/Trump says hes weighing new coronavirus protocols to let local economies cautiously resume – updates

Trump says hes weighing new coronavirus protocols to let local economies cautiously resume – updates


WASHINGTON — Dr. Deborah Birx, leader of the White House coronavirus task force, seemed to suggest Sen. Rand Paul, who has tested positive for COVID-19, had not been adhering to the government’s social distancing guidelines.

“Each person has to be responsible in the way that they decrease their interaction with others,” she said. Everyone needs to keep six feet apart and assume that “everyone you’re interacting with could be positive,” she added.

Her remarks came in response to a question about contradictory messages: Birx and others have said that Americans should not get tested if they don’t have symptoms or exposure to the virus.

But Paul got tested even though he had no symptoms. In between taking the test and getting the results, Paul had lunch with other lawmakers and even went swimming in the Senate gym.

“If he had been following these guidelines, he wouldn’t have been infecting others because of the social distancing, washing your hands, doing everything that we talked about,” Birx.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Birx: US learning from China South Korea

Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said the U.S. is learning from China and South Korea.

“The two areas that have moved through their curve is China and South Korea. So those are the two countries that we’re learning from. Those were 8-10 week curves. Each state and each hot spot in the United States is going to be its own curve because the seed came in at different times.”

– Jeanine Santucci

Trump declines to say whether he will ease social distancing measures

President Donald Trump declined to say directly that he would ease social distancing measures in order to restart the economy next week, but suggested guidelines could be different based on how hard a state or location has been hit.

“You’ll see what happens,” Trump said. “It’s not going to be three or four months” before life returns to normal, Trump said. “Parts of our country are very lightly affected.”

“At a certain point we have to get open,” Trump said. “We have to get moving. We don’t want to lose these companies…We’ll be doing something relatively quickly.”

– John Fritze

Trump agrees coronavirus cases will jump

President Donald Trump said he agreed with the surgeon general’s prediction that the number of coronavirus cases would jump.

“This is going to be bad,” Trump said. “We’re trying to make it so it’s much, much less bad.”

Trump said he agreed with public health officials that the death rate from the virus would be “bad,” but he also returned to comparing coronavirus to the seasonal flu.

“It’s going to be bad,” Trump said. “We have a lot of people dying from the flu. Certainly this is going to be bad. And we’re trying to make it so that it’s much, much less bad.”

– Michael Collins and John Fritze

Pence: ‘self-collected swabs’ for tests will soon be available

Vice President Mike Pence said “self-collected swabs” for the coronavirus would soon be available, so Americans can test themselves for infection.

“This will expedite the testing process,” Pence said, and also “reduce the risk to health care providers.”

He said the tests would be available at clinics and drive-through testing sites, but did not say where or how soon.

Pence said the test is “less invasive,” collected at the end of the nasal passage. Trump and others have described the test as unpleasant because the swab goes so far up the nose.

Pence said 313,000 coronavirus tests have been completed in the U.S. A little more than 41,000 Americans have contracted the virus, he added.

– Michael Collins

Pence: Facebook donated more than 700,000 masks

Vice President Mike Pence said Facebook donated its reserve of over 700,000 masks, which they had because of wildfires in California.

“Health workers urgently need more protective gear,” Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook on Sunday. “To help, Facebook donated our emergency reserve of 720,000 masks that we had bought in case the wildfires continued. We’re also working on sourcing millions of more to donate. I hope you’re all staying healthy and safe!”

– Jeanine Santucci

Trump abandons ‘Chinese virus’ in opening remarks

President Donald Trump abandoned the term “Chinese virus” in his opening remarks at a press conference about the coronavirus Monday, the first time he has done so in days.

Trump, who has drawn criticism for echoing the term, generally uses it in his opening remarks. Instead, Trump echoed an earlier tweet suggesting that Asian Americans should be “protected” and not blamed for a virus that researchers believe began in China.

“The spreading of the virus is not their fault in any way shape or form,” Trump said.

Trump had frequently referred to coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” despite mounting criticism among Asian-American advocates, health experts and Democratic lawmakers who warn referring to the virus by a location-specific name stigmatizes ethnic groups.

