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April 30, 2020

Donald Trump:

Well, thank you very much. Please. This afternoon, I'll sign a proclamation declaring the month of May to be Older Americans Month. I don't know if I'm in that category. I have a feeling I am, but I feel good. And our country is making a lot of progress. Alex, I want to tell you that. Making a lot of progress. As we honor the incredible contributions of our nation's seniors, we're here today to discuss the unprecedented steps that we',re taken to protect our seniors from the virus while also announced vital new actions to safeguard our nursing homes and most vulnerable citizens as we gradually and safely reopen our country and it's very exciting to see what's happening.

Donald Trump:

[inaudible 00:01:00] by secretary Alex Azar. Thank you. Secretary Robert Wilkie. Robert, thank you very much. Administrators, Seema Verma. Thank you. Great job. FEMA, administrator, Pete Gaynor. And Chief of National Guard Bureau General Joseph Lengyel. Thanks also to Tennessee governor Bill Lee, my friend. Thank you very much, Bill. Great job you're doing. It's great being with you, too. And many outstanding advocates for America's seniors who are here with us today, thank you all very much.

Donald Trump:

As we tragically have seen, the virus poses the greatest risk to older Americans. Together as one nation, we mourn for every precious life that has been lost and there have been many. There have been many. We're so saddened by it. Through aggressive actions and the devotion of our doctors and nurses, however, we have held our fatality rate far below hard-hit other countries such as Spain and Italy and United Kingdom and Sweden. We're way below other countries. We're deploying every tool, resource, and power at our disposal to protect our seniors and Americans of every age and background. Early on, we implemented lifesaving travel restrictions and directed billions of dollars toward the development of therapies and vaccines, and that's moving along rapidly.

Donald Trump:

We've moved at a speed that people are absolutely stunned to see. We've accelerated treatments including remdesivir, which is reportedly showing encouraging preliminary results. That was the very big story yesterday. It was announced by Gilead. In early March, my administration advised all nursing homes to suspend all medically unnecessary visits to help slow the spread and to protect our seniors and, especially, in our nursing homes, they are having a hard time in those nursing homes.

Donald Trump:

We took action to step up enforcement of infectious disease standards at nursing homes all across America. We also acted swiftly to secure our veterans, healthcare facilities, and deployed hundreds of VA staff to help out in nursing homes nationwide, and we're being helped very greatly by the passage of all of the things that we got past Robert, especially choice so that people can go and see their doctor when they have to and especially our seniors.

Donald Trump:

We provided nearly $1 billion in grants to support home-delivered meals, in-home care and other services that make it impossible for older people to just do what they want to do. We're helping older people with disabilities and we're helping them to live independently. We dramatically expanded access to telehealth, a very big deal for Medicare beneficiaries. The number of Medicare patients using telehealth has increased from roughly 11,000 a week to more than 650,000 people a week.

Donald Trump:

So that's from 11,000 a week to 650,000. That's almost an impossible number to believe, right? But it's really something. They get used to it and a lot of that's going to be staying with us long after this horrible scourge is gone. Medicare is also paying for labs to provide seniors with at-home testing when appropriate at zero cost to patients. We've insured a ventilator for every patient who needs one. Nobody who's needed a ventilator has been without a ventilator. It's an incredible achievement, and we now have thousands and thousands of ventilators and other countries are asking us for help and we're helping other countries, allies, and some that aren't necessarily allies, but they're in big trouble and we're helping other countries now with ventilators.

Donald Trump:

The same thing with masks. We have millions and millions of masks. That was something, four weeks ago, was difficult and now we have millions of masks coming in and already here. The federal government is also funding over 35,000 members of the National Guard to help states deliver critical supplies to nursing homes and to assist with disinfecting and testing. I'd like to ask General Lengyel to please come up, say a few words about the work of the national Guard. It's been really fantastic. Thank you. General, please.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel:

Thank you, Mr. President, and good afternoon everyone. I'm very proud of the National Guard and all they are doing to help keep our nation safe here at home and abroad. Today, over 83,000 men and women in the National Guard are engaged at home and abroad, and 45,000 of those are engaged directly in the COVID-19 response. From running hundreds of testing sites around the country to screening passengers at airports to helping manufacture PPE to a myriad of other tasks, the National Guard is there.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel:

