going to be talking about that in great detail,” he said.

A task force to assist in reopening the economy will be announced on Tuesday, Trump said.

At 3:34, Trump told a reporter to her question about the absence of church services on Easter Sunday, “I’m a Christian; heal our country.”

To NBC’s Peter Alexander on a “national stay-at-home order,” Trump said he has the authority to issue such an order but that he prefers to leave those decisions up to governors.  However, he said if “a state were out-of-control,” “I would absolutely do it.”

To the AP’s Jeff Mason on reopening the economy, Trump said the “hidden enemy is genius; the way it’s attacked so many countries and so many angles; and the greatest doctors in the world — I think they’re close, but they haven’t figured it out yet…I’m going to have to make a decision, and I only hope to God that it’s the right decision.  I would say without question it’s the biggest decision that I have to make.”

He repeated that statement later, concluding the presser at 4:06 p.m.

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