THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon, everyone. On behalf of President Donald Trump and a grateful nation, I want to say how proud and grateful we are to each and every one of you here at the National Response Coordination Center. Thank you for stepping up for America. Thank you for the efforts here at FEMA to bring together this whole-of-government approach. We couldn’t be more proud of each and every one of you.
The American people know FEMA. They know that when disaster strikes their communities, and they see that FEMA flag flying, they know that we’re bringing our very best. And by having FEMA in the lead as part of this effort, it’s built great, great confidence among the American people that we’re going to bring all the resources of this nation, we’re going to do whatever it takes, and we’re going to get through this together. So thank you all for your work. Keep it up.
And we’re going to make sure that you have the support and the resources you need. And we’re going to — we’re going to do this the way FEMA always does it: We’re going to respond to the coronavirus in America in a way that is locally executed, state -managed, and federally supported.
So keep up the great work everybody and God bless you all. (Applause.)
Well, thank you all. We just completed a conference call with the nation’s governors, all of our states and territories. It was a good, productive discussion. We talked about mitigation efforts, talked about the President’s decision yesterday to issue a major disaster declaration for New York and California and Washington State to surge resources to those areas, including field hospitals and personal protective equipment.
We fielded additional requests today from other states, most especially New Jersey that’s feeling the impact of the outbreak in New York State.
At this point, our health experts inform us that New York has become, in effect, the epicenter of the coronavirus spread in the country. And so we’re going to continue to focus resources there, even as we work through this extraordinary structure here at FEMA to make sure that our states and local communities have the full support of the federal government as they confront the coronavirus.
It was a good discussion today. We talked about all the issues, whether it be enabling states to stand up their National Guard with federal support, the specific need for supplies, the progress that we’re making on issues from masks to ventilators.
And all of it represents the ongoing partnership that President Trump has forged with all of our governors, all of our states and territories, and that dialogue will continue. And we continue to make it clear to our governors that we’re going to do whatever it takes. We’re going to make sure they have the resources, and the support, and the best guidance from the best health experts in the world to put the health and safety of their citizens first.
Q Sir, you mentioned earlier, at the top of that meeting, that there was a very important ventilator breakthroughs that you were going to be discussing with the governors.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: There is.
Q What — can you describe what that breakthrough is?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what we unpacked for the governors today is that when the President engaged leaders of a number of medical associations, we determined that the devices that are used by anesthesiologists could be easily converted to ventilators that could be used for people struggling with the coronavirus. We’ve worked with the FDA. They issued guidance on the changing of a vent in that piece of equipment. And so we directed all of our governors again today to survey all of their outpatient clinics to identify what we believe are tens of thousands of these devices, which could add to our nation’s resources for ventilators for people that might be severely impacted by the coronavirus.
But we got a strong response from our governors, but we reiterated again today that because of what the anesthesiologists have stepped forward and told us would be available because of the swift work of the FDA, now our governors around America are going to be able to identify a whole new range of ventilators that could be easily converted, add to their supply, and focused at the point of the need in their states. That’s in addition to what we have in the National Stockpile, the ventilators that we have in the marketplace today, as well as extraordinary efforts by American industry to step up and join us in manufacturing more ventilators for the American people.
General Motors is working with one other company to begin to actually manufacture ventilators. We’re working with them on that contract. And again, it’s — this is a whole-of-America approach. We’re seeing all of America step up. And when we our anesthesiologists made it clear that these devices could be available and converted to treat people struggling with coronavirus, our team went straight to work. And now working with our governors, we’re going to identify that resource.
Q Are you considering loosening any of the White House guidelines to try to resuscitate the economy at all?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: When the President laid out the “15 Days to Slow the Spread,” we believe that we had an opportunity early in the progress of the coronavirus across our country to impact the trajectory of the disease.
It’s significantly lower the number of Americans who would be exposed to it and threatened by serious illness. It’s important to remember most Americans, even those who contract the coronavirus, will fully recover. But for seniors with serious underlying health conditions, with people with serious immunodeficiencies, the threat is real.
And so the President thought it was important, as we focus on areas where we’ve had significant outbreak and we support areas like California and Washington State and New York with specific countermeasures, and support the governors in those states, he thought it was important for every American to take action, as tens of millions are, to help us slow the spread.
But at the end of this 15 days, we’re going to get with our experts, we’re going to evaluate ways in which we might be able to adjust that guidance for the American people.
But those measures, right now, we’re all in the belief that we could impact the trajectory of the curve of the coronavirus in America in a way that would spare many Americans from being exposed or contracting the disease and, of course, save lives. But we’ll look at where we are and we’ll evaluate, based on our health experts, what steps might be possible.
I will tell you — I told the governors today — that in early March we issued guidance for healthcare workers saying that they could return to work even if they’d been exposed to the coronavirus, if they wore a mask for 14 days. Today we fully expect the Coronavirus Task Force to review recommendations for critical infrastructure workers, first responders, those that play a vital role in public safety, in the life of our communities.
We’re going to give guidance out of HHS and DHS today about how those workers, even if they’ve been exposed to someone with coronavirus, as long as they don’t have symptoms, would be able to return to work immediately. Wear a mask for two weeks, but otherwise return to the important roles that they play in all of our communities.
Q Are you confident that the Senate can reach a stimulus deal?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I think this is a very inspiring time across America. You see people coming together as never before in my lifetime. I mean, the American people are rising to the occasion, and it’s time for the United States Senate to do the same.
I mean, the CARE Act will provide direct support to working families. The average family of four could receive up to $3,000 in a direct payment. There’ll be payroll support for businesses for several months that have been impacted by this. There’ll be unemployment insurance support as we see the unemployment insurance rolls swell around the country.
President Trump and I absolutely believe, for the sake of American workers, for the sake of our economy, for the sake of seeing our country through the coronavirus, the Senate and the House must act to pass the CARE Act and pass the CARE Act this week. It’s time they got to work.