3:43 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you. So beautiful out here. And thank you for joining us as we announce a massive and groundbreaking expansion in our testing capability of the — for the China virus. And as you know, it’s already setting records — records like nobody has ever seen before.
Last week, we crossed a historic milestone when the United States conducted our 100 millionth test, far more than any other country, and not even close, actually. Second seems to be India with 1.5 billion people, and the numbers would be probably at least 50 million more tests by us. We’ve conducted more tests than the entire European Union and more than all of Latin America combined.
We’re thrilled to be joined by Vice President Mike Pence; Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar; Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos — hi, Betsy; Administrator for the Centers for Medicine and Medicaid Services Seema Verma — Seema; and Admiral Giroir, who’s done such an incredible job. Thank you, Admiral.
We’re also joined by Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves. Had a tremendous victory. We’re so proud of you. And as well by Abbott CEO Robert Ford. Robert, thank you very much. Great job.
Today, I’m pleased to report that we’re announcing our plan to distribute 150 million Abbott rapid point-of-care tests in the coming weeks — very, very soon. This will be more than double the number of tests already performed. And here’s our plan: Fifty million tests will go to protect the most vulnerable communities, which we’ve always promised to do, including 18 million for nursing homes; 15 million for assisted living facilities; 10 million for home, health, and hospece [sic] care — hospice care agencies; and nearly 1 million for historically black colleges and universities, and also tribal nation colleges.
One hundred million rapid point-of-care tests will be given to states and territories to support efforts to reopen their economies and schools immediately and fast as they can. For example, the support my administration is providing would allow every state to, on a very regular basis, test every teacher who needs it. This continues our critical effort to use testing to protect high-risk communities.
These new Abbott rapid point-of-care tests are easy to use and return results within just minutes. You’ll have a result at a maximum 15 minutes. Machine — no machine is required to process them. So, in the old days, when we just started this, you remember we’d go out and we’d have to find these massive laboratories with tremendously expensive equipment. Now we’re down to something that you’ll see that is really from a different planet.
I would like to ask Admiral Giroir to come up and demonstrate how these tests are performed. You’ll do this very nicely, I think. Good luck. Hope you don’t test positive. (Laughter.)
ADMIRAL GIROIR: So, thank you, Mr. President. As of today, the nation has performed over 111 million tests for the virus causing COVID. On 13 separate days, we have achieved tests over 1 million per day, and our average test numbers are now approximately 920,000 per day.
We are now at an inflection point in testing. We now have available, on average, 3 million tests per day, not counting pooled testing, which could multiply that number several fold. Nearly half of our current tests are rapid point-of-care.
All of the actions of your administration — including aggressive use of multiple titles of the DPA; hundreds of millions of dollars in HHS and DOD investments; and regulatory flexibility, including over 200 FDA emergency use authorizations, CLIA enforcement discretion, and application of the PREP Act — have led us to this inflection point, which brings us why we’re here today.
On August 27th, after months of planning and only after one day after the FDA authorization, the Trump administration awarded a contract for $760 million to Abbott for the delivery of 150 million of these Abbott BinaxNOW rapid tests. The BinaxNOW detects the presence of the COVID antigen. It uses a specific nasal swab, and that swab comes with the test, and it’s made by Puritan. And the reason why Puritan swabs are here is because the administration used the DPA and $120 million in investment to make these swabs able to use by Abbott. It does not require an instrument to determine the result. It’s 15 — it’s in 15 minutes, the result.
Testing may be performed by laboratories with a clear certificate of waiver. This is not a home test. But during the health emergency, Seema Verma and CMS permits laboratories to extend their certificate to operate in temporary sites, like schools or churches or parking lots.
So though we anticipate that the test will generally be performed by a trained individual on a patient, I will demonstrate a self-swab for you to show you just exactly how easy the test is performed.
So, literally, it almost could not be easier. It starts with six drops of liquid onto this piece of paper — one, two three, four, five, six. And then there’s a nasal swab. And again, this is — this is not the deep brain biopsy that we talk about. This will be generally done by a healthcare provider, but it can be done supervised. It’s this easy: one, two, three, four, five. One, two, three, four, five. Into the test. Twist it three times. The adhesive is pulled off, and you wait 15 minutes. And that is the test. It really could not be easier than this. This is a very sophisticated little piece of cardboard with lots of antibodies and incredible technology into that.
