Pence Coronavirus Team Announces Daily Briefing [updated with transcript links]

 

We’ll be back here every day. Get used to seeing us. We’ll bring the experts in to make sure to give you the best and most high quality real time information. Best people in the world.

–Vice President Pence

It sounds like we are really gearing up on testing capacity, from thousands to a million tests possible by the end of this month. With the large expansion Vice President Pence brought his team back to the White House Press Briefing Room, announced the updated numbers: 43 cases not including the 48 brought back from overseas, and 4 new deaths, bringing the death total in the United States to 6. He introduced two new coronavirus task force members: Seema Vera, administrator of the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Department of Veterans’ Affairs secretary, as these two programs provide medical care to an enormous number of Americans, and have oversight for procedures in health care facilities within their programs.

The scene in the room was one of a group of seasoned medical experts who had known each other for decades. The two most senior were there for the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Ambassador Deborah Birx:

I just arrived from South Africa last night. Everybody took great care of me. I had computer and phone in record time. . . I have never worked with such incredible scientists and thoughtful policy leaders.

VP Pence controlled the briefing sequence and dominated the Q&A. He transitioned from briefing to Q&A by calling on the first reporter by name and affiliation, then called on a second and finally a third reporter. He did not allow any yelling or posturing, closing swiftly with the words quoted above.

The transcripts are up on the White House website: March 3 | March 4

Highlight from the March 4 briefing shows the importance of bringing Seema Vera into the taskforce:

VP Pence:

As Dr. Birx will — will indicate in just a few moments with some of the data that we’re evaluating from around the world, it does appear that the elderly are the most vulnerable and especially those serious health issues.

At the President’s direction, as a result, Seema Verma will describe that the Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services has issued new guidelines for nursing homes nationwide.  We have raised the bar regarding infectious disease control in our nursing homes.

And in addition, Administrator Verma will explain how we are going to focus all of our inspection resources for the foreseeable future on compliance with infection control standards.

Generally, we — we monitor our nursing homes for abuse and neglect.  But at the President’s direction, we’re going to focus exclusively on ensuring that those who are in nursing homes — people operating the nursing homes, like many of the CEOs that we met with today — are complying with the new standards to keep our elderly safe.

[…]

But perhaps most significantly, thanks to Dr. Birx’s efforts and leadership, we brought together, today at the White House, the leaders of all of the largest commercial laboratories in this country — companies like Quest that have vast capabilities, logistics and testing capabilities.  And we were pleased to report today that they have created a consortium to share information and to share resources and literally have told us that, as they go through what is called the “validation process” on testing that, by next week, individual companies will be able to do, as they said to me, thousands of tests of coronavirus if they are needed and required, and many, many multiples more of that in the not-distant future.
Our objective here, as Dr. Birx raised with the task force is we’ve got hospitals in affected areas and those that are requesting that have kits — we’ve got universities and state labs that now can perform the test on a requested basis.  But our objective, ultimately, and as quickly as possible, is to have tests made through these commercial laboratories and commercial providers that your local doctor, your CVS, your MedCheck is able to have a coronavirus test.  And that isn’t there yet; we’re working to make that a reality. 

But again, it’s one more example — it’s not just a whole-of-government approach; it’s a whole-of-America approach.  And whether it be our nursing home industry, whether it be our airline industry, whether it be our commercial laboratories, I can speak on behalf of President Trump and our entire task force when I say we are profoundly grateful for the spirit that’s being reflected by companies all across the United States of America, grateful for the leadership at the state level.  And the American people should be confident that that spirit of partnership is going to continue to drive this at every level as we work our way through dealing with the coronavirus in the United States.

With that, I’m going to recognize Dr. Deborah Birx for her comments.

DR. BIRX:  Thank you, Mr. Vice President.  Good evening. Over the — over the last 12 hours, we’ve been able to receive information, both from South Korea and Italy, adding to our China information.  And it’s as we thought: The elderly and preexisting conditions have a more serious illness when confronted with the coronavirus.

Reassuringly, in South Korea, no one has died under 30.  This is reassuring to us.  And the median age in Italy was 81, of those who succumbed.  Those who became ill, the median age was 60.

So we find this data reassuring but it also has
has really caused us to focus on the Americans who might be most vulnerable.  So we’re focusing resources, attention, and all of our capacity to ensure those who have preexisting conditions and those who are elderly have access to the best prevention and treatment options.

The prevention options flow right through all of us to ensure that we have good protective hygiene for our elderly clients around the globe.

Thank you.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Seema?

