Wednesday Whirlwind: First good double-blind results, reopening America, and State Department

 

It has been another whirlwind day. On April 29, Dr. Fauci, in a meeting between President Trump and Governor Edwards of Louisiana, a Democrat, announced the first modest good results from a randomized test, sponsored by his institution. He analogized the results of Remdesivier to AZT, the first anti-HIV drug that showed modest good results. 

Remdesivier has a clear cut significant positive affect in diminishing the time to recovery…We think it’s really opening the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating…it’s going to get better and better.

Sadly, the reporters rolled back in with vaccine questions, which Dr. Fauci cooly rejected as off topic. This is about therapeutics, and if therapeutics are good enough, then, as with AIDS, the failure to develop an effective vaccine will be far less devastating. C-SPAN only published the medical news clip to YouTube, while the full video of President Trump meeting with the Governor of Louisiana was posted on the lower-traffic C-SPAN website.

Here are some highlights from the transcript:

Remarks by President Trump in Meeting with Governor Edwards of Louisiana

Issued on: April 29, 2020

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Oval Office

11:41 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, thank you very much.  Before we get to a very good governor and somebody that we’ve worked with very, very well, incredibly well — the great state of Louisiana — I wanted to introduce Dr. Blythe Adamson.  She’s been with us for a few months to help us with the ventilator situation, because we took over a government where everything was missing.  It was all missing in action.  And she and a group of super geniuses straightened it out to a point we’re now helping other countries with ventilators — France, Italy, Spain, Nigeria.  Yesterday, I spoke to the President of Nigeria.  Many countries are calling us for help with ventilators because they are not easy to build.  They’re — I always say it’s like building a car — highly sophisticated, especially what we’re doing.  We’re doing a very high-quality ventilator.

So, Blythe, if you could say a few words please.  And we appreciate what you’ve done very much.

[Here is another example of President Trump putting the praise spotlight on someone you have never heard from before. Hidden figures indeed.]

DR. ADAMSON:  Thank you, Mr. President.  It’s been an honor to serve here.  I’ve worked with a strong team from FEMA, CDC, Dr. Birx, the military, and it’s been wonderful to see the evidence generation in real time — you know, learning as fast as we can from what’s happening with the epidemic to create mathematical models of these infectious diseases to understand the demand for these hospital resources and to do forecasting of states like yours to understand how we can be prepared for what’s coming.

So thank you for the opportunity to serve.

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we just think you were fantastic.  And I met with Blythe and about 20 young people.  They were all young and they’re all brilliant.  I think the IQ in that room — the average IQ was about 192.  And it was an incredible meeting, actually.  And many of them had been — had made a lot of money on Silicon Valley.  They sold a company.  I wouldn’t say they were dressed like I dress.  They dress a little bit less — like in a t-shirt, right?  And they had very thick glasses, for the most part.  But they were super-brilliant people.

Jared really led that charge.  Incredible.  Brilliantly.  He may be my son-in-law, but he is a brilliant person, as they all understand.  And they took that and they also — now they’re working on testing, and testing is coming along at a level that nobody thought even possible.  We’ve now done more tests than anybody in the world by far.

I think they said more than anybody in the world if you add up the rest of the major countries in the world and even if you add up, I think — I have to be always careful with the media — if you add up the entire world, we’ve done more testing.  That doesn’t mean we’ll ever get credit, but someday, all of the people that have done this good job — this great job — will get credit.  But the testing it coming along really well.  And exponentially, every week, it’s — it’s really getting to numbers that nobody thought possible.

But that was — you were involved in that with all of the young people, and we appreciate it.  But we appreciate the job you did.  And just came in for a short period of time to help us right at the beginning, and that’s when we needed it, and we really appreciate it.

And thank you very much.  If you want, you can join us or you can head on to wherever you’re going, whether it’s Silicon Valley or New York or wherever you’re going —

DR. ADAMSON:  Thank you, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  — but you were fantastic.

DR. ADAMSON:  You know, I do want to share that I just came for a few days to volunteer at FEMA and saw the way that I could help just equip these — the wonderful government employees that were here with, you know, infectious disease modeling.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

DR. ADAMSON:  But, you know, really, I decided to stay because, in working with the military, I was so inspired by the deployments that all of these service members go through that, you know, I decided to extend my time away from my children and my job because I was just so inspired by what our service members do all of the time in having to leave their families and make sacrifices for their country.  So, it was a privilege to do so.

[. . .]

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  We certainly had more [ventilators] than we needed, and we’re thanking God for that because, as she’d mentioned, the modeling was so bad at one time.  We had the highest growth rate of cases in the world.  We were on the trajectory to match Spain and Italy.  And so when you start modeling that, we knew that we had a short period of time.  We got 350 ventilators from the stockpile, and thank you very much.

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  Great.

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  We were able to source a few hundred more as a state, and we built the beds.  And we’ve serviced about 200 COVID patients in the convention center —

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  — but nowhere near what we had feared.  And we thank you very much.  A lot of it because of the testing.  So we had three federally sponsored, drive-through test sites — I think the first three in the country — in Orleans and Jefferson Parish.  Yes, sir.

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s right.  You had great — great testing and great results.  I called John Bel because we were ready to start another hospital.  We just finished one hospital with a lot of beds, and we were ready to start another.  And he was doing so well and the state was doing so well all of a sudden.  I called him and I said, “Do you think we should build that hospital?”  I think it was another 500 beds.  And I said, “Do you think we should build it?”  And he said, “Let me get back to you.”  And you called back and said, “No, I don’t think we’re going to need it,” and we didn’t need it.

