Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport
12:57 P.M. MST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, good afternoon. We just completed a thorough briefing with Governor Ducey and his healthcare team here in Arizona about this state’s response to the rising number of coronavirus cases, and I’m going to share a few reflections on what we’ve heard and that’s what we’re determined to do.
But before that, let me take a moment to reflect on another aspect of this day — a huge win for the people of Arizona, for American workers, farmers, and ranchers — and that is that, as of today, the USMCA has taken effect. It is, I am told, it — this state in particular sees trade with Mexico and Canada support 228,000 jobs, $20 billion annually.
And I want to take this opportunity particularly to thank Governor Doug Ducey for his efforts in moving the USMCA through the Congress. As a candidate, President Trump committed to renegotiate NAFTA in a way that put American jobs, American workers, farmers, and ranchers first, and we’ve done that. And that promise was kept when the USMCA took effect today. So, Governor Ducey, you have our sincerest thanks.
President Trump asked us to be here today, with the dramatic rise of coronavirus cases in Arizona, to receive a briefing from Governor Ducey and the healthcare team about this state’s response to this pandemic.
And I want to say, first and foremost, to Governor Ducey that, from the very first days of this pandemic, your leadership and your entire team in Arizona has really formed a seamless partnership with our administration, with the White House Coronavirus Task Force. And up until roughly three weeks ago, Arizona had literally set the pace in slowing the spread, in flattening the curve. And we’re grateful to you, to your team, and to all the people of Arizona for all of their efforts over the past four months.
But with cases rising dramatically — and not just here in Maricopa County, but all across Arizona — we wanted to be here to get a report from the ground. We’ll take back what we heard here today. We’ll ensure with the team that we brought with us, including the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security who oversees FEMA, to make sure that Arizona has what you need, when you need it.
We told the governor today and we say to the people of Arizona: We’re with you, and we’re going to make sure that Arizona has whatever it takes to meet this moment, to slow the spread, to flat- — flatten the curve, to save lives. That’s our commitment to each and every one of you.
We also brought along Admiral John Polowczyk, who has coordinated all of the PPE supplies, the construction of ventilators. And while we are encouraged to hear today that’s the — the hospital capacity here remains strong on supplies and equipment, we did hear in the briefing today for the need for personnel.
We’ve already responded. Sixty-two medical personnel arrived this week in Tucson. But the governor conveyed to us an additional request for another 500 personnel, and I’ve instructed the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security to move out immediately on providing the additional doctors and nurses and technical personnel.
We want to say to all the incredible healthcare workers here in Arizona: Help is on the way. And we’re going to spare no expense to provide the kind of reinforcements that you will need all across this state should this — this coronavirus pandemic continue to expand in Arizona.
As I said, we were encouraged to hear that hospital capacity remains manageable: 88 — 85 percent of medical beds and only 88 percent of ICU beds. But the governor and I also spoke today about two additional facilities that were already reviewed and developed by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the governor knows that we’re prepared to stand those surge facilities up in very short order if the need should arrive.
We’re going to make sure that that Arizona continues to have the healthcare capacity in this state to render to everyone who contracts the coronavirus the level of healthcare that we would want any one of our family members to receive.
And finally, let me say: The President and I couldn’t be more grateful for Governor Ducey’s leadership throughout this coronavirus pandemic. But with cases rising in the last several weeks, we want to make it clear that we fully support the steps that Governor Doug Ducey and local health officials are implementing here across the state of Arizona to slow the spread.
Arizona flattened the curve early on in this pandemic, but we all noted something changed about the middle of May. And that’s why this governor has stepped forward, took decisive action to put the health of the people of Arizona first. And President Trump and I fully support the responsible steps that he’s taken to limit large gatherings; to pau- — pause operations of bars and gyms, movie theaters, and waterparks; and delay the start of school until August 17th.
President Trump and I and our entire task force are absolutely committed, Governor, to supporting your efforts to respond to this outbreak, to slow the spread, to protect the most vulnerable so that we can keep our economy moving forward and get our kids back to school.