ADMINISTRATOR VERMA:  Thank you.  And as you heard, because of the risk for our nation’s seniors, we are doubling down on our efforts.  Today, we put out three memos.  One was to hospitals about triaging and placement for patients with suspected or confirmed coronavirus.  We also put out some information to nursing homes about limiting visitors to nursing homes, monitoring staff.  And then, finally, we put out some information to our state surveyors that are going to be surveying our nation’s nursing homes and hospitals around infection control.

So all of that information went out this morning.

Published in Healthcare
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  1. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    I watched this (because it interrupted The Five) and it was well done. Pence was good, and he introduced a couple of new women on the team, which was good optics. Not that the women were tokens – they are well qualified.

    Pence make a point a couple of times during the questions to say that he would defer to the expert and let one of the other people answer. As if to say, “See, Democrats? We have expert scientists and we listen to them!”

    Obviously they are working very hard to build confidence and show that they are on top of things. I don’t know what more they could do.

    And my wife said that Pence has a good “concerned face” when the others are at the mic.

    • #1
  2. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    Not that the women were tokens – they are well qualified.

    Understatement of the year. 

    • #2
  3. Nohaaj Coolidge
    Nohaaj
    @Nohaaj

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    he introduced a couple of new women on the team, which was good optics.

    Your observation reflects how insidious the Left’s perpetual yammering about diversity is.  Ricochetti, the bulwark, and last bastion of free conservative thought, must qualify and justify the placement of women on a team of experts. (even with your reflexive “Not that the women were tokens – they are well qualified” disclaimer.) 

    I have always focused on MLK’s iconic dream about his daughters: “they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”

    To be clear, I am not calling you out Matt, rather the identity culture that has invaded all of our thoughts.  Indeed.  That is a virus that might be more dangerous than this Corona flu. 

    • #3
  4. Matt Bartle Member
    Matt Bartle
    @MattBartle

    That’s a fair point.

    • #4
  5. Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… Member
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…
    @ArizonaPatriot

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    Not that the women were tokens – they are well qualified.

    Understatement of the year.

    How do you guys know this?

    I can’t immediately find a source for this, but I seem to recall that Elizabeth Warren complained about the lack of women on the coronavirus team.  Then some women show up at the press conference.  They sure look like tokens.

    This is the problem with blatant sex discrimination — oops, I mean “affirmative action.”  One can no longer tell whether someone in a favored group is competent, or is there to fill a quota.

    But the idea that it is “good optics” to have the Vice President flanked by two women.

    Sorry, but I really hate the bean-counting nonsense.

    I’m reminded of a comment by Heather MacDonald, complaining about a California law requiring certain corporations to have 1 or 2 women on their boards.  MacDonald stated that she automatically votes against any woman on a slate of directors, because she presumes that the woman is on the list due to fill a quota, rather than because she is qualified. 

    • #5
  6. Eustace C. Scrubb Member
    Eustace C. Scrubb
    @EustaceCScrubb

    They should open each press conference with a word of prayer.

    • #6
  7. DrewInWisconsin, Influencer Member
    DrewInWisconsin, Influencer
    @DrewInWisconsin

    Eustace C. Scrubb (View Comment):

    They should open each press conference with a word of prayer.

    That’d drive the press bonkers. I love it.

    • #7
  8. Chris O. Coolidge
    Chris O.
    @ChrisO

    I listened to a lot of the brief on Saturday and really had no choice but to feel confident that they’re doing what they can do, and doing some other things besides.

    It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Mike Pence like this, that is to say on task. He is much better with something to focus on, and a much more fluent speaker in that situation. He seems to have a solid grasp of everything going on. Very pleased with the response by the government.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    Not that the women were tokens – they are well qualified.

    Understatement of the year.

    How do you guys know this?

    I can’t immediately find a source for this, but I seem to recall that Elizabeth Warren complained about the lack of women on the coronavirus team. Then some women show up at the press conference. They sure look like tokens.

    Watch the video, Jerry, and you’ll see the deference the others give to Deborah Birx, and how glad they are to have her there. That she bolsters the confidence of the people in that room is reason enough to accept her as more than window dressing.

    • #8
  9. Richard Finlay Inactive
    Richard Finlay
    @RichardFinlay

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    I’m reminded of a comment by Heather MacDonald, complaining about a California law requiring certain corporations to have 1 or 2 women on their boards. MacDonald stated that she automatically votes against any woman on a slate of directors, because she presumes that the woman is on the list due to fill a quota, rather than because she is qualified. 