We’ve already shipped 65,000 of these to disaster operations in California, Oregon, Texas, and Louisiana, and we have already shipped 2.1 million tests to 7,600 nursing homes, over 900,000 tests to assisted living, 300,000 tests to the Indian Health Service, and 339,000 tests to historically black colleges and universities.
Today, we start the shipment of 100 million tests to governors, beginning with a total of 6.5 million tests this week — to be shipped this week. This is in addition to the continuing support to other priorities, like nursing homes. Allocation to states and territories is based strictly on their relative population.
Governors have the flexibility to use these tests as they deem fit, but we strongly encourage governors to utilize them in settings that are uniquely in need of rapid, low-tech, point-of- care tests, like opening and keeping open our K-through-12 schools; supporting critical infrastructure and first responders; responding to outbreak, specifically in certain demographics or locations; and screening of surveillance in congregate settings.
Mr. President, we just completed a briefing to the governors and their state health officials from the Sit Room, and we heard words like “game changer” for their states. Thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership and support of all our efforts to defeat this virus.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Admiral. And let me ask you, Governor Reeves, do you — do agree? Would you like to say something?
GOVERNOR REEVES: Well, thank you, Mr. President, for your leadership through this pandemic and through this crisis. This is — it was said by Republicans and Democrats alike earlier — this is a game changer.
In our state of Mississippi, our K-through-12 schools have been open for nine weeks. Our institutions of higher learning have been open for about the same. But while we have testing available now at least once a week in every county of our state, what this allocation is going to allow for us is we will have testing available for our K-through-12 teachers every single day going forward.
And the thing that we know is that kids learn — and Secretary DeVos knows this so well — kids learn so much better when they’re in the classroom than when they’re doing distance learning or a hybrid. And while we have 75 to 80 percent of our kids back in the classroom, we want to get 100 percent of our kids back in the classroom.
It is also critically important, Mr. President — your decision to allocate, on the front end, to the historically black colleges and universities means the world to Mississippi. Our larger institutions have the financial resources to provide testing, but in Mississippi, with Jackson State University and Alcorn University — Alcorn State University and Mississippi Valley State University, three of our eight institutions of higher learning will get an allocation of these tests, and it’s going to make a difference. And kids all across our state are going to be better served because of it.
And I want to personally thank you on behalf of the residents of Mississippi for doing this, Mr. President. Thank you.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much. Thank you, Tate. Great job.
In a short period of time, my administration has built the most advanced testing system in the world. There’s never been anything like this.
When the pandemic struck, there were zero tests for the China virus, but we’ve marshaled all of America’s resources to achieve these unparalleled capabilities.
We slashed red tape and approved emergency use authorizations for 243 type of tests. That’s how many tests we have. I invoked the Defense Production Act and related authorities more than 100 times and distributed $171 million to expand testing production.
We’ve done nearly twice as much testing per capita as France, Italy, and Germany, and over six times more testing per capita than South Korea. We’ve done far more than any other country, usually times two, three, four, five, or six. We’ve performed nearly 40 million more tests than India.
And by the end of next month, we will have over 100 million tests available in the market. More than half will be point-of-care tests — those are the quick ones and they’re really the ones that have the best impact with the results in less than 15 minutes.
We’ve also prioritized resources for the most vulnerable, including nursing home residents. We delivered rapid testing devices to nearly 14,000 certified nursing homes.
We opened over 1,000 community testing sites in low-income communities. Nobody could have done this. We invested an unprecedented $8 billion to help tribal communities have the tests and resources they need to combat the virus.
And it’s important to remember that as younger and healthier people return to work, and as we massively increase testing capacity, we will identify more cases and asymptomatic individuals in low-risk populations. This should not cause undue alarm. The total number of cases is not the full metric of success. Hospitalization capacity and mortality rates are far more instructive metrics.
As we do more tests, you’re going to have automatically more cases. We are relentlessly focused on protecting the vulnerable while enabling healthy Americans to go back to work. We can do both as Florida, Arizona, and other states have recently shown.
