Trump’s Team Speaks Again on COVID-19 [updated with author transcription]

 

President Trump’s team of healthcare agency leaders, centered in Health and Human Services, held a second big press briefing on the response to the Chinese coronavirus, calling COVID-19 by its nation of origin after the Chinese Communist government threw Wall Street Journal reports out of the country for a headline and story that was not complimentary of the communist regime. The official Trump administration position is more honest than the craven crew of Wall Street Journal “journalists” who are siding with the CCP propaganda claim of WSJ “racism.”

Here is the 44 minute video, of the February 25, 2020 HHS COVID-19 press briefing followed by the prepared remarks from the HHS website:

I note with some dissatisfaction that HHS is not being as straightforward as the White House was in the initial briefing, as the HHS staff only posted the prepared remarks of Secretary Azar, in contrast to the full transcript of all remarks and questions and answers. On the other hand, this may be a sign that HHS personnel are rather busy at the moment, hopefully to good effect.

Note the passages I highlighted in the prepared remarks:

Remarks at HHS Press Briefing on the Administration’s Response to COVID-19

Alex M. Azar II
Hubert Humphrey Building
February 25, 2020
Washington, D.C.

As Prepared for Delivery

Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us here today.

This HHS briefing on the China coronavirus aims to do two things: provide the American public with an update on the risks presented by the virus, and provide the latest on the actions that President Trump’s administration is taking to respond to the outbreak and keep Americans safe.

I am joined by Dr. Anne Schuchat, Principal Deputy Director of CDC; Dr. Tony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response; and Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs.

As of this morning, we still have only 14 cases of the China coronavirus detected in the United States, involving travel to China or close contacts with travelers; 3 cases among Americans repatriated from Wuhan; and 40 cases among American passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess.

I want to thank the responders and communities that have worked with HHS and the administration to provide these Americans with the treatment they need. I’m also grateful to the governors and other state and local leaders who have worked with us in close partnership so far.

The immediate risk to the general American public remains low. But, as we have warned, that has the potential to change quickly. There is now community transmission in a number of countries, including outside of Asia.

That is deeply concerning, and community spread in other countries will make successful containment at our borders harder and harder. That is why we have already been working closely with state, local, and private sector partners to prepare for mitigating the virus’s potential spread in the United States, because we will likely see more cases here.

Dr. Schuchat will provide some more details on what that will look like, including how we would treat potential cases that arise from community transmission here in the U.S.

This preparation has been possible in part because of how aggressively President Trump has responded to this outbreak. As soon as we knew of the threat presented by the novel virus, public health leaders were monitoring it and beginning to prepare.

The travel restrictions that the President put in place at around the beginning of this month have given our country valuable time to prepare, and that is precisely what they were designed to do.

That includes working with Congress. Yesterday, the White House sent a request to Congress to make at least $2.5 billion in funding available for preparedness and response.

There are five major priorities within the supplemental, which I underscored this morning before the Senate appropriations committee. [*]

First, we need to expand our surveillance work, building on an existing system we have within CDC’s influenza surveillance network.

Second, we will need funds to support public health preparedness and response for state and local governments for what could be a very large-scale response. This support complements the significant funds that these partners have received from CDC for preparedness—about two-thirds of a billion dollars a year in recent years.

Third and fourth, we need to support development of therapeutics and fourth, we need to support development of vaccines.

Given the scale of this outbreak, the private sector sees a real market for both kinds of countermeasures, as well as for diagnostics, but federal funding and guidance can help accelerate this work. Dr. Fauci will address the current status of that work in more depth.

Fifth and finally, we need funds for the purchase of personal protective equipment for the Strategic National Stockpile, a topic that Dr. Kadlec can address.

I’ll conclude by noting that, though scheduling conflicts prevented this briefing from including other members of the President’s Coronavirus Task Force, we will be providing a new update from interagency leaders soon, and we expect to continue doing so regularly.

Earlier this afternoon on CNBC, NEC Director Larry Kudlow offered an update on how we see this outbreak affecting the economy.[**]

This morning, Dr. Messonnier from CDC provided the usual telebriefing.[***]

As Dr. Schuchat will emphasize in just a moment, the Trump Administration will continue to be aggressively transparent as the outbreak and our response evolve. We will continue keeping the American people and the media apprised of the situation and what everyone can do to prepare.

In the meantime, I will continue to work closely with President Trump and the President’s task force on our preparations to keep Americans safe.

With that, I will hand things over to Dr. Schuchat for an update from CDC. Dr. Schuchat?

[Update: here are my notes on the contents, bullet points and rough transcription of Q&A]

Following are some bullet points I picked up from the briefers after Secretary Azar’s prepared remarks:

Dr. Schuchat, (CDC):

  • A pandemic is now likely.
  • Not if but when the virus spreads in our country. The question is how many and how many severe or more complicated disease cases.
  • We have been preparing for years for this kind of threat and to limit the impact on our communities.
  • Good personal hygiene, social distancing, stay home if you are sick. Lessons from difficult flu seasons and H1NI pandemic.
  • Literally a playbook, exercised by states and communities

Dr. Tony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases:

  • Vaccine, enormous speed so far. If no glitch, Phase 1 human trial in 1.5 months. Phase 2 trial would then take 6-8 months. 1-1.5 years minimum to get nation/worldwide vaccine production and innoculation. Important tool for stopping this if it goes longer than this season.
  • Two major clinical trials already in China and Japan and Nebraska (Diamond Princess patients) for new anti-viral therapy for those sick.

