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Trump says he’s no longer shaking hands, following coronavirus guidance

President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence and members of the White House Coronavirus Task Force, announces a national emergency to further combat the Coronavirus outbreak, at a news conference Friday, March 13, 2020, in the Rose Garden of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

When asked about reports that the State Department may advise Americans not to travel, Trump told reporters: “We’re speaking with the State Department later.”

Politico reported Thursday that the State Department will issue an advisory that instructs Americans not to travel abroad and for Americans overseas to either return to the United States or stay where they are.

Surgeon General: ‘Give blood today’

Amid all the talk of social distancing, Surgeon General Jerome Adams used a White House news conference Thursday to urge that Americans donate blood.

One donation can save three lives, Adams said. He added that blood donation centers are taking precautionary measures to ensure it is safe for donors, such as spacing donation beds six feet apart and regularly taking the temperature of staff members.

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“Social distancing does not have to mean social disengagement,” Adams said. “So give blood today.”

Pence: 3M ramping up mask production

Vice President Mike Pence said Thursday that Minnesota-based 3M had significantly increased production of N95 masks needed by front line health care workers, but it was unclear when those masks would make it to hospitals and medical offices.

Pence said 3M ramped up production to 35 million masked per month. Pressed on when those masks would get to health care workers, Pence said “they’re in the marketplace now. We’ve vastly increased the supply of medical masks.”

FDA commissioner: new coronavirus therapies could take ‘three to six months’

Food and Drug Commissioner Stephen Hahn said it could take “three to six months” to develop new therapies specifically designed to address coronavirus.

In the meantime, Hahn said the agency is looking at the impact several currently approved drugs may have on patients.

“They’re looking at pushing that to the months period of time,” Hahn said. He estimated the approval of a vaccine at about 12 months.

Trump mentioned at least two drugs that researchers are studying and that he said the FDA is focusing on. One of them, hydroxychloroquine, is a drug that has long been approved for malaria. Another drug, remdesivir, is an experimental antiviral.

Trump expressed optimism about the drugs, but FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn said the agency was still studying their efficacy.

When will life return to normal?: ‘I hope very soon,’ says Trump

President Donald Trump said he hopes American life can return to normal “very soon” after coronavirus defense measures have shutdown schools, offices, restaurants and many other aspects of business and social life.

Asked when Americans can go back to their regular lives, Trump said: “I hope very soon. We’ll see. This is uncharted territory.”

FEMA in charge of coronavirus response

Vice President Mike Pence said Trump has put Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in charge of the coronavirus response.

Pence said he and Trump will hold a teleconference today with the nation’s governors from FEMA headquarters.

Rep. Judy Chu slams Trump’s use of ‘Chinese virus’

Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif., the chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus, slammed President Donald Trump’s use of “Chinese virus” in the coronavirus task force press conference Thursday and in his tweets.

“No matter how much he calls it the ‘Chinese virus,’ no matter how many hate crimes he incites, Donald Trump cannot hide from his own failure to address this crisis from the beginning,” Chu wrote in a tweet.

Trump has continued to use “Chinese virus” to refer to the coronavirus despite advocates’ and health experts’ calls to avoid using names that could stigmatize certain ethnic communities.

American prisoner in Lebanon released amid coronavirus pandemic

President Donald Trump said Thursday that an American imprisoned in Lebanon will be allowed to return to the United States, as his administration ramps up pressure on foreign governments to release detained US citizens amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Trump was referring to Amer Fakhoury, who has faced months of detention despite being diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma.

The State Department said Fakhoury “is returning to the United States where he will be reunited with his family and receive urgent medical treatment. His return comes as a relief to those who have followed the case with grave concern.”

Trump announced Fakhoury’s release during a coronavirus briefing at the White House on Thursday, saying release of U.S. hostages “continues to be a top priority for my administration.”

Trump said he’s no longer shaking hands

After drawing criticism for shaking hands with public health officials at a Rose Garden event last week, President Donald Trump said Thursday he was dropping the practice – at least for now.

