James S. Brady Press Briefing Room Washington D.C. August 4 6:07 P.M. EDT
Hello, everybody. Thank you very much. Let me begin by sending America's deepest sympathies to the people of Lebanon, where reports indicate that many, many people were killed, hundreds more were very badly wounded in a large explosion in Beirut. Our prayers go out to all the victims and their families. The United States stands ready to assist Lebanon. I have a very good relationship with the people of Lebanon, and we will be there to help. It looks like a terrible attack.
I also want to provide the latest on Tropical Storm Isaias. Approximately 600,000 are without power along the East Coast, and utility companies are working around the clock to restore service as quickly as possible. I spoke to Governor Cooper, I spoke to Governor DeSantis, and I spoke to all of the people at FEMA, and they're working very hard.
Coastal areas in the storm's path can expect to see the storm surge and rip currents, while inland areas could see flooding and very, very high winds. FEMA is responding to states that have requested the assistance. We have a list of those states; we can give them to you in a little while. And my administration is monitoring the situation very closely.
We have the military on guard, but we have — FEMA is there, in all cases. The Corps of Engineers is ready if needed — the Army Corps of Engineers. Very talented people. I urge everyone in the storm's path to remain alert and to follow the guidance of your state and local authorities.
I now want to update you on the path forward, having to do with the China virus. Before I do that, I want to give you some numbers, which are rather spectacular, that just came out. The manufacturing index of the Institute for Supply Management — that's "ISM"; most of you know it by "ISM" — increased for the third month in a row, rising nearly 2 points in July to 54.2 — that's fantastic — the highest reading since March of 2019.
This is remarkable, considering the survey was conducted throughout July and showed significant improvement despite the Southwest, in particular, virus hotspots. The ISM measures — and it's a very strong measure of new orders. It rose 5 points in July, to 61.5, in its highest rating, that would be, since September of 2018. That's a big number.
Since the April low, new orders are up over 34 points, which is the largest increase in the history of the ISM, dating back all the way to 1948. So, 34 points — that's the largest since 1948.
Similarly, the ISM's measure of production is up 35 points from its April low to a reading of 62.1, which is the largest 3-month gain in over 70 years. That's some — some number.
These were somewhat surprising, but I've been saying we're doing well, and those numbers are really spectacular.
Automobile sales, likewise, are a key factor in the resurgence of manufacturing since the March low of 8.8 million units with sales and all of the numbers that are going up, stunningly. It's a 65 percent increase since then, to 14.5 million units, which is a — a massive number.
The great strength and great news is really for states like — in particular, Michigan; and Ohio; South Carolina; Pennsylvania, very good; Florida, little bit. These are great numbers. Record-setting numbers.
The strength in new car sales is also evident in the used car market, where soaring demand — literally, soaring demand — is putting upward pressure on the used car prices. This is a leading indicator of the motor vehicle industry. The need to restock depleted shelves will further galvanize the factory sector — and, we think, very substantially, based on the numbers. We're very, very happy with these numbers. And I think most people are anywhere from surprised to shocked by these numbers, in a very positive way.
Economy-wide inventories crashed at a near $320 billion annualized rate last quarter. A crash, in that case, means a good thing, not a bad thing. That's the largest drop ever on record — ever.
Homebuilder sentiment, likewise, is soaring, as our home sales sentiment is now higher than last year. And new homes recently made a 13-year high. So we have a 13-year high in new home — new home construction.
New business applications are very strong. That just came out. The widely followed Atlanta Fed GDP — and it's something that they have just come out with — now forecasts the new data point and incorporates it into quarterly estimates. It looks like it's showing a 20 percent annualized growth in the current quarter. So 20 percent in the current quarter; we'll take that all day long. I — let's see if that's right. That's a projection. So we'll see if that's right. The Atlanta Fed — very respected.
The virus — back to that — we are continuing to monitor and monitor, in particular, hotspots across the South, Southwest, and the West. And we're seeing indications that our strong mitigation efforts are working very well, actually, especially to protect those who are most at risk, which has really been our primary focus for — ever since we've gotten to understand this horrible, horrible plague that's been unleashed on our country by China.
As of yesterday, cases are declining in 70 percent of the jurisdictions, compared to 36 percent last Monday. That's a big, big number. Eleven out of thirteen states with the positive rate above 10 percent have seen a decline in daily cases since mid-July. In other states, the data suggests that the need for continuing vigilance always is strong, even though the numbers are getting very good — states that have a test positivity rate between 5 and 10 percent. And in the states with the lowest positivity rates, we also see slight increases in daily cases in a couple of them.
We must ensure that these states do not become new flare-ups, so we're watching them very, very closely. Fortunately, thanks to substantial improvements in treatment and the knowledge we have gained about the disease itself, the recent rise in cases has not been accompanied by a significant increase in deaths.
Fatalities nationwide are at roughly half the level of the April peak. So the death — the number of deaths or fatalities are at half the level. One is too much — one death — because this should have never happened to us. It should have been stopped at — very easily, by China, in Wuhan.
Thanks to our major advances in treatment, we've seen vast improvements in recovery rates across all age groups. Compared to April, mortality rates are 85 percent lower among individuals aged 18 to 69, and 70 percent lower among individuals over 70 years old.
We've also made significant strides in sheltering those at highest risk, especially the elderly. Approximately 85 percent of all current cases are individuals under the age of 65 — just getting some very accurate numbers on this. And these are people who are generally at a much lower risk of complications.
Since the pandemic began, nearly half of all fatalities have been at nursing homes or assisted-living centers. That's an incredible statistic, when you hear that number. This data, underscores that the best path forward is an aggressive strategy focused on protecting Americans at highest risk.
As we race toward the development of a vaccine, we must continue to take extraordinary precautions to shield the elderly, and we're doing that. We're doing that at a level that we've never even dreamt possible, both with testing and with common sense. And those with underlining [sic] conditions, especially the elderly with the underlining [sic] — whether it's heart or diabetes — they seem to be the two most predominant conditions that cause tremendous problems. While allowing those at lowest risk to carefully return to work and to school.
Where embers flare up, we must engage immediately, and that's what we're doing. This is the science-based approach, and it's good with us. Working very hard on that. An extended lockdown would fail to target resources at the highest-risk populations, while inflicting massive economic pain, long-lasting damage on society and public health as a whole.
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