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  Right.

THE PRESIDENT:  So it’s good not to build things.  We actually put it someplace else where they needed it.

So, I just wanted to congratulate you.  And it’s a very — it’s a very favorite place of mine.  It’s a great state and great people.  And congratulations on your national championship, right?

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  Yes, sir.  Absolutely.

THE PRESIDENT:  And your quarterback just went number one in the NFL draft.  And an easy number one.  I think he got the most — he got the most votes ever for Heisman Trophy, didn’t he?

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  Yes, sir.  Yes, sir.

[ . . . ]

Q    Sir, the Gilead drug — apparently there’s some good news on that front.  What have you heard, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, it seems to be good news.  I’d rather have you guys maybe respond to it a little bit, but it seems to be good news.  Gilead has — it’s really one of a number of companies that are coming up with some pretty positive things.

But, I mean, I can only tell you what’s been reported to me.  It’s certainly a positive.  We’ll have to see how it all works out.

DR. FAUCI:  I mean, I could do it later, after you do that, and present a little bit of detail because it’s quite good news.  And I’d be happy to share —

THE PRESIDENT:  That’s good.  You want to talk about it now, if you want.

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah. Yeah.

THE PRESIDENT:  Go ahead.  Please.

DR. FAUCI:  Okay.  So, a trial that the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is the institute I direct, sponsored called the “Adaptive Co-Virus Disease Treatment Trial,” or ACTT1, was started in February 21st of this year.  And it was a randomized placebo-controlled trial comparing the Gilead drug, remdesivir, with a placebo.  It was highly powered with about 1,090-plus individuals.  So it is the first truly high-powered randomized placebo-controlled trial.

It was an international trial involving multiple sites not only in the United States, but in various countries throughout the world, including Germany, Denmark, Spain, Greece, the UK, et cetera.  The primary endpoint was the time to recovery — namely, the ability to be discharged.

When you have a study like this, we have a Data and Safety Monitoring Board, which looks at the data.  And they are independent, so there’s no prejudice on the part of the investigators because they’re doing the trial or the drug is from a certain company.

The Data and Safety Monitoring Board, on Monday afternoon, contacted me on April 27th — first on Friday, the week before; and then again on April 27th — and notified the study team, namely the multiple investigators who were doing the study throughout the world, that the data shows that remdesivir has a clear-cut, significant, positive effect in diminishing the time to recovery.

This is really quite important for a number of reasons, and I’ll give you the data.  It’s highly significant.  If you look at the time to recovery being shorter in the remdesivir arm, it was 11 days, compared to 15 days.  And that’s a p-value, for the scientists who are listening, of 0.001.  So that’s something that — although a 31 percent improvement doesn’t seem like a knock-out 100 percent, it is a very important proof of concept.  Because what it has proven is that a drug can block this virus.  And I’ll give you an example in a moment of why we think, looking forward, this is very optimistic.

The mortality rate trended towards being better, in the sense of less death in the remdesivir group: 8 percent versus 11 percent in the placebo group.  It has not yet reached statistical significance, but the data needs to be further analyzed.

The reason why we’re making the announcement now is something that I believe people don’t fully appreciate: Whenever you have clear-cut evidence that a drug works, you have an ethical obligation to immediately let the people who are in the placebo group know so that they can have access.  And all of the other trials that are taking place now have a new standard of care.

So we would have normally waited several days until the data gets further to dot the “I” and cross the “T,” but the data are not going to change.  Some of the numbers may change a little, but the conclusion will not change.

So when I was looking at this data with our team the other night, it was reminiscent of 34 years ago, in 1986, when we were struggling for drugs for HIV and we had nothing.  And there was a lot of anecdotal reports about things that maybe did work, maybe not.  People were taking different kinds of drugs.  And we did the first randomized placebo control trial with AZT, which turned out to give an effect that was modest.  But that was not the endgame, because building on that every year after, we did better and better.  We had better drugs of the same type, and we had drugs against different targets.

This drug happens to be blocking a enzyme that the virus uses, and that’s an RNA polymerase.  But there are a lot of other enzymes that the virus uses that are now going to be targets for this.  This will be the standard of care.

And, in fact, when we look at the other trials we’re doing — we were going to do trial with another antiviral.  Actually, it isn’t an antiviral; it’s an anti-inflammatory — a monoclonal antibody.  We’re going to now compare the combination of remdesivir with this.  So as drugs come in, we’re going to see if we can add on that.

[Notice his passive aggressive dissing of the one cheap generic drug that has approved scientific random trials. No one asked him that question.]

So, bottom line: You’re going to be hearing more details about this.  This will be submitted to a peer-review journal and will be peer-reviewed appropriately.  But we think it’s really opening the door to the fact that we now have the capability of treating.  And I can guarantee you, as more people and more companies, more investigators get involved, it’s going to get better and better.

So I’ll stop there, but I’d be happy to answer any questions.

[ No one asked Dr. Fauci about therapeutics effect on future recommendations and models.]

Q    Mr. President, how does this news influence your thought process on states reopening their governments?  Do you think people should be more comfortable knowing that there is a drug that has proven effective?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I think it’s a beginning.  I thought Tony explained it really well.  It’s a beginning; it means you build on it.  I love that, as a building block.  You know, just as a building block, I love that.