The CDC just today posted new guidance for getting our kids back to school; yesterday posted new guidance for opening up colleges and universities. The governor and I discussed today the paramount importance of us moving forward in a way where we can get our kids back into the classroom come this fall.
It’s been — it’s been tremendous leadership here in Arizona since the first days of this pandemic. Your healthcare workers have done a remarkable job, particularly in recent weeks and at this very hour, caring for those that have been impacted by the coronavirus. But I want to say to all the good people of Arizona: We all need to do our part. And we want to encourage every Arizonan to adhere to the guidance that the governor has issued and also the guidance of local authorities.
We issue a particular plea to young people. I was informed today by the Maricopa County Department of Health that more than 50 percent of all of those who are testing positive in Maricopa County are under the age of 35. And young people know that, without an underlying health condition, that the threat to them of a serious outcome for the coronavirus remains low. But we want to remind our young people: As you see the measures that the governor has put into place and you hear about the call for commonsense personal hygiene and the wearing of masks that this is about protecting our most vulnerable.
I’ve got three 20-somethings in my family, and I know that no young person here in Arizona would want to inadvertently expose a grandmother, or a grandfather, an elderly neighbor, a mom, or a dad to the coronavirus.
And so to each of them, we want to commend all the steps the governor has put into place. But we want to remind you that now is the time for all of us, particularly the young among us, to remember to wash your hands, practice good hygiene, wear a mask when indicated by state or local authorities or when social distancing is not possible. We can all do our part to slow the spread, to flatten the curve, to save lives.
And remember, it’s not an either/or. Dr. Fauci said, not just a few short days ago, that we shouldn’t look at these public safety measures as an impediment to continuing to open up our economy; we should look at them as a vehicle to opening up. The more we all do to support the public health measures that have put into effect, the quicker we can get Arizona’s economy growing, get our kids back to school, and that’s we’re determined to do.
We’re all in this together. And together, I’m very confident that, as all of us do our part each and every day, we’ll slow the spread, we’ll flatten the curve, we’ll save lives all across this state, and we will lay a foundation to bring this state’s economy back bigger and better than ever before.
So thank you very much. And, Governor Ducey, thank you for an important and informative briefing. We’re with you.
GOVERNOR DUCEY: Thank you, Mr. Vice President.
I want to say thank you, Mr. Vice President, for your leadership and your partnership throughout this pandemic. It was great to see you today in person, but I’m able to see you at least once or twice a week on the constant communication that we have from the Coronavirus Task Force. We very much appreciate it — your commitment and President’s — Trump’s commitment to serving Arizona and helping us solve the issues that are in front of us today.
I also want to thank the Coronavirus Task Force — to have Secretary Chad Wolf here today; Rear Admiral Polowczyk, who is talking to us about supplies; and Dr. Deborah Birx, who has been with us for several days in Arizona, meeting with leaders, decision makers, and influencers in the healthcare industry across our state, and actually seeing what’s happening across the Southwest, including New Mexico and Texas. We’re grateful for what she has been able to contribute to the discussion, the questions she was able to answer, and guidance that she was able to clarify.
I also want to thank General McGuire and Dr. Cara Christ, who are working with their counterparts in the federal government, and the hard work that they have been doing.
And most of all, I want to say thankful — thank you to our healthcare workers who are on the front lines — our doctors, our nurses, our hospital staff, and all of our caregivers. The decisions that we are making are to help you help the people in Arizona that need it.
So our message is clear, in terms of where Arizona is today: You are safer at home. We want to slow the spread of this virus and protect the most vulnerable. We have taken the steps to temporarily close bars and gyms and waterparks, tubing, and movie theaters.
We focused for a long time, and have done a very good job, on our most vulnerable — those that are 65 years or older and at high risk or with chronic health issues. We now need the message to spread far and wide that we all can contribute to slowing the spread of this virus and have Arizona a safer place by following the fundamentals of masking up, washing your hands, maintaining that physical distance between others, and when you’re sick, staying home.
