Trump to push economic relief plan amid coronavirus concerns

(WASHINGTON) — President Donald Trump on Tuesday was set to push what he called a “very dramatic” economic relief plan to counter the impact of the coronavirus outbreak, and on Wall Street, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, after experiencing the biggest-ever point drop on Monday, was up close to 800 points in trading near the opening Tuesday before settling to about 300 points up later in the morning.

In a brief appearance at a White House coronavirus briefing Monday evening, Trump said reporters would be told more on Tuesday about what he called “very major” and “very substantial” proposals to deal with the novel coronavirus outbreak, which he has tried to downplay. U.S. cases jumped overnight to more than 750 infected across 36 states, leaving at least 26 Americans dead.

Trump said administration officials would meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders Tuesday to discuss his economic relief proposals, including a possible payroll tax cut and loans for small businesses, in order to combat financial hardships caused by the crisis. But any details were unclear and Republicans leaders didn’t immediately commit to supporting the ideas.

“We’re going to be meeting with House Republicans, Mitch McConnell, everybody, and discussing a possible payroll tax cut or relief. We’re also going to be talking about hourly wage earners getting help so that they can be in a position where they’re not ever going to miss a paycheck,” Trump said. “We have a great economy. We are a very strong economy, but this blindsided the world.”

Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow are scheduled to head to Capitol Hill Tuesday to meet with GOP leaders.

Tune into ABC News Live at noon ET every weekday for the latest news, context and analysis on the novel coronavirus, with the full ABC News team where we will try to answer your questions about the virus.

Trump hurled insults at Federal Reserve Chairman Jay Powell Tuesday morning, appearing to distance himself from stock market losses as the market grows uncomfortably close to ending its 11-year bull market.

“Our pathetic, slow moving Federal Reserve, headed by Jay Powell, who raised rates too fast and lowered too late, should get our Fed Rate down to the levels of our competitor nations. They now have as much as a two point advantage, with even bigger currency help. Also, stimulate!” the president tweeted. “The Federal Reserve must be a leader, not a very late follower, which it has been!”

The president’s proposals come on the heels of Democrats suggesting their own sweeping stimulus plan they said focuses on everyday American workers.

“We’re always willing to discuss something that is evidence- and science-based, that addresses the needs of families first as we go forward, because that is what needs to be done,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters Monday before the briefing.

“This is very serious, and I don’t know how seriously it was taken at first by the administration in terms of decisions that were made about tests and about turning down tests that were proven to be worthy. The list is a long one about not filling the positions that they vacated at the National Security Council that addressed this kind of a challenge in terms of epidemics and the rest. So, again, we have to see what it is.”

Later Monday night, Pelosi also released a “Dear Colleague” letter, reading, “in light of reports that the Trump Administration is considering new tax cuts for major corporations impacted by the coronavirus, Leader Schumer and I released a statement calling on the Administration to prioritize the health and safety of American workers and their families over corporate interests.”

Her letter went on to list the sweeping measures including paid sick leave, free and widespread coronavirus testing, bolstering unemployment insurance and ensuring students out of school who receive free lunch continue to get food, among other initiatives.

It also listed several officials coming to brief Democrats at their Tuesday morning caucus meeting, including the Sergeant at Arms, the Attending Physician and the Chief Administrative Officer, ”for an update on the continuity of operations protocols for the Capitol and to prepare our offices.”

When asked on ABC’s “Good Morning America” how the president might be feeling Monday morning ahead of a busy day, Senior White House Correspondent Cecilia Vega said: “I think it’s safe to say the economic impacts of the coronavirus have President Trump this morning very agitated, very worried.”

“The Democrats are really hoping that the White House will focus on what they’re calling individuals, essentially real people, working American families but here’s the reality — not even all Republicans are on board with the payroll tax,” Vega said. “It’s been floated before and have not been able to get widespread support, so a lot remains to be seen over whether they can pull it off.”

Former President Barack Obama pushed Congress to cut the payroll tax nine years ago to stimulate the economy — but it’s unlikely if Democrats will jump on board unless parts of their plan are included in the deal with the White House, she added.
MORE: Coronavirus live updates: ‘This is likely going to get worse before it gets better,’ US surgeon general says

Surgeon General Jerome Adams also appeared on “Good Morning America” Tuesday morning, to detail the state of the federal government’s response. Adams said they have moved from containment to mitigation.

“Initially we had a containment posture, and that’s outward facing, that’s saying we want to keep cases outside our community and that works when you know where the cases are coming from. Originally over 95% were coming from Japan. Now most of the cases are actually coming from Europe, South Korea and Iran and we’re looking at mitigation,” Adams said.

“Mitigation means within your community: how do you lower the impact of the virus and prevent it from spreading within those communities and things like school closures and pulling down large social gatherings and telework policies. Those are all steps that folks should be thinking about in case they have an outbreak in their communities,” he continued. “People should know that this is going to likely get worse before it gets better.”

Trump has touted his decision to close the U.S. border to China as the “best” and a “Godsend,” but Adams confirms that most cases are now being spread within American communities, not from foreign travelers entering the U.S.

When asked why the U.S. is so far behind in number of tests performed, compared to 10,000 tests in South Korea and 20,000 in the U.K, Adams said it’s because the tests are more regulated in the U.S. He implied it’s about quality over quantity and said that 4 million more tests will be ready by the end of the week.

“When we looked at the test that was going on in other parts of the world, they weren’t being held to the same quality standards that people in America expect and FDA regulations require,” Adams said. “The American people don’t really care about the total number of tests so much as they care about whether or not they can get a test. We have over a million tests that have gone out earlier this week. We expect 4 million by the end of the week and we want to get to a place where every American can rapidly get tested if their doctor says they should and can get the results back.”

The Surgeon General was also asked if big, campaign rallies are wise considering the threat of community spread. He didn’t provide a yes or no answer but said to know your risk and know your circumstances.

“If you are in one of those high risk groups, you should think carefully about the steps you can take to keep yourself safe. If you’re one of these candidates out there, make sure you’re washing your hands frequently and using hand sanitizer. Consider an elbow bump or chest tap. We don’t want people to put themselves at any undue risk.”

When Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and member of the president’s coronavirus task force, was asked the same question at Monday night’s news briefing, he provided a similar answer to Adams’, saying it’s an “evolving thing.”

“I can’t comment on campaign rallies. It really depends where we are having — as we have all said — this is something in motion. This is an evolving thing,” he said. “If you are talking about a campaign rally tomorrow in a place where there is no community spread, I think the judgment to have it might be a good judgment. If you want to talk about large gatherings in a place where you have community spread, I think that is a judgment call and if someone decides they want to cancel it I wouldn’t publicly criticize them.”

The president is expected to announce Tuesday a campaign rally scheduled for next week, while cities across the country are cancelling events such as Boston’s St. Patrick’s Day parade and Austin’s SXSW Festival amid coronavirus concerns.

Trump may be asked Tuesday why he himself has not been tested despite coming in contact with congressmen over the weekend who had been exposed to an individual infected with coronavirus.

White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham issued a statement Monday night confirming earlier ABC News reporting that the president has not been tested for the coronavirus.

“The President has not received COVID-19 testing because he has neither had prolonged close contact with any known confirmed COVID-19 patients, nor does he have any symptoms. President Trump remains in excellent health, and his physician will continue to closely monitor him,” the statement said. “Per current CDC guidelines, medical professionals should base testing decisions on patient symptoms and exposure history.”

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