– John Fritze

Birx: no child under 15 has died in Europe

Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said one child age 14 died of the virus in China, but no child under 15 has died of the virus in Europe.

“That should be reassuring to the moms and dads out there,” she said.

Birx also said the New York metro area of New Jersey, New York City and parts of Long Island have an attack rate close to one in 1,000, which fives times what other areas are seeing.

– Michael Collins

Trump signs order prohibiting hoarding

President Donald Trump said he signed an executive order to prohibit the hoarding medical equipment and supplies, including hand sanitizers and face masks.

The order designates certain medical supplies as “scarce,” he said, which makes it a crime to stockpile these items.

“We will not allow anyone to exploit the suffering of American citizens for their own profit,” Trump said.

Barr: Hoarders, expect ‘a knock on the door’

U.S. Attorney General William Barr said the Justice Department plans to identify cases in which hoarding may be interfering with efforts to address large medical supply shortages at hospitals across the country. Barr said the administration convened their first task force meeting to address issues of price gouging.

He added the Justice Department was not seeking out consumers or businesses stockpiling supplies for their own operations, but people hoarding on an industrial scale.

“If you have a big supply of toilet paper in your house this is not something you have to worry about,” he said. But if you’re hoarding masks in a warehouse, “then you’re going to get a knock on the door.”

– Courtney Subramanian and John Fritze 

Trump: new protocols being considered to allow local economies to ‘cautiously resume’

President Donald Trump said Monday the federal government will use data “to recommend new protocols to allow local economies to cautiously resume their activity at the appropriate time.”

He did not say when those protocols would be rolled out as the coronavirus spreads across the U.S.

“America will again, and soon, be open for business – a lot sooner than three or four moths, which somebody was suggesting,” he said.

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He said once the medical community “gives the OK,” certain places will be free to end the social distancing practices and other restrictions imposed to stop the spread of the virus.

Trump also encouraged Congress to pass a stimulus now being negotiated in the Senate.

“Now Congress must demonstrate the same bipartisanship again and join together to pass the Senate bill as written, and avoid playing any more partisan games,” he said.

What else was said at the news conference:

  • Trump said coronavirus started out as a medical problem, and the U.S. will not allow it to become a financial problem.

  • Trump announced the postponement for the deadline for compliance with real ID requirements.

  • Trump said the U.S. brought home 103 American citizens stranded in Brazil. Most of them were senior citizens.

  • Trump said 148 countries are now affected by coronavirus. But, “we will be back in business as a country pretty soon.”

– John Fritze and Michael Collins 

Trump: ‘We totally protect our Asian American community’

President Donald Trump called for protecting the Asian American community on Monday amid criticism that by using the term “Chinese virus” to describe the coronavirus pandemic he has stigmatized Chinese Americans.

“It is very important that we totally protect our Asian American community in the United States, and all around the world,” Trump tweeted Monday minutes before a White House briefing on coronavirus. “They are amazing people, and the spreading of the Virus is NOT their fault in any way, shape, or form. They are working closely with us to get rid of it. WE WILL PREVAIL TOGETHER!”

Coronavirus:Trump weighs easing of tough coronavirus guidelines amid growing alarm about economy

Trump reiterated his call to protect the Asian American community at a Monday evening press conference.

Trump has repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” despite mounting criticism among Asian-American advocates, health experts and Democratic lawmakers who warn referring to the virus by a location-specific name stigmatizes certain ethnic groups.

The World Health Organization has urged people to be careful with language used to describe COVID-19, insisting that it not be referred to as the “Chinese” or “Wuhan” virus. Any mention of location could lead to discrimination or stigmatization, the group warns. Researchers say coronavirus originated in China and Trump has defended his use of the term as “accurate.”

“It’s not racist at all, no,” Trump told reporters last week when pressed on the term. “It comes from China. I want to be accurate.”

– John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian 

Poll: More Americans approve of governors’ response to coronavirus than Trump’s

More Americans say the country’s governors are handling the unfolding coronavirus crisis better than President Donald Trump, according to a Monmouth University poll released Monday.