But certainly, it’s a positive.  It’s a very positive event from that standpoint.  And we’re going to be very careful as we open.  A lot of people, a lot of governors are opening.  I know you’re very advanced.  You’re going to be very advanced in getting it going.  But we’re doing it very carefully.

We’ve learned a lot over the last couple of months.  And if there’s a fire, we’re going to put it out.  If there’s a little ember burning, we’re going to put it out.  We’re going to put it out very quickly.  And I think we’ve learned how to do that.  There have been some areas that have really started up, and we put it out very quickly.  So, we’ve learned a lot.

Yeah, please.

Q    Mr. President, the “stop the spread” guidelines expire tomorrow.  Do you intend to extend those?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I’ll let Mike — do you want to explain what we are doing on that?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  I think, Mr. President, we’ve — we’ve issued the guidelines, now it was actually 45 days ago, the first 15 and then 30 Days to Slow the Spread.  And, frankly, every state in America has embraced those guidelines at a minimum or even done more.

And now our focus is working with states as governors, like Governor John Bel Edwards, unveil plans to open up their states again.  And the new guidance that we’ve issued is guidance for how they can do that safely and responsibly.

And so the — not only the gating criteria for when we believe it’s appropriate for states to enter phase one are included, but also the very specific guidelines for when states open and how they can open — and in, as the President said, in a safe and responsible way — are included in the President’s Guidelines to Open Up America Again.

Q    So the current guidelines then will not be extended after tomorrow?

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Well, the current guidelines, I think you can say, are very much incorporated in the guidance that we’re giving states to open up America again.  But maybe, Mr. President, Dr. Birx?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, and I think a way of saying it — they’ll be fading out because now the governors are doing it.  I’ve had many calls from governors: Governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, and many, many governors — Tennessee, Arkansas.  We’re speaking to a lot of different people and they’re explaining what they’re doing.  And I’m — I am very much in favor of what they’re doing.  They’re getting it going, and we’re opening our country again.

[. . .]

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  You know, Mr. President, I would say this: If you look at the plan that you all had put out for “30 Days to Stop the Spread,” the mitigation measures that you promoted in that plan are carried forward in the guidelines for reopening.  And so it’s — it’s sort of a seamless way to do it by keeping those mitigation measures in, in place that you need to, as you reopen, especially for the vulnerable population.

[. . .]

Q    Mr. President, what are you hoping to learn about China and the World Health Organization with this investigation you’ve commissioned with the intelligence agencies?

THE PRESIDENT:  Right.  It’s coming in and I’m getting pieces already.  And we’re not happy about it.  And we are, by far, the largest contributor to WHO — World Health.  And they misled us.  I don’t know.  They must’ve known more than they knew because they came after what other people knew that weren’t even involved.  We knew things that they didn’t know.  And either they didn’t know or they didn’t tell us, or — you know, right now they’re literally a pipe organ for China.  That’s the way I view it.

So I’m — we’re seeing and we’re looking and we’re watching.  And again, we give $500 million — and we have over the years — from 400 to 500 for a long time, for many years.  And China is giving $38 million.  And yet, they seem to work for China.  And they should’ve been in there early.  They should’ve known what was going on.  And they should’ve been able to stop it at the — you talk about the spread or stopping the embers; that could’ve — that could’ve been stopped there.

And then, why did China allow planes to fly out but not into China, but they allow planes to come out?  And planes are coming out of Wuhan, and they’re coming out; they’re going all over the world.  They’re going to Italy, very — very big time to Italy.  But they’re going all over the world.  But they’re not going into China.  What was that all about?

[. . .]

Q    Mr. President, can I ask a question of Dr. Fauci?  There was also a study of China, of remdesivir, that came out today that didn’t find a significant statistical significance with the treatment.  I’m wondering if you saw that.  It was a Lancet study.  And why the results might —

DR. FAUCI:  Yeah.  It’s an underpowered study.  And it’s not the kind of study we — that’s the reason why I was very explicit in saying this is a randomized, controlled — placebo-controlled trial that’s powered to the tune of over 1,000 in hospitalized patients.  And the endpoint was a clear endpoint: the time that you, essentially, are discharged.  And the secondary endpoint to death.

So even though — I mean, I don’t like to poo-poo other studies, but that’s not an adequate study, and everybody in the field feels that.

Q    Mr. President, what can you do to help businesses with liability issues, as workers come back in states that have opened up?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, as you know, we just worked with the meat processors, and if you think about it, a form of delivery.  We have tremendous product.  We have ample supply.  But there was a bottleneck caused by this whole pandemic, and it was pretty — it was potentially pretty serious.

[. . .]

Q    So the Defense Production Act protects them from liability?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we used it.  That’s what we did: We used it.  And it helps them greatly — greatly — to do what they have to do.  Because they’re ready to do it, but they — they needed some help.

Q    How do you protect the workers, though, in those plants?  What are you doing to protect them?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, we’re doing that.  We’re going to have a report on that probably this afternoon.  We’re going to have a good form of protection.  And through quarantine, when we find somebody that’s not — we’re going to be very — they’re going to be very careful — they are — as to who is going into the plant.  And the quarantine is going to be very strong, and we’re going to make people better when they have a problem.  We’re going to get them better.  Hopefully they’re going to get better.