Dr. Robert Kadlec, HHS’s Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response:

  • Logistical support from repatriation to quarantine to active case medical isolation and care in infectious disease containment centers.
  • Most with infection do not need aggressive treatment, special facilities just for public safety.
  • These patients can participate in the clinical trial of anti-viral drug.
  • Exploring 2 vaccines, multiple therapeutic compounds, detection/diagnostic approaches. Hundreds of proposals under review now.

Dr. Stephen Hahn, Commissioner of Food and Drugs:

  • Active partner. Facilitate efforts to treat and diagnose.
  • Supply chain disruption likely. Not aware of any at this time, but watching shortly.
  • Inspections, not now in China, but other layers of quality control/assurance.

Q&A:

Q: [Chinese mouthpiece asked first question, put up CCP talking points about calling it China coronavirus “xenophobia” and about reducing/dropping travel restrictions from China outside supposed hot zone.]

A: Sec. Azar stepped up and politely but firmly rejected her premise. “We intend to keep our travel restrictions in place with China for the moment.” He said the facts were there were hundreds of new cases being reported in China each day, dozens of new fatalities each day. “We certainly hope that China is able to engage in effective containment to slow this virus down. Nothing at this time to indicate a change in our aggressive containment measures with regard to travel in China. We have been very moderate in our measures. Not a ban, just restrictions based on 14 day incubation period.”

Q: There is a conflict in messaging between CDC “expect disruption in your life” and presidential tweet “under control,” and this briefing. Explain.

A: Dr. Schuchat, (CDC): CDC was talking about potential for community disruption. In thinking about what to expect, think about a bad flu year or the H1N1 pandemic. Wuhan images very different than what we expect here [unspoken criticism of Chinese local to national authority response]. Stay informed. Cover your cough or sneeze, stay home if sick, and the evergreen wash your hands. H1NI, schools were closed briefly until we learned more about transmission and tradeoffs. So, the talk this morning was about getting ready, thinking through the possibilities.

[This points to another level of basic emergency readiness: Am I ready to do self-isolation for 2-3 weeks?]

Q: Do you really have the transmission and incubation model right? What about asymptomatic transmission? To FDA, what kind of personal protective equipment?

A: We do not yet know. It appears asymptomatic is minor, does happen, but is not the predominant driver of disease transmission. Basic issues of proper testing, think we are getting closer on that. FDA: PPE, masks, respirators, gowns. Demand pressure, keeping eye on supply chain.

Q: ABC. Congress had questions about supplemental number. How did you come to the number? [Democrats are using the occasion to posture and try to pin public blame on President Trump, see even their Congressional web pages.]

A: Azar. Supplemental $2.5 billion is for Fiscal Year 2020 (between now and September 30 of this year). Carryover provision to let these dollars continue into next fiscal year. We told Congress we are already in the middle of looking at next year’s appropriation, so let’s work together on that. We are learning more about this virus every week, so that will inform our discussions. As to the $2.5 billion see the five key areas again. Get our testing/surveillance more like flu coverage. We fund about 1/2 of state and local public health already, so this will be an area to ramp up lab testing, contact tracing, etc. Vaccine, treatment, “we want to put multiple bets on the table. $1billion, speed it along as quickly as possible.” Big enough global demand that U.S. government will not likely have to make the market, like with a bioterrorism defense. Looks like there will be a market for treatment globally. Government will focus on making multiple bets on vaccine and treatment, plus PPE.

Q: Gotcha of “which message is it.”

A: We are being radically transparent. Each message is accurate, but addresses different audience, situation. We are trying to be radically transparent. We have always said no way to hermetically seal USA, so there will be additional cases here, as we have said from the beginning. Very serious. We are taking the most aggressive containment in modern [American under leftist lawyers and courts conveying rights to the infected/infectious] history.

Q: More gotcha with congress critter posture quotes.

A: I don’t keep track of what people say on Capital Hill. I want Dr. Schuchat to address [ her subordinate?] Dr. Messonnier’s remarks this morning. Dr. Schuchat: gives a very calm, commonsense, eveyday people solutions response, then says we want everyone to have the information to think through how different scenarios would look to them, what would it mean for them?

Q: Where to go to prepare? Confusion, being told to do right now?

A: Dr. Schuchat: CDC dot GOV. Good checklists for home, healthcare workers, businesses, travelers. Stay informed about where not to travel.

A: Dr. Tony Fauci of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases: No, you were not being told to act right now by Dr. Messonnier. You were being told about thinking through, being prepared for future possibilities. She wanted the American people to know, in the name of transparency, if we have to mitigate, here are the things you will have to do. There is no conflict between we said and what she said.

Q: Missing symtoms?