The poll found 72% of Americans said they approved of their state governor’s response to COVID-19 compared to 50% who said Trump was doing a good job. Just 18% disapproved of their state’s governor while 45% said Trump was doing a bad job dealing with the outbreak.

The poll also fell along partisan lines, with 89% of Republicans, 48% of Independents and 19% of Democrats approving of Trump’s handling of the virus. The governors’ praise appeared to be more bipartisan with 73% of Republicans, 76% of Democrats and 67% of Independents who said their governor was doing a good job.

The poll was conducted between March 18th and 22nd with a margin of error of 3.4%.

– Courtney Subramanian

What’s in the Democrats’ stimulus counter-offer?

House Democrats are proposing a financial rescue plan to help the nation recover from the coronavirus pandemic that, at $2.5 trillion, would dwarf the roughly $2 trillion package Republicans and the Trump administration have been touting.

The package, released Monday afternoon by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., would provide $1,500 to every individual, up to $7,500 for a family of five. The benefit “would be available to anyone with an individual taxpayer identification number, as well as to our nation’s retirees and unemployed individuals,” according to an outline obtained by USA TODAY.

The plan also would:

  • Eliminate medical costs for all Americans, even those uninsured, for treatments and vaccines (When one is developed) relating to COVID-19.
  • Provide $150 billion to hospitals for costs related to fighting the disease.
  • Give up to $600 to workers affected by COVID-19 and eligible for unemployment compensation benefits.
  • Create a $500 billion pool of grants and interest-free loans for small businesses.
  • Supply nearly $60 billion for schools and universities to help them keep running.
  • Ensure states can carry out 2020 elections with $4 billion in grant funding for states,
  • Imposes a national requirement that states provide both 15 days of early voting and “no-excuse” absentee vote-by-mail.

Alabama Rep. Mike Rogers, the top Republicans on the House Homeland Security Committee, called the proposal “left-wing nonsense.”

 “While Americans are trying to figure out how to keep their loved ones safe and pay this month’s rent, Speaker Pelosi is trying to use this outbreak to her political advantage,” he said. “The House Democrats’ bill is just a wish list of everything they haven’t been able to accomplish.”

Ledyard King and Nicholas Wu

Stimulus package stalls again in Senate

WASHINGTON – An effort in the Senate to move forward with a nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package to combat the coronavirus crisis has stalled for the second day in a row over continued disagreements between Republicans and Democrats.

The largely party-line vote (with Republican for and Democrats against) was 49-46 to end debate and move forward. Sixty votes were needed to advance the measure for a final floor vote.

The measure is designed to provide direct payments to most Americans, throw a lifeline to small businesses shuttered across the country, and rescue large industries, such as the airlines, battered by the coronavirus crisis. But Democrats want more protections for workers from layoffs and loss of heath coverage, more money for states to deal with the crisis, and more aid for students facing student debt repayment.

After the vote, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell angrily dismissed the Democratic opposition as “procedural obstruction” that could delay a vote on the measure until the end of the week.

“Democrats take responsibility for our workers who require that any corporation that takes taxpayer dollars must protect their workers wages and benefits, not CEO pay, stock buybacks or layoffs,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said after the Senate vote. “The Senate Republican bill put corporations first, but because of the insistence of leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Democrats, progress has been made.”

– Ledyard King

State Department tracking 13,000 Americans stranded abroad

The State Department is tracking at least 13,500 Americans who are stranded abroad and need U.S. help getting back to the United States, a senior official told reporters on Monday.

The State Department has already brought about 5,000 Americans home from 17 countries, and officials are hoping to bring another 1,600 U.S. citizens back this week from countries across the globe.

“We’re looking at 16 or so flights in the next five days and about 1,600 passengers identified for those flights with room for more,” said this official, who briefed reporters on the condition of anonymity.

“It has been a lot of hard work and it is going to be a lot of hard work going forward,” this person said. “We are devoting all of our resources to this.”

The State Department has set up a call center to help marooned Americans, but officials say the best way to get on the agency’s radar is to register online with the agency’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program, called STEP.

 “The only way to find someone is if they are registering with STEP. That’s how we build the manifests for these flights,” the person said.