[This section would seem to negate Mitch McConnell’s scheme to sell out Republican states to bail out Democrat socialist failures in exchange for liability protection for businesses that are actually also big players in advancing the cultural left and attacking the First Amendment.]

Q    Just a quick follow-up to Dr. Fauci.  When might we see remdesivir on the market?  How soon might we see that?

DR. FAUCI:  Well, right now, it’s happening that the FDA, literally, as we speak, is working with Gilead to figure out mechanisms to make this easily available to those who need it.  With regard to getting to the market, it will obviously have to be approved by the FDA for licensure.  And the FDA is very well aware that this is something that is very important, so I’m sure they’re going to be moving very expeditiously.  But I can’t give you a date.

Q    Thanks.

THE PRESIDENT:  Tony, would this be used in the earlier phases or in the late phases?

DR. FAUCI:  Well, again, this — and thank you for that question, because there are a lot of different permutations.  This is in hospitalized patients.  And the endpoint was the time to discharge.  So it’s unclear yet, right now, from this study, whether or not it would be better for early.  We don’t know.  It could be.  But we only make statements about what we’ve proven.  And the only thing that’s been proven now is in hospitalized patients.

So good question, but we don’t have the answer.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.

Q    Mr. President, fiscally speaking, GDP shrinks 4.8 percent.  I was curious your reaction on that, and what, if anything, you want to see out of another possible stimulus package.

THE PRESIDENT:  So, if you look at what’s going on in the market, where the market is at 24,000, and this came from us blind; we never knew.  We had the greatest economy ever in the world, in the history of the world.  We had the best economy.  I say it openly.  Nobody even challenges it.  And they would if they thought I was wrong.  We had the best economy ever.  And we’re going to have it again.

What happened is — look at the market today: 24,000 — above 24,000, I think, Kevin.  In fact, I’ll ask you to say a couple of things about that.

But if you would have said that we would have had the worst pandemic since 1917, over 100 years ago, with the disturbance — to 184 countries at least, because that was as of last week — and that a market would be — we’re at 29,000 and now we’re going to be at 24,000.  And we were at a low — I think we’re having one of the best weeks.  We’re having one of the best periods in terms of stock market, which to me is jobs and future.  I don’t view it as the stock market, I view it as jobs and future.

If you would have said to me that we’d be at 24,000 and we — you know, it’s — we started off at a — when I was elected, the number was much lower.  Much, much lower, as you know.  It’s called “in the teens.”  But if you would have said we would have been at 24,000 with what we’ve gone through as a country, John Bel, it’s pretty amazing.

And I think I read where this is one of the best weeks in the stock market, this last short period of time, that we’ve had in — since the 1950s or 1940s.  So I think there’s a tremendous feeling of optimism in this country.  I can only say that.  There’s going to be a tremendous feeling of optimism.

I think the third quarter is transitional.  It’s a — we’re transiting into, but it’s a very transitional period.  I think it’s going to do good, but I think the fourth quarter is going to be fantastic.

I think, next year, all of the fruits of what we’ve all done together, between the doctors and the business people and yourself — thank you very much.  Of course, you’re a doctor.  But all of the work from the task force, all of the people that have worked so hard, we’re going to have a tremendous year next year.  And you’re going to start to see that, I think, in the fourth quarter.  Maybe even in pieces of the third quarter.  But that’s, again, very transitional.

Q    Mr. President, the spending though — is there, like, a day of reckoning coming with over $2 trillion spending?  Do you see —

THE PRESIDENT:  No, it’s about growth.  It’s about growth.  We’re going to be in great shape because we’re growing.  And we could have done it the other way: You don’t spend anything and you’re flat for years.  You know, there are ways of looking at it.

We — you have to throw money at it, but we’re throwing money at the people that lost their job unfairly.  You saw some of the people yesterday in the White House, where they were — they were down and out, and we came along and helped them.

[. . .]

THE PRESIDENT:  And, you know, well, interesting about that number is that — I remember when we did a million.  We said, “We just did a million.”  And the media said, “Oh, when are you going to do 2 million?”  I said, “Uh, soon.  Pretty soon.”  Then we do 2 million, and then they said, “When are you going to do 5 million?”  In other words, it’s sort of a setup, because no matter what — and, by the way, when we hit 5 million: “When are we going to hit 10 million?”  It’s a little bit of a trap.  You know, it’s called the media trap.  It pertains to me; it doesn’t pertain to other people.  But it’s what I’ve had to experience for five years.

Q    But is — is there are number that indicates to you that it is safe for these states to reopen?

THE PRESIDENT:  Well, I don’t know.  I heard the 5 million is totally unnecessarily.  Now, that doesn’t mean we’re not going to hit it pretty easily.  But I — again, I think it’s a media trap.

I think the number — you know, I’ve — I’ve just — all I know is this: President Moon of South Korea — because we’ve heard a lot of good things about South Korea.  I have a good relationship.  He called me to congratulate me on the testing.  He said, “Your testing is the greatest in the world.  How did this happen?”  I kept hearing about South Korea, South Korea.  And he said, “I want to just tell you that what you’ve done with testing is incredible.”  Okay?

[ . . .]

Q    Do you feel — do you feel like you have enough test kits and supplies to run as many tests as you think you need?

