WASHINGTON - In a Tuesday press briefing, Dr. Deborah Birx of the White House Coronavirus Task Force spoke on how New York City has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, noting how those who have recently left the city may have been exposed and should be self-quarantining for the next 14 days. Those still in the city should still be following the presidential guidelines as well, Birx noted.
Vice President Mike Pence also requested that anyone in the New York City area headed to any other part of the country self-isolate for 14 days.
While praising the efforts undertaken by the private sector to help in the pandemic, Pence cited how Apple plans to donate 9 million N95 masks to healthcare facilities all across the country.
In the briefing, White House Chief Economic Advisor Larry Kudlow discussed the proposed $6 trillion coronavirus economic relief program, calling it the single-largest main street assistance program in the history of the United States. Kudlow noted how the program would allow companies to maintain their payrolls and said that families of four would receive a direct deposit check of $3,000 to help them through the pandemic.
The $6 trillion package would be comprised of $2 trillion slated for direct assistance and $4 trillion for lending power.
President Donald Trump reiterated in the briefing his earlier stated hopes that the coronavirus pandemic would be fully addressed and Americans would be back to work by Easter, despite ongoing advisories from public health organizations regarding the need to continue practicing prevention measures to stop the spread of COVID-19 to keep related deaths and illnesses from overwhelming the health care system.
The president praised the efforts taken by FEMA and businesses to help provide needed supplies during the pandemic. "We should never be reliant on another country for the means of our own survival," Trump also said, regarding his belief in the importance of having strong borders.
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After days of pressure, unusual partisanship in a crisis, and intense haggling over the fine print, negotiators appeared almost done with a nearly $2 trillion bill to respond to what Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called "the most serous threat to Americans' health in over a century and quite likely the greatest risk to America's jobs and prosperity that we've seen since the Great Depression.”
Yet even as the public-health crisis deepened, Trump expressed eagerness to nudge many people back to work in coming weeks and held out a prospect, based more on hope than science, that the country could be returning to normal in less than a month.
“We have to go back to work, much sooner than people thought,” he said in a FOX News town hall. He said he'd like to have the country “opened up and just raring to go” by Easter, April 12.
Medical professionals say social distancing needs to be stepped up, not relaxed, to slow the spread of infections.
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and congressional leaders engaged in final negotiations after a tumultuous but productive day on Monday. While the two sides have resolved many issues in the sweeping package, some sticking points remained. A Senate vote appeared likely on Wednesday, with a House vote to follow.
“We're trying to finalize all the documents, going through a lot of complicated issues, and we're making a lot of progress,” Mnuchin said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.