The call center phone number is 202-501-4444 for those overseas and 888-407-4747 for those calling within the U.S. on behalf of stranded family or friends.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Pentagon to deploy field hospitals to New York, Seattle

The Pentagon plans to deploy field hospitals to New York and Seattle later this week to help those cities deal with the coronavirus pandemic, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Monday.

The Army’s largest field hospitals can accommodate 248 beds, he said. More of the mobile facilities will be offered in coming weeks. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy’s hospital ship, the Mercy, is set to sail to Los Angeles as soon as today. The USS Comfort, the Navy’s other hospital ship, is being repaired. It is scheduled to sail to New York in April.

The disease has forced the military to cancel some training exercises, and Esper acknowledged that the virus could affect the Pentagon’s readiness to conduct combat missions if it worsens. He said 133 troops were being treated for the illness.

At the Pentagon, about 60% of the workforce has been telecommuting, Esper said. Security has tightened, he said, and screening of visitors for fever may begin soon.

– Tom Vanden Brook

Rand Paul: people without symptoms need testing

A day after announcing he became the first senator to contract coronavirus, Sen. Rand Paul urged his colleagues on Capitol Hill to get tested for COVID-19 as well.

“I believe we need more testing immediately, even among those without symptoms,” the Kentucky Republican said in a statement shared with reporters. “I had no symptoms and no specific encounter with a COVID-19 positive person.  I had, however, traveled extensively in the U.S. and was required to continue doing so to vote in the Senate.  That, together with the fact that I have a compromised lung, led me to seek testing.  Despite my positive test result, I remain asymptomatic for COVID-19.”

Federal guidelines discourage testing for those who are not showing symptoms even if they have come in contact with someone who has tested positive or is believed to have been exposed.

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“For those who want to criticize me for lack of quarantine, realize that if the rules on testing had been followed to a tee, I would never have been tested and would still be walking around the halls of the Capitol,” Paul said. “The current guidelines would not have called for me to get tested nor quarantined.  It was my extra precaution, out of concern for my damaged lung, that led me to get tested.”

Paul is one three members of Congress, including Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah who have announced they’ve tested positive.

– Ledyard King

‘This is unbelievable’: Senators get testy over stimulus delay

Tensions rose on the Senate floor Monday as lawmakers struggled to reach an agreement on a historic bailout package while the health and economic crisis caused by the coronavirus continued to escalate.

“Take a deep breath,” Minority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said as senators bickered over whose fault it is that there’s no deal yet. “Everyone is emotional at this moment on both sides of the aisle. But we have a job to do.”

Durbin’s comments came after Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., went after his Democratic counterparts – particularly House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

McConnell blamed Pelosi for undermining negotiations, saying things were going fine until she got involved.

“Get with the program,” McConnell said. “It’s time to pass historic relief. The country doesn’t have time for these political games.”

Durbin said he knows Pelosi “really unnerves a lot of people on that side of the aisle.” But, he said Pelosi wanting to be part of negotiations “is not an outrageous idea.”

At one point, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., blocked a routine request to speak from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

“Oh, come on,” Collins said. “This is unbelievable.”

Schumer said he objected to get clarity on the schedule as he continues to negotiate changes Democrats want to make to GOP package.

– Maureen Groppe

Pelosi unveils counter-offer to GOP stimulus bill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled on Monday a counter-offer to the GOP stimulus proposal that includes priorities congressional Democrats have been pushing for in round-the-clock negotiations with GOP leaders and the Trump administration.

It includes:

  • Requiring President Donald Trump to invoke the Defense Production Act to order private companies to manufacture respirators, masks and other needed equipment.
  • Providing more workers guaranteed paid family and medical leave.
  • Using nearly $40 billion to help states stabilize school funding and help colleges continue operating during the crisis.
  • Giving states billions in grant funding to help hold elections, including expanding early, absentee and mail voting.

Speaking on a conference call with reporters, Pelosi said the bill Democrats would introduce this afternoon would be “worker-oriented, not giving away the store” to corporations.

Speaking on the Senate floor Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blamed Pelosi for undermining negotiations on a nearly $2 trillion package designed to provide direct payments to most Americans, throw a lifeline to small businesses, and rescue large industries, such as the airlines, battered by the coronavirus crisis.