GOVERNOR EDWARDS:  Well, what I believe is that with the commitments that were made this past Monday by Admiral Giroir, that having looked at all 50 state plans for testing going forward, that they’ve committed to resourcing Louisiana’s request for 200,000 test kits per month.  That gets us to 43 out of each — out of every 1,000 tested every month.  We believe that that’s sufficient for us to move forward, as we are able, to start reopening the economy.  We know the lab capacity is there.

We have Dr. Billioux here with me.  He’s done a phenomenal job.  He’s responsible, in large measure, for that curve coming down.

And so we feel pretty good at that level, and that’s one of the reasons I wanted to be able to come up here today at the President’s invitation to thank him for that commitment, because this — I’m only speaking for myself, but having been part of all the calls with the governors, this is the big piece that we’ve been looking for.  And with that commitment, we really feel much better about going forward.

[. . .]

President Trump followed this very good news with a roundtable with industry executives on the plan for opening up America again. That event went live at 4:20 p.m. ET. Since we will see key members of the task force in two settings today, I suspect there will be no press room briefing today. This suggests the president is indeed shifting the format, but will he get the same viewership? 

https://youtu.be/Dj83LYPfZdU

This event was only livestreamed by Fox channels, Yahoo and USA Today. 

President Trump broke the news, in the question and answer portion, that he will first travel to Arizona next week, followed, he hopes, by Ohio. I suspect he wants to highlight the state testing initiative and the state medical capacity reporting as positive examples. More to follow as the transcript becomes available.

Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Pompeo gave a press conference at the State Department, in which he was careful but tough on China and the WHO. I have highlighted the transcript, published on the State Department website. Note, especially, his comment at the end that authoritarian regimes are ill-suited to respond to a crisis like this one, in stark contrast to democracies. This is a repudiation of the left’s love affair with the Chinese Communist Party’s iron fist control of Chinese society.

Secretary Michael R. Pompeo At a Press Availability
REMARKS TO THE PRESS

MICHAEL R. POMPEO, SECRETARY OF STATE

PRESS BRIEFING ROOM

WASHINGTON, D.C.

APRIL 29, 2020

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, good morning, everyone. How are you all doing today? You’re all safe, healthy, good? I want to send my condolences first of all to the Americans and people all around the world who have suffered from the loss of loved ones because of this horrible virus.

Many Americans too are hurting because of the economic challenges. They want to get back to work. I was talking to some friends back in Kansas this week. They’re all anxious to get back to the lives they had back in November, December, and I’m confident that we will be able to get them back just as quickly as we can.

I want to talk about what we’re doing here at the State Department. We’re working, fighting hard against the virus outbreak that originated in Wuhan, China, and we’re working day and night to continue to bring our people home. The count is now some 72,000 Americans from 129 countries that we have returned home to their lives and their families.

But as we battle the pandemic, the administration – President Trump wants to make sure we execute our foreign policy mission. We are very focused on that even when the virus challenge confronts us all. That’s what I’ll spend my time talking to you about today.

First, our help to stabilize some of the world’s most unstable places.  In Venezuela, I’m pleased to report that the multilateral effort to restore democracy is continuing to build momentum. I’ve asked my team to update our plans to reopen the U.S. Embassy in Caracas so that we are ready to go. As soon as Maduro steps aside, I am confident that we will raise that flag again in Caracas.

I also want to update the world on the Maduro regime’s connection to the Islamic Republic of Iran. Over the last few days, multiple aircraft belonging to Mahan Air have transferred unknown support to the Maduro regime. Birds of a feather. This is the same terrorist airline that Iran uses to move weapons and fighters around the Middle East. These flights must stop, and countries should do their part to deny overflights, just as many have already denied landing rights to this sanctioned airline.

Also focused on Yemen. I commend Saudi Arabia for extending its unilateral ceasefire there now for a month.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni Government have answered the special envoy’s call to lay down their weapons to stop fighting, focus on defending the pandemic – defeating the pandemic; ask the Iran-backed Houthis to simply do the same. It’s what’s required.

All parties must facilitate humanitarian access, and the Yemeni Government and Yemeni Government institutions, and observe the unity and territorial integrity of Yemen.

In Iraq, we’re watching closely as Prime Minister-designate Mustafa Kadhami enters the third week of trying to form his government.

The Iraqi people need and deserve a government that frees the country from external intimidation, puts the prosperity of the Iraqi people first, and tackles the major challenges that continue to face Iraq. Iraqi leaders must put aside the sectarian quota system and make compromises that lead to government formation for the good of the Iraqi people, and for the partnership between the United States and Iraq.

The Iraqi government, too, must heed the call from many elements of Iraqi society to bring all armed groups under state control, and we welcome steps that have been taken in the past days in that direction.

Moving to a second category, our mission to protect human rights and freedom around the world.

I talked about this a little bit last week. We continue to monitor with growing concern Beijing’s increasing efforts to interfere with Hong Kong’s governance. The erosion of Hong Kong’s freedoms is inconsistent with the promises that the Chinese Communist Party itself made under One Country, Two Systems. Any effort to impose draconian national security legislation on Hong Kong would be inconsistent with Beijing’s promises, and would impact American interests there.

Coming back to our hemisphere, we’ve noticed how the regime in Havana has taken advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to continue its exploitation of Cuban medical workers. We applaud leaders in Brazil and in Ecuador and Bolivia and other countries which have refused to turn a blind eye to these abuses by the Cuban regime, and ask all countries to do the same, including places like South Africa and Qatar.