If we commit to that, and we do it with increased intensity over the next several weeks, we’re going to be in a different and better position in Arizona.
So with that, again, I want to thank our federal partners, Vice President Pence and President Trump. Whatever we have asked for and needed — whether it was increased testing or further support on contact tracing, personal protective equipment from face guards to gowns — the answer has been yes, and with urgency, in addition to helping clarify some federal guidance that will help our hospitals here on the ground with support and resources.
So I couldn’t be more grateful for your partnership and leadership in this battle. It’s something we need to remain vigilant on, and also have flexibility to work with our local leaders across the state who have done an incredible job communicating the benefits of putting on a mask and how that can help our fellow citizens slow the virus and protect the most vulnerable.
And with that, I want to turn the podium over to Secretary Wolf of Homeland Security, who has been an incredible partner as well on everything that Arizona has needed — not only with the focus from FEMA, but whatever issues we’ve had at the border, as well. For that, we’re grateful.
SECRETARY WOLF: Let me first start off by again thanking the Vice President for his leadership of the Coronavirus Task Force and the team that he’s really put together, several of which are here today. It’s really been outstanding.
Let me also thank Governor Ducey, again, for your leadership throughout the pandemic, but particularly over the last several weeks as you’ve seen cases increase here, and again, for the team that you’ve pulled together as well.
DHS continues to proudly support Arizona and all the states that are continuing to respond to the pandemic. We have done so. We have obligated more than 90 million to the state of Arizona for National Guard operations, for alternative care facilities, other emergency protective measures, and we’ll continue to do that.
Let me also say that, again, through Admiral Polowczyk’s great efforts, we’ve been able to send over 318 million units of PPE to the state of Arizona as well, and we’ll continue to surge as we need to do that as well.
The Governor mentioned the border. We continue to look at any threats that are coming across the border, and we put in some essential restrictions several months ago to make sure that we slowed the spread while keeping essential traffic and that trade occurring across your southern border — our southern border — Arizona’s southern border.
It’s absolutely critical to the economies along that border into the U.S. economy, and we want to make sure that we get that right. We’re continuing to assess that on a day-by-day, week-by-week basis to see if there’s any changes that we need to make. And we’ll certainly talk about that at the task force.
But let me just end by again thanking the governor for his efforts throughout the pandemic. And I will say, as we deal with the pandemic, we’re also dealing with other incidents that are going on throughout the country.
So the governor’s strong support for law and order is vitally important in these days as the department is the country’s largest law enforcement agency. And so we stand ready to support our state and local partners as we’re protecting federal facilities, we’re protecting monuments and statues, and the like.
So I want to again thank the governor for his outstanding work as well.
DR. BIRX: Mr. Vice President, Governor Ducey, it’s been a privilege to be with the people of Arizona for the last two or three days. What has been remarkable to me is watching the people of Arizona respond to the “Mask Up” Arizona guidelines that made it clear that we respect one another by wearing masks. I saw that wherever I went for the last several days in Maricopa County, and I want to thank the people of Arizona for showing that respect for each other.
We know this virus is circulating actively in several counties. We also know that there are other counties at risk, and I want to call on all the county leadership and the individuals in each of these counties that, as soon as you see an increase in your test positivity rate, to put on a mask, protect one another.
Governor Ducey’s directive is to really increase our — not only our respect for one another, but that clear communication coming from his health team that made it clear that wearing a mask will change the spread of this virus. And also making it clear that, with this moment in time, closing the bars, decreasing restaurant spaces, and the other actions will really dramatically having an impact.
To all of our Millennials and Gen Z, thank you. Thank you for your leadership and showing how important the mask and social distancing are, and that communication that you’re having with your parents and your grandparents to protect them.
But I also want to call on you to be aware that there are people in your age group — people in your age group, every day, that have preexisting conditions that you may not know about — that may have diabetes, that may have hypertension, that may have a weight issue. These individuals, no matter what their age, are susceptible. And you can see it in the hospitalizations here in Arizona. So you’re not only protecting those we totally respect in the over-65 age group, but you’re protecting one another. And I appreciate that.