We know this virus doesn't treat everyone equally and our senior citizens are at an increased risk. In many states, governors have directed National Guard members to help sanitize longterm care facilities, nursing homes, giving older citizens and families and caregivers peace of mind that their environments are safe. The Georgia National Guard, for instance, has done this, has sanitized over 700 nursing homes and this has been replicated at many places around the nation and continues to grow.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel:

Additionally, food banks and homeless shelters. At normal times, these are often staffed by our volunteers. Many of them are elderly senior citizens here in America. Now, volunteering puts those great Americans at increased risk. So the National Guard is helping these Americans stay clear of this risk. And doing that, the National Guard is staffing many food banks across the nation where the need for food assistance is increasing across the nation as this virus continues to persist.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel:

The National Guard is a big part of our United States Army and our United States Air Force, and we're proud of that. But this role that we play here at home, in the homeland, under the command of the governors in our states is distinctly and uniquely National Guard business and we're very proud of that. So Mr. President, thank you. Thank you for the support that you give our military and the National Guard and all the men and women who serve. They are proud to serve our nation. Thank you for letting me talk about the Guard today. Thank you, sir.

Donald Trump:

Thank you very much. Thank you very much, General. That's great. Four stars. That's a lot of stars. Very impressive.

Gen. Joseph Lengyel:

[inaudible 00:07:56].

Donald Trump:

That's right. But that's okay. That's very impressive. You deserve them. I do want to say, you mentioned the word governor and we've had a lot of great success and relationship with the governors. We've dealt with our governors very, very well. We have, really, I think gotten to understand each other, know each other, in many cases, really like each other. And that's worked out very well. We had Phil Murphy here from New Jersey, governor of New Jersey today. Wonderful man. And a lot of progress is being made there, and we had John Bel Edwards yesterday from Louisiana, and Ron DeSantis the day before from Florida. Just tremendous progress. Three very exceptional men and they're doing a really good job, as you know. And we have others coming in. They'll come in one or two a day and we're seeing them and whatever we can help them with, we help them with and we help them with very quickly, General, right? So it's been very good.

Donald Trump:

My administration is doing everything possible to support the state led management of nursing homes, and here today is a governor who I happened to like a lot and he's done a fantastic job in a fantastic state, a state that I happen to like a lot. It's called Tennessee. For some reason they like me, I haven't figured that out, but they like me in Tennessee. So, that's good. Bill, please come up. Governor Bill Lee, please.

Bill Lee:

Thank you, sir.

Donald Trump:

Thank you.

Bill Lee:

Yep. Thank you very much, Mr. President, and thank you to your team. Many in this room that we have worked with, you are guiding America through a tremendous crisis and you're doing it incredibly well and America's very grateful for that. And we are grateful in Tennessee for the partnership between the federal government and states like ours. As we work to make our contribution to fighting COVID-19, we can do so because of the work that you're doing and the way that you're supporting what we're doing.

Bill Lee:

So, Mr. President, you've asked states to commit to a goal of testing 2% of their population. In April, 2% of Tennesseeans were tested, and we have tested over 175,000 to date. But as we look to May to build upon that, we're actually strengthening our commitment, particularly to the elderly, the most vulnerable of our citizens, especially those in nursing homes. You know, there's a scripture describes being hard pressed on every side but not crushed. And that's where we are in Tennessee. I think that's where we are in a nation. But the elderly are most hard pressed in this setting, and especially those in longterm care facilities and they need our help.

Bill Lee:

So in Tennessee, we're committed to testing every resident and every staff and every one of our 700 longterm care facilities. It'll be a great undertaking. But it honors the value of these lives in those facilities. Lives that have protected our country in the hardest of times, the greatest generation. And those that have a loving legacy of being our neighbors and our friends and our grandparents. And it's time for us to protect them. And we should do so by pursuing social distancing, for example, in every way that we can with them. And the distance is sometimes a great goal. If I haven't hugged my own elderly mom in eight weeks, but we're doing right by these citizens. And you're doing right by committing to these citizens to make certain that we do our personal part to make sure that they're safe and while valuing our freedoms all at the same time.

Bill Lee:

So while I think as a country we may be hard pressed on many sides, we are not crushed and we are grateful for your leadership and for this team's leadership and particularly your commitment to the most vulnerable in our nation. And together we will get through this. Thank you very much, sir.

Donald Trump:

Thank you, Bill. Thank you very much, Bill. Great governor, by the way.