We must protect our medical workers now more than ever. Governments accepting Cuban doctors must pay them directly. Otherwise, when they pay the regime, they are helping the Cuban Government turn a profit on human trafficking.

In a third line of effort, we continue to defend American interests in domains of growing importance.

I am pleased to announce we will reopen our consulate in Nuuk, Greenland, this summer for the first time since 1953.  Its reopening will boost the shared prosperity and security of our friends in Greenland and Denmark, and strengthen our partnership with our Arctic allies. It’s a statement of America’s commitment to the Arctic, as non-Arctic states look to exploit the region for their own interests – as I warned of back at the Arctic Council just last year.

I mentioned too last week that we’re well underway in implementing the provisions of the 2019 NDAA on the 5G Clean Path. I raise this issue again of Clean Path so that Americans know that just as the Trump Administration has taken unprecedented action to defend our physical borders, so too are we defending America on cyber frontiers.

Simply put, in upcoming 5G networks, mobile data traffic entering American diplomatic systems will be subject to new, stringent requirements if it has transited Huawei equipment. The objective is that untrusted IT vendors will have no access to U.S. State Department systems. We will follow the letter of the law to ensure that we have a clean path for all 5G network traffic coming into all of our facilities, period. We will keep doing all we can to keep our critical data and our networks safe from the Chinese Communist Party.

Finally, before I take a handful of questions, an update on our health and humanitarian aid to assist in countries who are working to fight the virus in their nation. Our team recently crunched some data from the Kaiser Family Foundation and the philanthropy called Candid.

They found that Americans have devoted nearly $6.5 billion in government and nongovernment contributions to help countries fight COVID-19 — $6.5 billion. This is by far the largest country total in the world, and more than 12 times that of China’s combined contributions.

I’m especially proud of the work that we’ve done in the Indo-Pacific region. The United States Government has provided more than $32 million in funding to support the COVID-19 response in Pacific island countries. And we’re working with the Burmese Government, United Nations, NGOs, and others to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in Burma, including among vulnerable populations. And we’re working with our friends in Australia, in India, in Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, and Vietnam to share information and best practices as we begin to move the global economy forward.

Our conversations certainly involve global supply chains, keeping them running smoothly, and getting our economies back to full strength, thinking about how we restructure these supply chains to prevent something like this from ever happening again. One example of our work together is with India. It’s lifted export bans on critical medical supplies, including pharmaceuticals used to treat some COVID-19 patients.

And a few days ago, I spoke with David Beasley of the World Food Bank[i]. He’s executive director.  He reminded me that the American people, in their unmatched generosity, supply 42 percent of the World Food Programme’s annual resources, which feed nearly 100 million people around the world. We’ll continue to help meet the world’s food needs as the COVID-19 outbreak disrupts global supply chains around the world.

One message I want to make sure and repeat today: If you are wrongfully detaining Americans during this time, and they become infected and die of coronavirus, we will hold your government strictly responsible. All wrongfully detained Americans should be released immediately.

Morgan, now I’m happy to take a few questions.

MS ORTAGUS: Go ahead, Christina.

QUESTION: Good morning, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Hi.

QUESTION: Speaking of that foreign policy mission, North Korea, I’d like to ask you what you know about Kim Jong-un’s health, but I don’t think we’ll get much out of you there. So —

SECRETARY POMPEO: So you’re going to ask something different, yeah. (Laughter.)

QUESTION: Unless you’d like to prove me wrong; I’m happy to take whatever you know. But I’d like to ask you, as somebody who has a lot of knowledge of both the leader and the country North Korea, I’m wondering if you think North Korea would be safer or more dangerous with or without Kim Jong-un in charge. And I’m also wondering, is the U.S. making plans for what would happen if he dies or is no longer in place as the president of that country? Thank you.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So I don’t have anything to add to the status of Chairman Kim. I think the President commented on it yesterday. We did have a chance to interact with a number of North Koreans on our various trips, the ones that I took along with my team and then when the President traveled there for – to meet with Chairman Kim and his team as well. So we’ve had a chance to meet Chairman Kim’s sister and some of the other leaders there as well.

Our mission is the same. Regardless of what transpires inside of North Korea with respect to their leadership, our mission remains the same. It’s to deliver on the agreement that Chairman Kim made with President Trump back in Singapore, and that’s the fully denuclearized, verified denuclearization of North Korea.  We are still hopeful that we’ll find a path to negotiate that solution, to get the outcome that is good for the American people, good for the North Korean people, and the whole world. Our mission simply won’t change no matter what should transpire there.

QUESTION: But does that mission get harder if he’s no longer there?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Well, there’s a lot of work to do on it. We’re going to continue to focus on it. Thank you.

MS ORTAGUS: Francesco.

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yes, Francesco. Good morning, sir.