Yesterday, I got to meet with an entire group, and it showed the Governor’s commitment and the health commitment of Dr. Christ to understanding guidelines don’t work unless they’re translated and working alongside community members.
So in that meeting — for community members from the Hispanic community, from the African American community, and today I got to meet with the tribal nation leaders — understanding that messages are not a standalone; that they have to translate into the very fabric of our communities so that people understand what their risks are, so that people can get tested, and so that people understand the importance of wearing a mask.
I also saw incredible innovation of the American spirit. We heard from your universities and we heard from your hospitals of the advances that you’re taking into the field and care for those who need us the most, and the innovations coming out of your universities to provide innovations and testing and really expanding testing.
We talked about how to 10x testing through pooling and communities — communities that are in multi-generational households — bringing testing to the community and to those households, and using household pools to be able to test in 100 percent of the community.
I want to thank the African American leader I met yesterday from the community who set up an African American task force to really make sure that messages from the Governor and the health team were being translated at the level of the people who needed to hear it.
I thank you for bringing together and understanding that words that aren’t translated into actions will not stop this virus. But I am encouraged and I am hopeful, and I am hoping we will see the dramatic impact of you all taking responsibility and wearing masks, so when it comes to August, we can open the schools and open the universities because we know we can stop the spread by utilizing masks and making these small adjustments into our lifestyle and show respect for one another.
So thank you, Governor Ducey, for your leadership, for your looking at the science and the data and the evidence. Thank you to your health team and the brilliant Dr. Christ. It’s been a pleasure to spend time with you and your amazing county public health leaders who understand how to get into the community. Thank you for your time and the respect that you gave me by wearing masks in public.
GOVERNOR DUCEY: Thank you, Deb.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Okay. Questions?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: We received a request in the last 24 hours from the state of Arizona for roughly an additional — 500 additional medical personnel. We’ll be moving out on that very quickly.
I think one of the — one of the aspects of our nation’s response over the last four months has been the extraordinary efforts of not only National Guard medical personnel, but President Trump — whether it be New York, whether it be Louisiana, whether it be in Michigan or elsewhere — actually deployed active-duty military medical personnel.
And so the Secretary and I will be speaking on Air Force Two with the leadership at FEMA to identify the personnel that are available. But they’ll be packing up and moving out, because we want the incredible healthcare workers here in Arizona to know that help is on the way. And we’ll be detailing that to the governor in the next couple of days.
Q Thank you, Vice President. Doctors in Arizona may now have to soon decide who lives and who dies under its crisis care plan. Is it acceptable that Arizona is at this point?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, let me say that our objective would be that that would never happen in Arizona or anywhere else in the United States of America. I mean, I couldn’t be more proud of our nation’s response to the coronavirus pandemic.
From very early on, at the President’s direction, not only did we reinvent testing — now more than 33 million tests have been performed, nearly 600,000 tests a day are being done around the country, but in the area of personal protective equipment and ventilators, the President marshaled a whole-of-America response.
And with the strong leadership of Admiral John Polowczyk, we’ve made sure the states at the point of the need — whether it was when this first manifested in Washington or whether it happened in the Greater New York City area, New Jersey, Connecticut, Louisiana, Michigan — we made sure that healthcare workers in all of those areas that were impacted by rising coronavirus cases in this pandemic had the personal protective equipment and, just as importantly, the ventilators necessary that they would never have to make a choice between rendering care to one American versus not rendering care to another.
At this point, Admiral Polowczyk told me today that we — we started this pandemic with roughly 15,000 ventilators in the National Stockpile. Very soon, we will have nearly 50,000 ventilators. And as I stand here today, no American who’s required a ventilator has ever been denied a ventilator in the United States of America.
We delivered ventilators, at the governor’s request, some time ago. And as I assured the governor today, he’s going to have whatever he needs, whatever it takes. And if it’s ventilators, if it’s more personal protective equipment, he’ll have it.