Over the last eight weeks, hospitalizations have declined by 48 percent, and they’ve just reached the lowest point since March. That’s a long time ago.
Due to advances in treatment, the fatality rate has fallen 85 percent since April. Our excess mortality has been considerably lower than comparable countries. Excess mortality compares total deaths during a pandemic to what we would be expected in a normal year. This is a critical measurement because it includes undetected China virus deaths, along with deaths resulting from lockdowns. And lockdowns can be very harmful, and we have too many states that are locked down right now. The governors are — nobody knows what the governors are doing, actually.
Europe has experienced a 50 percent greater excess mortality rate during the virus than the U.S., and their economic contraction has been far more severe. Under Operation Warp Speed, my administration is on track to deliver a safe and effective vaccine in record time. We’re doing very well with the vaccines, as most of you know.
Four vaccines are now in the final stage of trials. The day the vaccine is approved by the FDA, we’ll begin distributing it within 24 hours, with hundreds of millions of doses to follow very quickly. We’re all set to go. We’re all ready. And logistically, we’re — we have the military lined up, and some incredible people are just waiting to have it.
Over 100 million doses will be available before the end of the year. We will defeat the virus and we will end the pandemic. And next year will be one of the greatest years in our history, and we think it’s going to be a very exciting period of time.
With that, I’d like to ask Mike to say a few words because you just left a task force meeting. Vice President Mike Pence.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Thank you, Mr. President. This is a historic day. And other than the day that I believe will come soon — that America produces the first safe and effective vaccine — what’s announced today, with the distribution of 150 million rapid point-of-care tests all across America, it’s a testament to your leadership, Mr. President; it’s a testament to this great team that you’ve assembled from Secretary Azar, Admiral Giroir, and others; it’s a testament to the partnership that we forged with governors, like Governor Reeves, all across America.
And it’s a testament to great companies like Abbott Laboratories and the thousands of employees who, Mr. President, I know have literally worked around the clock since those early days in this pandemic, when you brought in the greatest research companies in America and said that “We need medicines known as therapeutics. We need a vaccine for America.” But you also challenged them to develop a rapid point-of-care test that could be distributed all across America and enabled us to more effectively slow the spread, flatten the curve, protect the vulnerable, and save lives.
Now, Mr. President, today’s announcement is really emblematic of the public-private partnership that you forged from the early days of this pandemic. As you said, we met today with the nation’s governors. The White House Coronavirus Task Force completed our 38th conference call with America’s governors.
But all along the way, from our very first meeting, you made it clear that we’d spare no expense of the federal government — the full resources of the federal government you made available to put the health of America first.
But you also challenged us and you challenged American industry to bring the full power and innovation of the American economy to bear on this moment. And whether it be PPE, where we forged a partnership to see to the delivery and the manufacture of hundreds of millions of personal protective equipment; whether it be how we started with 15,000 ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile — and today, in partnership with GE Healthcare, Ford, and General Motors, we have over 150,000 ventilators in the Strategic National Stockpile; whether it be the extraordinary progress on therapeutics — remdesivir, convalescent plasma — that are literally saving lives; or whether it be, as you reflected, Mr. President, on our steady progress toward achieving a safe and effective vaccine before the end of this year, it’s been that public-private partnership that you’ve led that’s made these advances possible.
And on testing, the American people really deserve to know that when we began, as you said, Mr. President, it was literally a standing start. We didn’t have information on the coding of the coronavirus until mid-February. But America’s CDC labs and public health labs did their level best, and by the end of February, we’d done less than 10,000 coronavirus tests.
But as you just announced a few moments ago, last week, we cleared 100 million tests all across the country. It’s extraordinary we have the capacity to do 3 million tests a day. It’s a testament to American innovation and the leadership that you’ve provided.
Also, Mr. President, we’ve delivered, to nearly 14,000 nursing homes in America, point-of-care tests already that are making it possible for us to really keep focus on the most vulnerable. As you know, only 8 percent of those who have contracted the coronavirus are in nursing homes, but 40 percent of those that have lost their life have been in nursing homes. And so we’ve surged those resources and surged them to vulnerable populations.