QUESTION: Good morning. I wanted to ask you on Iran. You’re asking the UN Security Council to renew the arms embargo on Iran. Can the U.S. make the argument that it is still a state participant to the – in the JCPOA after it scratched it in 2018? And do you think this can work? And if I can add one on the COVID-19 crisis. As governments and states are reopening, or start planning reopening their economies, do you see a prospect or a date for lifting the travel bans and reopening the borders as well? I remember when the President announced the travel ban from Europe, he said for 30 days, and it – this was mid-March. Do you see anything on this?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Yeah. So let me take the second question first. We’re starting, as part of the process that the Vice President’s team is leading, to think not only there’s a lot of talk about how America’s going to reopen, how states will do it, are particular parts of states going to reopen as they become safe, as we develop operational theories about how to make sure we get the economy going while we protect our citizens from the virus. We’re doing the same thing with our partners around the world. The State Department, DHS, Department of Transportation, are all working on the elements that will be required to get international air travel back going, not only to get the flights back in place but to do so in a way that will give confidence to those who want to travel, that they can do so and do so safely. And we’re – we’ve made quite a bit of progress in thinking about how to do that.

And as for when we will – the State Department will reconsider its travel warnings, we’ll do what we always do. We apply the same rubric, the same systems to evaluate how our travel warnings should go in place, and those are connected to how we’ll think about reopening travel to these places, how the government limitations there will be put in place.

So we have – there are two pieces of this. There’s a DHS piece and a State Department piece, as well as the travel bans. And we’re working to work with countries all around the world to not only make sure that we lift those bans, that we create the conditions where people will travel, that business will go there, the people who want to go see beautiful beaches and travel on vacation or take mission trips around the world will be able to do so, and we hope that we can get those back open as each country is ready to do that and as we’re confident that people who travel in from those countries won’t create a tremendous increased risk to the United States as well.

QUESTION: Before the summer?

SECRETARY POMPEO: I’ll let the Vice President talk about elements of that. I – we’re going to do it as fast as we can and do so safely.

Your first question was about Iran’s ability to purchase conventional weapons systems starting on October 23rd of this year in the absence of action. We’re not going to let that happen. The failures of the Iran nuclear deal are legion. One of them is now upon us. It’s now just several months out where China, Russia, other countries from around the world can all sell significant conventional weapons systems to the Iranians in October of this year. This isn’t far off. This isn’t some fantasy by conservatives. This is a reality. Does anybody think that the nation that today is conducting terror campaigns by Lebanese Hizballah or Iraqi Shia movements or firing military missiles into the air ought to be permitted to purchase conventional weapons systems in just a few months? I think the world realizes that’s a mistake. We’re urging our E3 partners to take action, which is within their capacity to do. We’ll go – we’ll work with the UN Security Council to extend that prohibition on those arms sales. And then in the event we can’t get anyone else to act, the United States is evaluating every possibility about how we might do that. And I’m not trying to be too clever by half. Your question was about us as a participant.

The UN Security Council Resolution 2231 is very clear: We don’t have to – we don’t have to declare ourselves a participant. UN Security Council Resolution 2231 is unambiguous where the United States is a participant in the UN Security – it’s just there in the language. There’s nothing magic about this.  There’s no fancy – I – someone suggested this is fancy lawyering. It’s just reading. (Laughter.) It’s unambiguous and the rights that accrue to participants in the UN Security Council resolution are fully available to all those participants. We’re going to – we are going to make sure that come October of this year, the Iranians aren’t able to buy conventional weapon that they would be given what President Obama and Vice President Biden delivered to the world in that terrible deal.

MS ORTAGUS: Nick.

QUESTION: Mr. Secretary, thank you very much for doing this. A question about China and – the WHO. So on China, we’ve heard a similar talking point, as you know, from CGTN to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs podium that the U.S. had months of warning that it squandered. We noticed a new tweet from MOFA that suggests the U.S. is engaged in a conspiracy. So could you tell us, is the rhetorical ceasefire, as we’ve been talking about, that the President declared over?

And on WHO, you’ve been criticized on the freeze. Number two funder of WHO Bill Gates has criticized it. China, as you know, has inserted more money. WHO does things that no one else does around the world, as you know – measles campaigns, for example. Are you concerned at all that the freeze will reduce influence over the WHO and reduce your ability to conduct the reforms that you’re looking for?

SECRETARY POMPEO: So your first question, what we do is speak the truth about risks to the American people. Our mission set at the State Department is to protect the American people from threats around the world. So the information we provide about where this virus began in Wuhan is just data. You suggested that the MF – the Chinese MFA and CGTN and other Chinese media outlets are saying the same thing. I’ll leave it at that. Suffice it to say is that when countries engage in disinformation it creates risk. We – the Chinese Communist Party tells us they want to be our partner, they want to be transparent. We need partners we can rely on that when they tell us something, it is accurate and that we don’t think they’re hiding anything.

Look, we still haven’t gained access – the world hasn’t gained access to the WIV, the virology institute there. We don’t know precisely where this virus originated from. There are multiple labs that are continuing to conduct work, we think – continue on contagious pathogens inside of China today and we don’t know if they are operating at a level of security to prevent this from happening again. Remember, this isn’t the first time that we’ve had a virus come out of China. And so there is a continuing obligation on the part of reliable partners to share this information (inaudible) the world, and we talk about this in the context of nuclear assurance all the time where countries permit others to come in and see their systems to make sure that the locks and keys are right, that the security levels are right, that the technological capability is right, that the checks are right so that you can prevent an accidental nuclear release. We need the same kinds of processes for biosystems and biolaboratories as well.

And so we would urge every country, all of our partners, to demand that we get answers for what happened here, but also that we continue to have – we get the transparency, that the world gets the transparency it needs to make sure that those who are conducting scientific research on complex viruses and pathogens are doing so in a way that doesn’t create the risk that we get precisely the economic devastation and the enormous loss of life that we have all suffered as a result of this virus that came out of Wuhan, China.