But the report we received today was that hospitals across Arizona have a capacity, they have personal protective equipment. We’ve been checking that on a hospital-by-hospital basis. But we’re going to make sure that happens. We’re going to make sure every Arizonan impacted by the coronavirus has the healthcare that we would want any member of our family to have.
Q Thank you, Mr. Vice President. (Inaudible.) I want to ask you about (inaudible). (Inaudible.) What are you going to do to sure that (inaudible)?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, one of the ways the President marshalled a whole-of-America approach is we brought in all of the top pharmaceutical companies in America — which are the greatest in the world — early on in this pandemic. And we challenged them — we challenged them not only to develop vaccines, which are being — which are being developed and researched at a record pace, but also the development of what are called “therapeutics,” or to a layperson like me, it’s the medicines that make you feel better.
And the governor, this week — we were able to inform him — will receive another round of remdesivir. We’ve been able to acquire that from Gilead and distribute that to all 50 states. It’s been having very positive effects on helping people recover from the coronavirus.
The advent of a steroid treatment that has been utilized to good effect helping people to recover. And, of course, the convalescent plasma where people — over a million Americans have fully recovered from the coronavirus.
And I would — I would renew our ongoing request: Anyone in Arizona who has had the coronavirus and fully recovered, contact your local Red Cross, donate blood so that you can be a part of providing that, what’s called “convalescent plasma,” to people that we’ve also seen promising results.
But on the subject of vaccines, I want to assure you, the President initiated Operation Warp Speed, and we put a team in place that’s working now with the better part of a half a dozen very promising vaccine development. We remain hopeful that even before the end of this year, we’ll have a vaccine available for the American people. But there’ll be no compromising on the safety of a vaccine; we’re going to go through the process.
But the President has made it very clear that we’re not going to wait to produce vaccines until we go through all of the different clinical trials that are typical. If we have promising results — which we do on several vaccines today — we’re going to go ahead and produce those vaccines in the event that when the clinical trials are completed, as early as this fall, we might be able to distribute that. And Admiral Polowczyk, for his part, told me that we’re also acquiring hundreds of millions of syringes to be able to distribute them.
But the American people can be confident we’re working every day to develop new therapeutics, to develop those vaccines, but we’re always going to make sure that everything we’re distributing is safe for the American people. But it is absolutely our determination to use that incredible American ingenuity.
And as another one of our health professionals said, that even our scientists say from the early results, it’s not “if,” it’s “when” we have a vaccine. But when we have a vaccine, we’ll make sure it’s safe for the American people.
Q Vice President Pence, a question: A lot of people here praising each other at the job — particularly the job the Governor has done and Dr. Cara Christ is done. But you were briefed. You know that we’re breaking records on new number of cases, numbers of deaths. And it was just pointed out plans were implemented where doctors who may soon have to decide who lives, who dies, who gets care, who doesn’t.
So from you, why would you fly all the way to Arizona? What does the Governor need to be thanked for and praised for? What have they specifically done that you think they’ve done a good job on?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the rising cases here in Arizona is why I’m here. It’s why we brought the White House Coronavirus Task Force here. I’m a real believer, as President Trump is, in — in sitting down with the people that are leading the effort.
I was in Texas over the weekend, I’ll be in Florida tomorrow because we’re absolutely determined to make sure that Arizona and those healthcare workers have the resources, the supplies, and the equipment they need to render the care that any one of us would want a member of the family to have.
And I must tell you today, I — I can’t account for the reports that you cite. The reality is that, from the briefing that we received today, hospital capacity remains within manageable lines: 85 percent of hospital beds are spoken for, 88 percent of ICU beds are spoken for. We continue to see cases rising. But as we’ve surveyed hospitals across the state, personal protective equipment — those things that they need to render care — appear to be in abundant supply. But we’re here to make sure that remains to be the case.