Trump introduced Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Stephen Hahn during a briefing at the White House, but said his greetings would remain verbal only.

“I’d shake his hand but I’m not supposed to do that,” Trump said.

Trump has been heavily criticized for not modeling “social distancing” medical experts have said is needed to contain the contagion. At a Rose Garden news conference last Friday, he clasped hands with an array of officials who joined him at the podium.

Trump: FDA looking at therapies still being tested to fight coronavirus

President Donald Trump said the Food and Drug Administration is looking at using therapies that are still being tested in the fight against coronavirus.

Trump, during a news conference with the coronavirus task force on Thursday, praised FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn for “removing barriers” to new therapies that can help fight coronavirus.

Trump continued to express optimism that the U.S. will “win” the fight against coronavirus

“It’s too bad because we’ve never had an economy as good as the economy we had just a few weeks ago,” he said. “But we’ll be back.”

Trump says things appear to be going well on Capitol Hill, where the White House and Congress are currently negotiating a massive economic stimulus plan to combat the impacts of coronavirus. The plan could include checks for Americans and bailouts for major industries.

What else was said at the briefing:

Trump said Hahn, who is a member of the coronavirus task force, “has been working 24 hours a day. He has worked probably as hard or harder than anybody in this group other than Mike Pence – or me.”

Trump said a U.S. prisoner in Lebanon is returning to the United States, saying the return of hostages “continues to be a top priority for my administration.”

Trump said almost the whole world is inflicted “with this horrible virus,” saying it “surprised the whole world.”

Trump praised Americans for pulling together during the pandemic, including lawmakers. “I think there’s a great spirit where the Democrats and the Republicans and everybody else are getting together and they’re trying to get things done.”

Asked if he could guarantee that coronavirus stimulus money would not be used by companies for executive bonuses or stock buybacks, Trump said: “We don’t want that. … It’s hard to tell them not to, but I would tell them not to.”

Guard chief says 27 states have activated National Guardsmen

The chief of the National Guard Bureau on Thursday compared the coronavirus crisis to hurricanes hitting all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia simultaneously.

Governors in 27 states have activated Guardsmen for missions including medical testing, transportation and distributing food, Air Force Gen. Joseph Lengyel said.

There are 2,050 Guardsmen called to duty because of the virus, and that number is likely to double by the weekend, he said.

“This could quickly blossom in the next couple of weeks,” Lengyel said.

Iran releases detained American amid coronavirus outbreak

The Iranian government has temporarily released Michael White, a Navy veteran from California, from an Iranian prison where he’s been held since July 2018, the State Department announced on Thursday.

The Trump administration has increased its pressure on Iran and other foreign governments to release detained Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“Michael White, who has been wrongfully detained by the Iranian regime since 2018 and is serving a 13-year sentence, was released today on a medical furlough,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “His release on humanitarian grounds was conditioned upon him staying in Iran. Michael is now in the custody of the Swiss embassy and will undergo medical testing and evaluation.”

White was arrested in July 2018, after reportedly going to the country to visit his girlfriend. He was charged and convicted of insulting Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and posting private information online, according to media reports.

Pompeo called on the Iranian government to release other detained Americans amid the coronavirus pandemic. Iran has been particularly hard hit by the disease.

Mnuchin offers timeline for $1,000 payments if stimulus passes

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said the Trump administration wants checks of $1,000 per person and $500 per child to go out within three weeks of Congress passing a stimulus package.

“The plan is $500 billion in two tranches,” Mnuchin said on Fox Business’ Mornings with Maria. “The first one would be $1,000 per person, $500 per child,” or $3,000 for a family of four, Mnuchin said. “As soon as Congress passes this, we will get this out in three weeks, and then six weeks later, if the president still has a national emergency, we’ll deliver another $3,000.”

Breaking down the administration’s trillion-dollar proposal, Mnuchin said he also wanted $300 billion to go towards small businesses for “hiring people, keeping people on the payroll, and if they do, there will be loan forgiveness.”