But with the announcement today of this Abbott Laboratories’ BinaxNOW test, we began a process first announcing 50 million tests to go to our vulnerable communities, to go to minority communities, to Indian Health Services. But as we told all the nation’s governors today, we begin the process this week of distributing 100 million tests to each state and territory in the country free of charge, so they can begin to deploy those tests to — on the priorities that the state set.
But, Mr. President, given the extraordinary capacity that we have in testing today, we expressed a hope to all the governors today that they would particularly use these Abbott Binax tests to open up America’s schools and to keep them open. And we heard about the enthusiasm of governors from — on both sides of the aisle about what this test will mean and in helping to process — helping to process the testing that will get our kids into school and keep our kids in school.
And, Mr. President, let me just close by saying this is a — we’ve passed through a challenging time in the life of this nation in 2020, and our hearts — and I know your heart — is with all the families that have suffered loss.
But as you said, cases are declining, hospitalizations have been declining — declining dramatically, particularly in the Sun Belt. In Louisiana, where, not long ago, 50 parishes had more than 10 percent positivity rate, now only 3 parishes are testing positive over 10 percent. Arizona was testing 20 percent positivity rate; now it’s less than 4 percent consistently.
But with cases and positivity rising in 10 states in the Midwest and the near west; and with this historic advance in testing that’s being distributed — 150 strong around the country; Mr. President, the American people should anticipate that — that cases will rise in the days ahead.
But as we — as we more readily identify those who’ve contracted the coronavirus, the American people can be confident, because of this extraordinary and historic public and pri- — private-partnership that you’ve forged, because of this whole-of-government approach, we’re ready, as we proved through the outbreak in the Sun Belt this summer. And we’ll make sure that any community, any state that’s impacted with rising cases, any school that’s impacted will have the PPE, will have the supplies, will have the medicines.
And as you said, Mr. President, we will continue, at your direction, our relentless drive toward achieving the first safe and effective vaccine so we can achieve the day that we once and for all put this coronavirus in the past.
So, Mr. President, with thanks to our industry partners, thanks to this team, but thanks to you for your strong leadership, I hope for that day. And the American people can be confident we will not rest, we will not relent until we put this coronavirus in the past.
THE PRESIDENT: Thank you very much, Mike.
Scott Atlas, would you say a few words, please, as to how we’re doing and where you see us going? Please.
DR. ATLAS: Okay, thank you, Mr. President. And I also want to echo the congratulations to the team, the task force — Admiral Giroir, in particular, who’s worked very hard on the testing.
This is a remarkable day because we have state-of-the art testing. This is not the typical point-of-care test, even; this is new. This is — does not require any kind of machine. It’s very rapid. And this is not one of those deep swab things that people are reluctant to use. So I think we’re — we’re really making an advance here to do what testing is supposed to do, and that’s to save lives.
As the Vice President mentioned, we know that there are areas of the country that have more cases. This is to be expected with more social mingling. And the testing — but particularly protecting the vulnerable, is the key here. We have not seen hospital overcrowding. We’re doubling down now with testing to protect vulnerable people not just inside nursing homes, but in residential settings and senior daycare centers.
This is a remarkable advance. And I anticipate that as — as this virus — as we get toward the end of this pandemic — and the vaccine is being developed as quickly as it has been — America will be in a different position. And there really should be — as I’ve said many times, the fear is not the issue here. We really have a handle on what’s going on. We know what to anticipate, and there’s remarkable advances being made as we see today.
Thank you very much.
THE PRESIDENT: Well, thank you very much. Tremendous progress is being made. And I say, and I’ll say it all the time: We’re rounding the corner. And, very importantly, vaccines are coming, but we’re rounding the corner regardless. But vaccines are coming, and they’re coming fast. We have four great companies already, and it’s going to be added to very rapidly. They’re in final stages of testing. And from what we’re hearing, the results are going to be very extraordinary.
So thank you very much. I appreciate it. And thank you very much. Great job by Abbott. Right from the beginning, great job Abbott.
Thank you. Thank you very much, everybody. Thank you. (Applause.)