We don’t ever want any healthcare professional making a decision about who gets healthcare and who doesn’t. This is America. We’re going to make sure healthcare workers here in Arizona have the equipment, have the supplies, and also have the therapeutic medicines to render care to — to save lives. And that’s our ongoing commitment.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: What’s the concern? I didn’t hear what you said.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, what I would tell people is that when the President tapped me to lead the White House Coronavirus Task Force, we had one mission, and that was to save lives. And at the end of the “45 Days to Slow the Spread,” our mission adjusted, and that was to save lives and open up America again. And we’ve been working that every step of the way.
But I must tell you, I don’t — I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the coronavirus relative to politics; I think about it relative to people. And, frankly, the fact that President Trump, before the end of January, suspended all travel from China and stood up the White House Coronavirus Task Force; the fact that we — that we marshaled not only the full resources of the federal government, but the full resources of the American economy to scale testing at an unprecedented level — the United States now has tested more than 33 million people; that we’ve literally seen to the distribution of billions of supplies to healthcare workers and hospitals around the country; we’ve seen the development of — we’ll actually have constructed 110,000 ventilators in 100 days to make sure those are available for healthcare workers all across this country — and the development of therapeutics and medicines, even while we’re continuing in — across this country to find ways to safely and responsibly reopen, I think — I think the American people understand this is an unprecedented moment.
But President Trump has brought unprecedented leadership, and we’ve spared no expense, we’ve pulled together all the resources of this nation, and we’re going to continue to do that every single day until that day comes that we put the coronavirus in the past.
How about — how about one more, and we’ll let you get in?
Q (Inaudible) briefed on Russian bounty (inaudible)? If so, what did that (inaudible)? And if not, why not?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: No, I was never briefed about that matter, and I’m not going to discuss classified materials.
But I will tell you, having served alongside this President for three and a half years and also being the father of a United States Marine and the father-in-law of a sailor, I couldn’t be more proud of this President’s ongoing efforts to support our military. Whether it be historic increases in military spending or whether it be the decisive action this President took to take out the leader of ISIS or to take out the Iranian General Soleimani, President Trump has never hesitated to take action to protect the lives of American soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, and he never will.
How about one more on topic? Go ahead.
Q How would you explain (inaudible) —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I can’t — I can’t hear you, I’m sorry.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: I can’t hear you. I’m very sorry. How about — over here. Yeah. One more.
Q As was mentioned earlier —
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Go right ahead.
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Can you step forward a little bit, and we’ll hear you.
Q As was mentioned earlier, our daily percent of population that’s positive — at least today, we’ve hit a record — is higher than that of some spikes in New York. It was higher than that of Texas yesterday. Yet breweries, wineries, nail salons, hair salons are all open. Do you feel like that’s appropriate and that there should not be another stay-at-home order soon here in Arizona?
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, the reason we’re here is because of the rising number of cases in Arizona, as well as the rising positivity rate.
It’s very clear we have community spread in this state and across much of the Sun Belt. And that’s the reason why we wanted to be here to receive a briefing from Governor Ducey, but it’s also why we wanted to be here to express our strong support for the steps that Governor Ducey and that local officials have put into effect: limiting certain gatherings, closing certain establishments during this rising time.
And we have every confidence in the governor’s leadership and local health officials across this state that Arizonans are going to be able to do what you did before. You’re going to be able to slow the spread and flatten the curve.
And our objective is to make sure that that the governor has everything that he needs to meet this moment, to provide the level of healthcare that every one of our families would want. But secondly, it’s simply to call on the people of Arizona to understand that we all have a role to play. We’re — we are all in this together in recognizing that adhering to the guidance of state and local officials, practicing good hygiene, washing your hands, wearing a mask when it’s indicated or when social distancing is not possible is how every single person can do their part.
And we really do believe that just as Arizona did in the early days of this pandemic, that the people of Arizona are, once again, going to lead the way through this rising tide of coronavirus cases.
And we’re going to move this state forward, we’re going to get this economy moving, and we’re going to get our kids back to school. That’s our aim; that’ll be our focus. And I want to thank the governor again and his extraordinary team for their — their leadership and their partnership.
We’re with you, Arizona, and we’re going to stay with you every day until that day when we put the coronavirus in the past.
So, thank you all. And God bless you.
1:34 P.M. MST