Another component involved $200 billion for “securing lending to airlines, and for other critical industries.”

Mnuchin’s plan has not been approved by Congress. Negotiations between congressional leaders and the White House are ongoing.

Pentagon reports 81 coronavirus cases

The Pentagon reported 81 cases of coronavirus Thursday, down eight cases from Wednesday. The military report includes troops, their families, civilian employees and contractors.

There was an uptick of two troops to 51 cases on Thursday.

The military continues to house 1,431 passenger in quarantine from the Grand Princess cruise ship.

More lawmakers self-quarantining

Several members of the House of Representatives announced they would voluntarily go into self-quarantine after two members of the House announced Wednesday they tested positive for the coronavirus.

At least a half-dozen lawmakers said they would go into self-quarantine after Reps. Mario Diaz Balart, R-Fla., and Rep. Ben McAdams, D-Utah, announced their positive tests Wednesday evening.

The following lawmakers announced self-quarantines after coming into contact with lawmakers who tested positive:

Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla.

Rep. Kendra Horn, D-Okla.

Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo.

Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y.

Rep. Steve Scalise, R-La.

Rep. Drew Ferguson, R-Ga.

Rep. Joe Cunningham, D-S.C.

Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla.

Rep. Anthony Brindisi, D-N.Y.

Congress’ Attending Physician Brian Monahan updated his guidance to lawmakers after the positive tests. The attending physician’s website said the offices and locations found to be “at risk” after contact with those infected were being cleaned and disinfected. Contact with infected lawmakers on the House floor was “considered to be low risk exposures” and did not require any additional action from lawmakers besides reporting illness, he said.

“It reflects the pace of the COVID-19 disease throughout the United States and its presence here in Washington, D.C., that it has touched the community of the U.S. Capitol,” Monahan said in a statement.

One member of Congress, Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., said Congress might need to change the way it does business and reconsider remote voting as an option.

“For the safety of our communities, during this emergency, we must be able to legislate from our districts,” she wrote on Twitter.

Democratic and Republican leaders in both chambers, however, have poured cold water on the idea.

Working from home? Coronavirus keeps Trump cooped up, too

President Donald Trump has been cooped up in the White House since returning to Washington from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago, on March 9. The 10-day period is the longest uninterrupted stretch Trump has stayed inside the White House, according to a USA TODAY analysis of the president’s schedule compiled by the website Factba.se.

The president will break the streak Thursday if he keeps to his schedule in the afternoon to visit the headquarters of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Trump has appeared before reporters virtually every day during that time to update the public on the administration’s response to the pandemic, usually in a White House press briefing room.

Trump’s tightened schedule has apparently left less time for events outside the White House.

The president’s last rally took place on March 2 in Charlotte, N.C. On March 6, he visited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and toured tornado damage in Tennessee before heading to Florida for the weekend. He hasn’t left the White House since.

Trump and first lady Melania had scheduled a dinner with Vice President Mike Pence and second lady Karen Pence on March 11, but those plans were canceled when the president delivered an address to the nation about COVID-19 that night.

Trump rarely goes more than a week without leaving the White House. The last time he approached such a long uninterrupted stretch in the White House was in January during the government shutdown, according to the analysis. Trump ditched his usual winter Florida sojourn to negotiate with Democrats over the impasse.

Schumer says he’s meeting with McConnell on stimulus bill

In an interview on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said he would meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell today as negotiations continue over a massive stimulus package that could include checks for Americans affected by the coronavirus.

One of the most important issues for Democrats, Schumer said, was expanded unemployment insurance for Americans laid off as a result of the coronavirus.

“We need to have the workers being paid during this huge crisis, where no one’s showing up at the restaurants and so they’re not working,” Schumer said, noting that he told Treasury Secretary Mnuchin Wednesday night the unemployment insurance provision was needed “probably more importantly than anything else.”

Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said on the “Hugh Hewitt Show” that “the priority right now” was “getting money to individuals that need it to help rebuild the economy.” Romney had pitched the idea of sending checks to Americans.

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© 2020 USA Today