QUESTION: And the WHO?

SECRETARY POMPEO: WHO? So with the WHO, we’re going to get this right. We’re the biggest contributor to the World Health Organization. It failed in its mission here, and so we’re conducting a review to figure out how best to use American taxpayer money to deliver real outcomes. The Trump administration’s been clear. I’ve given speeches about this. We engage in multilateral work all across the world. We’re doing so. Even this morning I was on the phone talking about our work with countries around the world on Venezuela. We built out a defeat ISIS coalition of 90-plus countries. We’re happy to work with countries around the world to deliver real outcomes that deliver security for the American people.

We shouldn’t pretend that because some organization has “health” in its title that it’s actually capable of delivering the outcomes that we need. I think about this in the context of the ICC, the International Criminal Court. It is a politicized organization, not a court.  We want to make sure that we’re getting it right so that we can deliver outcomes for the American people, and the same holds true here. We’ll conduct our review, we’ll evaluate this. If there is a function that only the WHO can do and we think it is important for American national security or because we are good humanitarian partners around the world, I’m confident we’ll find a way to deliver that outcome.

So I’d just urge everyone – there’s private donors who contribute to the WHO – always ask, is this the best model? Is this really the right outcome? When you see the influence that the Chinese Communist Party had as they were debating how to handle this virus in January of this year, when you think about those things and the risks that those pose to the world, it is an obligation to reconsider whether that vehicle is the right one to deliver pandemic response systems for the world.

MS ORTAGUS: Okay, last question, Kylie.

QUESTION: I’m just wondering, given —

SECRETARY POMPEO: Good morning, Kylie.

QUESTION: Hi. Given the reliance on China when it comes to medical supplies and that supply chain, which obviously those supplies are desperately needed in the U.S. right now, does the Trump administration have to wait until this health care crisis in the United States is over before you can actually talk about the specifics of inflicting a price on China as you have repeatedly said this administration will do?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Our first priority, unambiguously, is to address the crisis in which we find ourselves as a direct result of this virus that came out of Wuhan, China. That’s been the Vice President’s task force focus, it’s been our State Department’s focus on both the side of doing our best to understand what happened there as well as getting the American people back. This is a moment. We’ve got to get it right. We’ve then got to get the economy cranked back up. There’ll be ample time to evaluate how it is we hold accountable those responsible for loss of what is now tens of thousands of American lives and enormous amount of wealth – not only American wealth, but the global economy’s devastation as a result of this virus.

There’ll be a time for this. We’ll get that timing right. And as President Trump said when he took office, we’re no longer going to tolerate a non-reciprocal behavior from the Chinese Government. We saw it first in trade. We said we want it free, we want it abundant, and we want it reciprocal. He drove towards that, he got a phase one trade deal. We were hopeful we could move out on the second part of that as well. And that’ll ultimately be the decision of the Chinese Communist Party: Are they prepared to engage in trade in a way that is fair and reciprocal?

The last thing I’ll say is overnight. I saw comments from the Chinese foreign ministry talking about coercive activity with respect to Australia, who had the temerity to ask for an investigation. Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world? I assume the people of China – they’re good people. There are doctors, scientists there. Imagine if those scientists and doctors were working in our system, in a free system where you put a hypothesis forward and it was challenged but you had the freedom to talk and publish papers and others could comment and – this is what democracies do best.

The solution to this crisis will come from freedom-loving people around the world. I am very confident of that. Authoritarian regimes are poorly designed to deal with the kind of crisis that this pandemic has engendered. Democracies, where we’re free to critique and comment and you can ask the Secretary of State a hard question – these are the kinds of places where scientists and freedom and thought and journalists can all operate freely. These are the societies that will deliver the right outcome, will deliver the therapeutics, will deliver the vaccines, will get the right outcome to get our economies back going again. I am highly confident of that. This is where we see the true benefit of freedom and liberty, and in the days and weeks and months ahead I am confident that the world will see that as well.

QUESTION: Can I ask you one question about the Chinese labs?

SECRETARY POMPEO: Thanks, everybody. Thanks for being with me this morning. Have – everybody have a good day.

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  1. Goldwaterwoman Thatcher
    Goldwaterwoman
    @goldwaterwoman

    Thanks for posting this important information Clifford.

    • #1
  2. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey
    @GaryMcVey

    Goldwaterwoman (View Comment):

    Thanks for posting this important information Clifford.

    Ditto. Thanks, C.A.B.

    • #2
  3. MISTER BITCOIN Member
    MISTER BITCOIN
    @MISTERBITCOIN

    Vaccines are not a panacea especially version 1.

    Even with a flu vaccine, we typically get 30,000 flu deaths per year

     

    • #3
  4. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    MISTER BITCOIN (View Comment):

    Vaccines are not a panacea especially version 1.

    Even with a flu vaccine, we typically get 30,000 flu deaths per year

     

    The issue, with both HIV and flu, is rate of mutation and sheer diversity of strains. An HIV vaccine clinical trial was halted this year after disappointing results reported in January. This had been 10 years in the works. Flu deaths are some combination of the relatively low vaccine use and the strains outside the cocktail in the annual shot.

    • #4
  5. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    I just updated the post with a lengthy excerpt from the meeting with the Louisiana governor.

    • #5