A: Midst of flu season. Now adding a NOVID-19 test to the battery when people present with flu symptoms. Most specimens show flu. 5 sites with new test, expanding in next two weeks to catch and contain.

Q: Reality check. Compare to flu lethality. Compare to advise in America around Ebola “wash hands?”

A: Dr. Tony Fauci: Flu down around .02% death in America. So far, globally, around 2-3% for this virus, depending on denominator. SARS was 9-10%. Flu pandemics 4-6%. 1918 as high as 20%.

A: Dr. Schuchat: hand washing evergreen message, not just for children. Will continue to roll out more messaging on hand washing. [By eliminating other healthcare demands and false positives, we make pandemic response more effective.]


* Finally, HHS Secretary Azar had a lengthy budget and emergency supplimental hearing in the Senate on February 25. The hearing with machine transcription is on C-SPAN: Health and Human Services Fiscal Year 2021 Budget Request

** The prepared remarks pointed to a CNBC segment with Larry Kudlow as a senior economic adviser in the Trump administration:

*** The CDC provides audio and a transcript of their daily media telebriefing. The audio is up, but not the transcript for February 25.

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There are 7 comments.

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  1. Unsk Member
    Unsk
    @Unsk

    I am glad the Trump administration submitted this funding request to deal with this crisis. 

    According to Ben Hunt of EpsilonTheory.com  30%of Wuhan’s doctors and nurses fell victim to the virus, which ripped apart the Wuhan medical response. We cannot let that happen here.  We need to proceed with the utmost urgency to protect our hospitals and their staff from infection.

    That is why I thought building separate facilities that minimized patient/health care worker contact would be appropriate. We could build single story facilities for use existing facilities on federal land away from urban centers to avoid contagion. Metal Butler type warehouse buildings can be put up very quickly with drywall and metal stud partitions/framing put up very quickly as well. It can be done- we just need to do it and the sooner the better. 

    • #1
  2. drlorentz Member
    drlorentz
    @drlorentz

    As of this morning, we still have only 14 cases of the China coronavirus detected in the United States, involving travel to China or close contacts with travelers; 3 cases among Americans repatriated from Wuhan; and 40 cases among American passengers repatriated from the Diamond Princess.

    The trouble with these claims is that the only individuals likely to be tested are from these select groups: people who returned from Wuhan, passengers on the virus cruise, and some of the people who have been in contact with travelers from China. Many other people have probably been exposed and there are likely to be many asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic, infected individuals walking around. This is why, as of this writing, South Korea has over 1,100 confirmed cases, many of which cannot be traced to a specific source. It is also why Italy has 322 cases and parts of Lombardy are in lockdown.

    Only three states had test kits as of last Friday. If you don’t have test kits, you can’t confirm cases of COVID-19. Furthermore, some test kits that had been sent out were defective. As of yesterday, only 426 people in the U.S. have been tested. Again, if you don’t test, you can’t detect. Asymptomatic individuals are excellent disease vectors.

    To summarize: 426 people tested, 14 confirmed cases originating in the US, 3 from Wuhan, and 36 from the Diamond Princess as of Feb 24.

    This is not to say that these officials are intentionally misleading. However, they do paint a rosier picture than one gets by including these facts.

    • #2
  3. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer
    @DrewInWisconsin

    drlorentz (View Comment):
    This is why, as of this writing, South Korea has over 1,100 confirmed cases, many of which cannot be traced to a specific source.

    I thought that was due largely to a death cult deliberately spreading the virus. Granted, “I read it on the internet” is probably not the best source.

    • #3
  4. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Yesterday at check-in at the doctor’s office, the first receptionist had a form that she filled out asking me:  Had I recently traveled outside the USA, Had I been to China, did I have a sore throat or cough, and one more I have forgotten. I answered no to all of them, then she handed me the paper to give to the receptionist in the doctor’s office.

    This family facility has about 15 doctors in it, so no one doctor was being picky, the facility was being cautious. But, unusual as this is the first time in my almost 82 years of being screened at the door.

    • #4
  5. Valiuth Inactive
    Valiuth
    @Valiuth

    Kay of MT (View Comment):
    This family facility has about 15 doctors in it, so no one doctor was being picky, the facility was being cautious. But, unusual as this is the first time in my almost 82 years of being screened at the door.

    This seems like a proper level of caution and care from the right people and institutions. If an outbreak in the US will happen. The people most likely to encounter it first are such doctors and facilities. Taking the time now before a full crisis breaks out means you can (hopefully) catch it before it gets very large. 

    Doctors and hospitals should be vigilant, and the public should just practice good sanitary behavior (don’t cough on people, wash your hands). 

    Again, I must say things are still going well so far (knock on wood). 

    • #5
  6. Kay of MT Inactive
    Kay of MT
    @KayofMT

    Valiuth (View Comment):
    This seems like a proper level of caution and care from the right people and institutions.

    I was kind of delighted with them as no excitement, no big cautionary signs, just quietly filling out a slip of paper to give to the receptionist. Going about their daily business.

    • #6
  7. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I have posted on the presidential briefing given this Wednesday, including my reflections on making sense of the numbers being thrown around.

    • #7
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