President Trump said Tuesday he wants “to ensure our elderly are even more strongly protected than anyone else.”

Nursing homes in Southern states with surging coronavirus rates will benefit from a new testing approach, President Trump said during a media briefing Tuesday evening at the White House. He delivered prepared remarks and answered a handful of reporter questions without advisors at his side for just under a half hour.

“We’re surging testing capacity to identify and isolate cases. This includes a newly approved testing platform to nursing homes across the South,” Trump said after “imploring young Americans to avoid packed bars and other crowded indoor gatherings.”

“We’re being very, very vigilant with respect to nursing homes,” Trump continued. “You know all of the problems we’ve had with so many people so sadly infected. So that all of the staff and residents can be routinely tested and isolated to ensure our elderly are even more strongly protected than anyone else.”

Federal agencies said deaths from COVID-19 in nursing homes surpassed the 35,000 mark before July 5, though counts by certain industry observers put the number much higher and there is universal agreement that skilled nursing facilities are the number one setting for coronavirus fatalities. Federal estimates place actual and suspected infections at U.S. nursing homes at nearly a quarter million.

“That’s really the high-risk people. The high-risk, wonderful people,” Trump said during Tuesday’s conference. “Once this current surge in cases declines, this same testing platform will enable people to visit their loved ones after taking a test, which is a big difference. Ultimately, our goal is not merely to manage the pandemic, but to end it. We want to get rid of it as soon as we can. That is why getting a vaccine remains a top priority.”

The administration announced July 13 that it would be distributing rapid, point-of-care testing equipment to every nursing home in the country. About 2,000 facilities were to start getting the units and test materials this week, focusing first on buildings in hotspot areas.

The median age of COVID-19 victims has been 78 years old, with roughly half of all deaths being people in nursing homes,Trump cited from prepared remarks.

He also acknowledged that the carnage from COVID-19 is liable to get worse before it gets better and at one point urged the donning of face masks in crowded public places. The president added that “everything” that governors need to battle the pandemic at local levels “they get.” “We have tremendous supplies … whether ventilators or gowns,” he said.