“We were this close and then the speaker of the House flew back from San Francisco (Sunday) and turned this into this left-wing episode of Supermarket Sweep,” he said, referring to the TV game show where contestants race through a grocery store grabbing items before time runs out. “Unrelated issues left and right.”

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, third from left, and White House Legislative Affairs Director Eric Ueland, left, walk to a meeting with Senate Minority Leader Sen. Chuck Schumer on Monday.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer remained optimistic a deal would be reached Monday.

“We’re very close to reaching a deal. Very close. Our goal is to reach a deal today. And we’re hopeful, even confident, that we will meet that goal,” said Schumer, D-N.Y. But, he added, “We have the obligation to get the details right.”

– Ledyard King and Maureen Groppe

Maryland, Massachusetts, Indiana tighten coronavirus measures

Republican governors in Maryland and Massachusetts on Monday ordered the closure of non-essential businesses, stopping short of shelter-in-place orders but taking the most drastic actions to date in both states.

The Maryland order goes into effect 5 p.m. EDT, while the Massachusetts order begins Tuesday at noon and extends to April 7.

Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said he felt the measure was necessary because too many people were ignoring his order to avoid crowds of 10 or more, “literally endangering the lives” of others.

The executive orders in both states do not include industries deemed essential in guidelines issued last week by the federal government such as health care, food, agriculture, energy, first responders, transportation and public works. Liquor stores will also be exempt and restaurants can continue to serve to-go food.

“By taking this action now, we can significantly improve our position in this fight to slow down the spread of this virus,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said.

Baker issued a stay-at-home advisory, which urges everyone to stay home and limit “unnecessary activities,” but he made clear he doesn’t believe ordering people to their homes is the right call.

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He added: “There’s been a lot of talk about a government mandating people shelter in their homes. I do not believe I can or should order U.S. citizens to be confined to their homes days on end. It doesn’t make sense from a public health point of view and it’s not realistic.”

In Massachusetts, there have been 646 confirmed cases of the coronaries virus and five deaths. Maryland has 288 confirmed cases.

In Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb ordered his state’s residents to remain in their homes except for certain permitted activities, such as caring for others and ordering supplies.

– William Cummings and Joey Garrison

67 House members call for remote voting

Dozens of House lawmakers are calling on House leaders to adopt a temporary rule that allows remote voting by members during national emergencies, such as the current coronavirus crisis.

“My constituents need a voice in Congress right now,” Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif., said after he and 66 other members asked the Rules Committee to make the change. “It is critical that no matter how this crisis develops, I can continue to advocate for working families in my district—no matter where I am physically. And every Member of Congress should be able to do the same.”

The request to the Rules Committee, which is examining the issue, comes a day after Kentucky GOP Sen. Rand Paul’s announcement that he tested positive for COVID-19 rattled the Senate. Nearly three dozen congressional lawmakers have announced steps to self-quarantine, or otherwise isolate themselves as a precaution.

North Dakota GOP Sen. Kevin Cramer backed the change as well, tweeting that “extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures.”

Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin implored his colleagues to move to remote voting during a speech on the Senate floor Monday, calling it “naïve for us to believe that that is the end of the challenge to our membership.”

“We should not be physically present on this floor at this moment,” said Durbin, the No. 2 Senate Democrat. “Too many of our colleagues and their families are falling prey to this disease.”

Not long after he spoke, Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri could be seen wiping down the desk of the presiding officer after taking over floor duties as debate continued.

– Ledyard King and Maureen Groppe

Fed says it will purchase securities to support markets

Pressure was building on Congress to break its logjam on a coronavirus rescue package.

Stocks slid again Monday despite the Federal Reserve’s decision to launch an expansion of lending programs to help the economy.

A week after the U.S. markets posted their worst week since the financial crisis, the Dow Jones Industrial Average was down as much as 500 points in the opening minutes of trading.

The Fed said it plans to purchase an unlimited amount of Treasurys and mortgage securities in a bid to support financial markets. It also said that it would purchase commercial mortgage-backed securities as part of an expansion in its asset purchases, known in the market as quantitative easing.

