East Room Washington D.C. April 30 4:25 P.M. EDT
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 are here today to discuss the unprecedented steps we that we're taking to protect them from the virus. I'll also announce 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.
We're joined today by Secretary Alex Azar. Thank you. Secretary Robert Wilkie. Robert, thank you very much. Administrator Seema Verma. Thank you. Great job. FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor and Chief of the 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.
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. We've moved at a speed that people are absolutely stunned to see. We 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 protect our seniors, and especially in our nursing homes. They are - they're having a hard time in those nursing homes. 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 the things that we got passed, Robert, especially Choice, so that people can go and see their doctor when they have to and especially our seniors.
We provided nearly one billion dollars in grants to support home-delivered meals, in-home care, and other services that make it impossible [possible] 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. So that's from 11,000 a week to 650,000. That's almost an impossible number to believe, right? But it's really - it's really something. They get used to it, and a lot of that is 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 ensured 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.
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 and say a few words about the work of the National Guard. It's been really fantastic. Thank you.
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 manufacturer PPE, to a myriad of other tasks, the National Guard is there.
We know this virus doesn't treat everyone equally, and our senior citizens are at increased risk. In many states, governors have directed National Guard members to help sanitize long-term 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.
Additionally, food banks and homeless shelters - in 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. In doing that, the National Guard is staffing many food banks across the nation where they need - the need for food assistance is increasing across the nation as this virus continues to persist.
The National Guard is a big part of the 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.
Thank you very much, General. That's great. Four stars. That's a lot of stars. Very impressive.
That's right. But that's okay. That's very impressive. You deserve them.
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