White House Press Briefing
We are not opening up all at once. It’s going to be done in phases, and those will look different depending on the state’s situation with COVID. It will be on the governors to lead their people through this next stage.
The path forward could be literally open up tomorrow for Montana, but more slowly for states that have endured more of the pandemic. States are encouraged to work together to harmonize regional efforts.
29 states should be able to open fairly soon. We have states with few cases, and a lot of open terrain with few people that can move into opening.
You can see this new map of USA cases on the Johns Hopkins site:
Going into this crisis, the US was looking at possibly 2.2 million deaths. By the end of this, the US is projecting less than 100,000 deaths.
The US will move to a focus on dealing with any hotspots that break out.
The US has conducted 3.5 million tests, more than any other country. Expectation is 5 million tests performed by the end of the month. We are now able to test at the rate of 1 million per week.
35 trials are underway for immune therapies and plasma therapies. We will continue to advise governors on how to conduct surveillance and diagnostic testing. Over 600,000 point-of-care tests have been distributed that return results in 5 minutes. This is helping us not have to use the labs so much, which have longer turnaround times.
The governors saw the presentation materials first, before this press conference. You can see it here.
All states will now be required to have plans in place to protect their critical industry workers and those in concentrated settings like nursing homes.
New term introduced in this briefing: Asymptomatic Sentinel Surveillance – the concern that asymptomatic individuals can infect more vulnerable populations. There will be a lot more emphasis on identifying these, and isolating them.
Country is large and diverse. Some places have struggled under this virus, and some have not been much affected. So re-opening the country isn’t like turning a light switch on and off.
The driving concern is the health and safety of the American public.
In order to even consider getting into the phasing (gating in):
You don’t get to Phase 1 unless you get through the gating.
If you get no virus rebound, and you satisfy the gating criteria, you go to Phase 2.
Same process to get to Phase 3: satisfy the gating.
During a Phase 3, will we see packed arenas and large concerts? Conceivably. Pay attention to the fact that if there’s a rebound of any sort, we may have to pull back a little before going forward again. Sports will probably be made for television in future, and then we could see a limited number of fans permitted into the event, and later in the future, we will go back to packed arenas.
So this will be staggered. Not every state or region is going to do this at the same time. But sooner or later, we will get to a point of getting back to some form of normality.
Phase IV is presumably where a vaccine is developed.
It could be that in the autumn, there could be a flare-up of this virus.
Testing and contact-tracing? CDC is standing beside local and state officials to contact-trace new cases. Constant surveillance for asymptomatic individuals and keeping them away from vulnerable populations. We have not done this for flu before, so this is going to take some work. If you go to a clinic for a routine visit, for example, you would be screened for COVID19.
If we see a hotspot developing, we have new tools now to be able to get on top of it much more quickly. We’re now going to be very focused on contact tracing and isolating cases to contain any outbreak.
What about California and Washington? That will be up to their governors.
How many tests will it take to meet the gating criteria? Hospitals and clinics moved to point-of-care tests. So now an amazing capacity exists in the country to do at least a million more tests per week. We have to work with the labs now, and some of these are at universities, to figure out what they need to be able to do this.
OK so that was a lot of info to digest at once, and I imagine state and local governments will be in serious planning mode to figure out how these phases look, whether we've met criteria for the first phase, and what the guidance will be at the local level for re-opening.
Given public face coverings will be required for the foreseeable future, we lucked out in Clare Swan's delightful mask-sewing angel - Arlene. We delivered some of the 100 masks we picked up today. The others will be delivered tomorrow and Saturday by the MERRAG team and two of our lovely volunteers.
You can get masks online, though the shipment may take time. There are mask-makers that have sprung up all over Santa Barbara that will sell them to you inexpensively. We'll try to round up some of these sources for you.
We hope you're doing well, enjoying the Spring weather, and staying healthy. This particular week, as it became evident we were going to make a turn in the road, the uncertainty was perhaps even greater than before. It was perhaps the most stressful week so far for a great many people. Some people are working extra hard and long hours at this time in essential industries, while others can feel cutoff and isolated. It can be both exhausting and depressing. So please be really kind to yourself and others at this time, and give yourself permission to feel whatever you may be feeling, as this is a time unlike any we've ever lived through before, as a community, a nation and a world. We were literally locked down across the globe this past month. That's never happened before.
We're going to get through it, and really when you think of the scope and scale of change we just went through, it's pretty breath-taking. Some of the ingenuity, creativity, and tireless efforts by everyone from grocery workers to healthcare workers to manufacturers is truly inspiring.
Humor is also really helpful, so I'll leave you with some. The graffiti artist Banksy apparently got a big bout of cabin fever himself, and cooked this one up in his bathroom in London.
It's titled, 'My wife hates it when I work from home'.
Have a great evening!
Sharon Byrne, Executive Director