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A trader holds his hand to his head after trading was halted at the New York Stock Exchange, Wednesday, March 18, 2020, in New York.

“We’ve got a lot of promise from the Fed, but they’re still going to need help from Congress,” says Scott Colyer, chief executive at Advisors Asset Management. “Does the Fed’s latest move solve our virus problem? No. Does it solve our unemployment problem? No. But it does allow markets to function. At the end of last week, we were sorely in need of that.”

– Jessica Menton and Ledyard King

On anniversary of signing, Obama says ACA needed more than ever

Former President Barack Obama recognized the 10-year-anniversary of his signing of the Affordable Care Act Monday in a tweet about the significance of the landmark law to the current health care crisis.

“It’s still under attack right when we need care the most,” Obama tweeted. “We have to protect it, build on it, until we cover everyone.”

The law expanding health insurance coverage and protections is once again in the courts, under a challenge brought by Republican attorneys general that is supported by the Trump administration.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, who famously described the law as a “big (expletive) deal” in a private comment that was picked up by a microphone at the bill signing ceremony, sent a letter to Trump and the lead GOP attorneys general Monday urging them to drop the lawsuit. Biden is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination to take on Trump in the fall.

Trump was asked Sunday at the daily White House briefing on the coronavirus whether he would reconsider his position because of the pandemic.

“What we want to do is get rid of the bad health care and put in a great health care,” Trump said.

The administration has not put forward an alternative to ACA after Republicans in Congress were unable to pass their bill.

The U.S. Supreme Court, which has already upheld the law twice, will take up the latest suit in their next term. It’s likely to be scheduled for oral argument in the fall and a decision in 2021.

– Maureen Groppe

Klobuchar’s husband hospitalized with COVID-19

The husband of Sen. Amy Klobuchar has been hospitalized with COVID-19 and pneumonia, the Minnesota Democrat and former presidential candidate announced Monday.

Klobuchar said she is not getting tested for the virus, on the advice of her doctor, because she and her husband have not been together for the past two weeks and she is outside the 14-day period for getting sick.

“As everyone is aware, there are test shortages for people who need them everywhere and I don’t qualify to get one under any standard,” Klobuchar said in a statement.

She said her husband, John Bessler,  professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, immediately quarantined himself when he started to feel sick even though he thought it was just a cold.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., center, flanked by her husband John Bessler and daughter Abigail, poses for a picture with guests during a campaign stop in Mason City, Iowa on Feb. 2.

But his high temperature and bad cough persisted. When he started coughing up blood, he got tested and was checked into a Virginia hospital because his blood showed low oxygen levels, among other concerns. Bessler is now receiving oxygen but is not on a ventilator, according to Klobuchar’s statement.

“I love my husband so very much and not being able to be there at the hospital by his side is one of the hardest things about this disease,” Klobuchar said. She and their daughter, Abigail, have been “constantly calling and texting and emailing.”

Bessler is the first congressional spouse who is known to have COVID-19.

Three members of Congress – Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Reps. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., and Ben McAdams, D-Utah – have announced they’ve tested positive.

– Maureen Groppe

Pentagon: COVID-19 cases nearly double over weekend

The Pentagon reported Monday that cases of coronavirus had nearly doubled to 243 troops, their family members and civilian employees.

That’s an increase of 119 patients since Friday when the number of cases totaled 124.

On Sunday, the Navy announced that three special warfare sailors training in Washington state had tested positive for the disease. They join a Navy commando who was diagnosed with COVID-19 last month.

Of the 243 COVID-19 cases, 133 are troops, seven of whom are hospitalized. Over the weekend, the Pentagon also reported its first death, that of a contract employee. So far, four troops and one civilian employee have recovered.

– Tom Vanden Brook

Trump signals he may lift federal coronavirus guidelines

President Donald Trump signaled in a tweet overnight that he is considering lifting social distancing guidelines that may be slowing the spread of the coronavirus but are hurting the economy.

“WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF,” Trump posted on Twitter just before midnight in Washington. “AT THE END OF THE 15 DAY PERIOD, WE WILL MAKE A DECISION AS TO WHICH WAY WE WANT TO GO!”

