Remarks by VP Pence in a Coronavirus Briefing with Cruise Line Executives and Port Directors

Port Everglades Administration Building
Fort Lauderdale, Florida

March 7, 2020

GOVERNOR DESANTIS:  Good afternoon.  I want to welcome the Vice President to Florida, down in a part of the state where there’s a lot of great stuff going on, in Broward County.  I also want to thank the President for all his support, particularly on some of the travel restrictions that I think have made it easier for us to monitor folks who have been traveling, particularly in parts in Asia.  And really appreciate the Vice — this is the second time he’s been in Florida just since he’s been leading the task force. So we really appreciate his support.

As many of you know, Florida had its first two COVID-19-linked fatalities yesterday.  And so we are stressing to folks that if you look at how this virus impacts people, the folks who are elderly and have underlying medical conditions are at much greater risk to have serious complications.  So we’ve been working hard with our hospitals and our nursing homes, assisted-living facilities.

But we’ve also wanted to spread the message to the people as a whole:  Follow the CDC’s guidance on this.  They recommend for people who are elderly and have these health conditions — you know, stay at home, if you need to.  Avoid large crowds.  Make sure you have, you know, a couple weeks of supplies of medical and food just in case you’re in a situation where you need to isolate.

So those are prudent steps that people can take and that will help our efforts here as we work to contain the spread of the virus.  But thanks again for coming.  We appreciate your leadership.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Governor, and I want to I want to thank you for bringing together leaders in the cruise line industry for an important discussion about how we keep your passengers, your crew, the communities they come from, and our country safe.

I know the President is grateful for the spirit of collaboration represented in this room and I look very much forward to our discussion about how — how we help you make this industry safer.

Governor, I want to thank you for your leadership.  I’m also very grateful for Senator Rick Scott, Senator Marco Rubio, and their swift efforts in passing the more than $8 billion in funding for America’s response to the coronavirus.

Let me also — let me thank all the public officials who are here as well.  And I’m pleased to be joined by the head of CDC, as well as the Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf.

We’re really here to have a very substantive conversation with an industry that has found itself at the center, in so many ways, of America’s response to the coronavirus.  I’m looking forward to hearing about the industry’s recommendations about what more you can do, what more we can do together to protect the American people.

I know it goes without saying: President Trump has no higher priority than the health and safety and wellbeing of the American people.  It’s the reason why from — from the first advent of the coronavirus in America, he — the President launched a whole-of-government approach.

But as evidenced here today, it’s not just the whole-of-government approach, bringing the full resources of the federal government; it’s really a whole-of-America approach.  And in this last week, in addition to the meeting today here that the President directed me to have with the cruise line industry executives, we’ve met with leaders of the pharmaceutical industry to talk about the development of therapeutics and a vaccine.  We’ve talked to leaders in the nursing home industry.  We’ve talked to the leaders of commercial apps.  And I know I speak for President Trump when I say we couldn’t be more grateful with the spirit of cooperation of all the American businesses that we’ve engaged and their desire to put with the health of America first.

From early on, President Trump took decisive and unprecedented action to respond to the spread of the coronavirus.  The President declared a public health emergency.  He suspended all travel from China.  And we launched quarantine efforts for Americans that would be returning, including Americans returning from a cruise line.

He established travel advisories in parts of Italy and South Korea, and we now are screening 100 percent of all individuals who take direct flights from any airport in Italy or South Korea before they board planes to come to the United States of America.

The President has also directed us and HHS has done yeoman’s work expanding testing.  Now doctors can prescribe tests to any American regardless of their symptoms.  And at the present moment, we’ve distributed more than 1 million tests.  And in cooperation with those same commercial labs that I mentioned, we’ll be expanding access to tests in the weeks ahead to every American.

I’m proud to say though — Governor, as you know, here in Florida: Every state in the country’s state lab can now do coronavirus testing.