    I am sure I have mentioned this before (those of you who remember can skip the rest of this).  Way back when learning to code meant FORTRAN, COBOL, and (shudder) BAL, when assembling a project team, I would give preference to women because the very fact that they were there meant they were very good.  Then came official HR preference policies and the situation reversed; women became suspect because even if they could not meaningfully instruct the computer*, they would not be dismissed.

    Affirmative action is poison for its ‘beneficiary’ groups.

    *I remember one very bright woman who could write a thorough and clear summary of what a program needed to do (it had everything needed for a detailed specification) but was unable to translate English into Code.  Baffling.

    • #9
  10. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    Chris O. (View Comment):

    I listened to a lot of the brief on Saturday and really had no choice but to feel confident that they’re doing what they can do, and doing some other things besides.

    It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Mike Pence like this, that is to say on task. He is much better with something to focus on, and a much more fluent speaker in that situation. He seems to have a solid grasp of everything going on. Very pleased with the response by the government.

    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio… (View Comment):
    Jerry Giordano (Arizona Patrio…

    Clifford A. Brown (View Comment):

    Matt Bartle (View Comment):
    Not that the women were tokens – they are well qualified.

    Understatement of the year.

    How do you guys know this?

    I can’t immediately find a source for this, but I seem to recall that Elizabeth Warren complained about the lack of women on the coronavirus team. Then some women show up at the press conference. They sure look like tokens.

    Watch the video, Jerry, and you’ll see the deference the others give to Deborah Birx, and how glad they are to have her there. That she bolsters the confidence of the people in that room is reason enough to accept her as more than window dressing.

    I explained why Seema Vera was brought in—for the same reason as the VA Secretary was brought in. She has oversight of the largest medical system in the country: Medicare and Medicaid. As to Dr. Birx, here you go:

    Ambassador-at-Large, Deborah L. Birx, M.D., is the Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. Ambassador Birx is a world-renowned medical expert and leader in the field of HIV/AIDS. Her three-decade-long career has focused on HIV/AIDS immunology, vaccine research, and global health. As the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, Ambassador Birx oversees the implementation of the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history, as well as all U.S. Government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria. Serving as the U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy, she aligns the U.S. Government’s diplomacy with foreign assistance programs that address global health challenges and accelerate progress toward: achieving an AIDS-free generation; ending preventable child and maternal deaths; and preventing, detecting, and responding to infectious disease threats.

    In 1985, Ambassador Birx began her career with the Department of Defense (DoD) as a military-trained clinician in immunology, focusing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. From 1985-1989, she served as an Assistant Chief of the Hospital Immunology Service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Through her professionalism and leadership in the field, she progressed to serve as the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (USMHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research from 1996-2005. Ambassador Birx helped lead one of the most influential HIV vaccine trials in history (known as RV 144 or the Thai trial), which provided the first supporting evidence of any vaccine’s potential effectiveness in preventing HIV infection. During this time, she also rose to the rank of Colonel, bringing together the Navy, Army, and Air Force in a new model of cooperation – increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. Military’s HIV/AIDS efforts through inter- and intra-agency collaboration. Then known as Colonel Birx, she was awarded two prestigious U.S. Meritorious Service Medals and the Legion of Merit Award for her groundbreaking research, leadership, and management skills during her tenure at DOD.

    From 2005-2014, Ambassador Birx served successfully as the Director of CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS (DGHA), which is part of the agency’s Center for Global Health. As DGHA Director, she utilized her leadership ability, superior technical skills, and infectious passion to achieve tremendous public health impact. She successfully led the implementation of CDC’s PEPFAR programs around the world and managed an annual budget of more than $1.5 billion. Ambassador Birx was responsible for all of the agency’s global HIV/AIDS activities, including providing oversight to more than 400 staff at headquarters, over 1,500 staff in the field, and more than 45 country and regional offices in Africa, Asia, Caribbean, and Latin America. Recognized for her distinguished and dedicated commitment to building local capacity and strengthening quality laboratory health services and systems in Africa, in 2011, Ambassador Birx received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Society for Laboratory Medicine. In 2014, CDC honored her leadership in advancing the agency’s HIV/AIDS response with the highly prestigious William C. Watson, Jr. Medal of Excellence.

    Ambassador Birx has published over 220 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, authored nearly a dozen chapters in scientific publications, as well as developed and patented vaccines. She received her medical degree from the Hershey School of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, and beginning in 1980 she trained in internal medicine and basic and clinical immunology at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health. Ambassador Birx is board certified in internal medicine, allergy and immunology, and diagnostic and clinical laboratory immunology.

    • #10