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Public health officials, including those at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, have recommended Americans work from home when they can and not congregate at restaurants or other businesses. The administration rolled out a 15-day plan on March 16 to “bend the curve” of new coronavirus cases.

Many of those officials, including Surgeon General Jerome Adams, have said that two weeks is “likely not enough time” to halt the spread of the virus in the country.

“If everyone makes this change or these critical changes and sacrifices now, we will rally together as one nation and we will defeat the virus,” Trump said at the time. “And we’re going to have a big celebration all together.”

President Trump warns coronavirus response could last until August

Trump retweeted two users Monday morning who used similar language to urge that, at the end of 15 days, only “high risk groups” be isolated and that the rest of Americans go “back to work.”

Yet the restrictions are having a major impact on the economy. The Labor Department reported a 30% increase in unemployment claims last week. James Bullard, president of the St. Louis branch of the Federal Reserve Bank, predicted the unemployment rate could hit 30% in the U.S.

Several states, including New York, California and Illinois, have imposed stricter social distancing requirements. Even if Trump eased the federal guidelines next week it would not affect orders signed by governors in those and other states.

– John Fritze and David Jackson

Fauci addresses Trump’s coronavirus claims

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has become the face of the White House’s scientific and medical response to the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak, frequently appearing alongside President Donald Trump during task force news conferences.

But he and the president have not always agreed on the facts surrounding the outbreak.

Remote voting:Tradition-bound Congress considers voting remotely as coronavirus illnesses hit home

For example, after Trump played up a drug used to treat malaria as a potential “game-changer” in the fight against coronavirus, Fauci said the only evidence that the drug could be helpful was “anecdotal.” Fauci has also contradicted Trump on the timetable for a vaccine and the severity of the outbreak.

In an interview with Science magazine, Fauci said that he and Trump don’t disagree on substantive issues.

“Even though we disagree on some things, he listens. He goes his own way. He has his own style,” Fauci said. “But on substantive issues, he does listen to what I say.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, speaks to the USA TODAY Editorial Board on Feb. 17, 2020.

But he said during news conferences, the president says things “in a way that I would not express it, because it could lead to some misunderstanding about what the facts are about a given subject.”

When asked about Trump’s claim that China could have told the world about the coronavirus three or four months earlier, Fauci grew defensive.

“What do you want me to do? I mean, seriously Jon, let’s get real, what do you want me to do?” he asked Science staff writer Jon Cohen.

– William Cummings

Why can’t Congress agree?

As Congress negotiates over the stimulus package, here are the main sticking points:

  • Both sides want to give businesses a lifeline amid shutdowns that threaten to plunge the economy into a deep recession. Democrats want tough provisions to prevent corporations that receive federal bailouts from later engaging in stock buybacks that enrich their executives. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said his bill already includes Democrats’ demands for conditions on loans and other aide to major businesses.
  • Democrats have called for provisions that would temporarily block evictions and foreclosures as families struggle with lost income. They also want additional funding for food stamps and an expansion of unemployment benefits.
  • Democrats and Republicans are also wrangling over how much money should go to hospitals and health providers to help them deal with the crisis.

– Deirdre Shesgreen

Senate to convene at noon EDT

The Senate will try again Monday to break its logjam over an emergency stimulus package intended to stem the damage from the coronavirus pandemic. Democrats, who are pushing for more restrictions on corporate bailouts, negotiated late into the night with the Trump administration on the details of the legislation.

Senators are planning to reconvene at noon.

The impasse in Congress weighed heavily on the battered stock market, which had its worst week since the financial crisis last week.

On Sunday evening, futures for the Dow Jones industrial average tumbled more than 900 points while Standard & Poor’s 500 futures fell 5%, triggering an automatic shock absorber.

The Senate is expected to convene at noon EDT.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., blasted Democrats Sunday for opposing the GOP-crafted coronavirus rescue package and said he hoped they would have a “change of heart” after the U.S. financial markets opened Monday morning. McConnell noted there were already signs of another bad day on Wall Street as Congress remained gridlocked over how to help laid-off workers and shuttered businesses.

– Caren Bohan, Ledyard King, Jessica Menton 

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