Now let me just speak to the coronavirus itself.  And thanks to the decisive leadership of President Trump, the strong partnership with state leaders, local health officials, the American people deserve to know that the risk of contracting the coronavirus for the average American remains low.

That being said, we are going to continue to lean into this effort to call on industry, to call on every agency of government to deal with it.  The truth is that for the majority of — or I know the head of CDC is here — for whatever the number would be, for 96, 97 percent of Americans who even contract the disease, they will be treated, they will have flu-like symptoms, and they’ll fully recover.

But, Governor, I want to thank you for your particular emphasis here in Florida and your focus on our seniors because people here in Florida deserve to know that our data shows that seniors with serious underlying health conditions are the most vulnerable to serious medical outcomes.

And so, for anyone within the sound of my voice, if you are yourself a senior citizen with a serious underlying medical condition or if you have a loved one with a serious underlying medical condition, it is just a good time to practice common sense just to protect your health, the health of your family, and the health of the community.

But I’m here today to speak particularly about the unique challenges facing the cruise line industry.  And to be here with so many leaders and have an opportunity to speak about how we can work together to make your passengers, your crews, the communities they come from, and our country safer is a great privilege for me.

And, in many ways, Florida is the heart of the cruise line industry.  We recognize that.  It’s a destination not just for Americans, but for people around the world.  And I know, to date, Florida’s efforts at preparedness on the coronavirus have made a difference.

As we seen in recent weeks, cruise ships have been especially vulnerable to the spread of the coronavirus.  Some 49 Americans that we returned home were on the cruise ship the Diamond Princess.  The cruise ship the Grand Princess, as you all are aware, is, as we speak, moored off the coast of California and has been so since Wednesday night.

We have, I’m pleased to report, working closely with the Governor of California and all of our health officials, developed a plan which is being implemented this weekend to bring the ship into a noncommercial port.  All passengers and crew will be tested for the coronavirus and quarantined as appropriate.  Those that require additional medical attention will also receive it.

Let me say again: While the risk to the average American of contracting the coronavirus remains low, it is essential that we find ways to mitigate that risk to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.  And I’m here today, on behalf of President Trump, to learn ways that this industry — the cruise line industry — can work with our health officials at the federal level, here at the state level, with port authorities to keep the passengers, communities, and our country safe and healthy.

But I want to promise you: Under President Trump’s leadership, we’re going to continue to bring the full resources of the federal government to bear in confronting the spread of the coronavirus.  And we look forward to the support and assistance of this industry, in particular, in the days ahead, as we put the health and wellbeing of America first.

So with that, I thank you very much and I look forward to our conversation.

Adam?

MR. GOLDSTEIN:  Yes.  Adam Goldstein, Chairman of the Cruise Lines International Association.

Mr. Vice President, Acting Secretary Wolf, Governor, Senators, Mayors, other public officials: Thank you very much for the opportunity to meet.  Thank you for the President’s leadership on this important public issue.

We are here to listen and learn and work with you and your team so we can build on our proven safety record; leverage the first-rate medical facilities that exist on every cruise ship in the fleet; follow our public health protocols, where we’ve worked under the guidance of CDC for at least 50 years and where most of the materials that guide us are publicly available — most if, not all — on our Cruise Industry Association website.

Given the significance of travel and tourism, it is critical that Americans keep traveling.  And yet, we also recognize that this is an unprecedented situation: COVID-19.

Our commitment here today and going forward is to work closely with government and to go above and beyond anything we are currently doing — to screen even more stringently to prevent those who should not be allowed to board; to monitor, test, and care for those who are on board; and to transition and help pay for any guests or crew to move to locations staffed and equipped to handle COVID-19 cases.

We will work aggressively with government to further develop and strengthen all necessary protocols for prevention, for detection, and for care.

Mr. Vice President, we look forward — all of us who are here today — to having the meaningful discussion that you reflected on. Thank you for this opportunity.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Adam.

END

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