Trump veers between optimistic warrior, warnings

By Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver

In this Monday, April 6, 2020, photo, a report delivered to the city of Austin, Texas, on COVID-19 health care demand is photographed in Frederick, Md. The latest statistical models forecast fewer deaths in the U.S. from the coronavirus pandemic before August. But there’s huge uncertainty in these models because health officials are still trying to get a handle on how the virus acts, how carefully people stick with social distancing and other restrictions, and treatment of the disease. (AP Photo/Jon Elswick)

In New York, Italy and South Korea on Monday, the shared temptation was to herald any signs that fatalities and the pace of new coronavirus cases were ebbing.

Tremendous progress has been made,” President Trump said during a Monday briefing in which he displayed his impatience with questions that focused on states’ challenges in locating sufficient medical equipment and supplies.

The progress has been made before the surge comes, because the next week, week and a half is going to be a big surge, the professionals tell us,” the president said, while presenting all 50 governors as “very happy, every one of them” during a teleconference with Vice President Pence on Monday.

“We’re increasingly hopeful that the aggressive mitigation strategy we put into place will ultimately allow our hospital system to successfully manage the major influx of cases we have right now,” he added, reading from notes.

The president, who has repeatedly said he wants governors to decide on stay-at-home orders for their states, said a national order is not called for. “If I thought it was necessary, I’d do it in a heartbeat,” he said.

Federal travel restrictions around urban areas experiencing surges in COVID-19 cases are unnecessary, Trump added, because U.S. airlines are cutting domestic routes on their own and flying planes that are nearly empty.

The Hill: Trump and his administration confront the most difficult week yet of the coronavirus outbreak.

The Associated Press: Modeling coronavirus: “Uncertainty is the only certainty.”

In Great Britain, Japan and Lebanon, on the other hand, the situation on Monday appeared more dire, and in Spain, infections continued to rise today along with the death toll. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, now in critical care, is the first known head of government to be sickened and hospitalized with the highly contagious respiratory virus. In Japan, cases of COVID-19 surged anew. Lebanon, describing a situation of “extreme danger,” took steps to extend the country’s lockdown order to the end of April.

Eager for any shred of relief in the United States, the Dow Jones Industrial Average soared on Monday more than 1,500 points on the idea that coronavirus cases may be slowing in some U.S. hot spots (The Hill). Stocks surged 7 percent, building on a global rally fueled by tentative signs that the rate of increase in deaths may be slowing (CNBC).

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), during a briefing on Monday, said his state may have flattened the curve of the coronavirus outbreak but cautioned that it is too soon to be certain. Deaths related to COVID-19 have stayed flat for two days in New York, he said, while new hospitalizations and intensive care unit admissions are down. “Those are all good signs and again would suggest a possible flattening of the curve,” he added (The Hill).

At the same time that Trump warned of another tough two or three weeks with coronavirus cases and fatalities, the White House and congressional leaders are anticipating millions more Americans will lose their jobs this month.

They’re coming closer to a meeting of the minds that the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act enacted late last month will not be enough. The conversation is moving toward at least another $1 trillion in federal help to prop up the economy (The Washington Post).

Trump said he’d be open to a second round of federal assistance to furloughed workers if the payments were directly dispersed to beneficiaries rather than funneled through state unemployment insurance systems, a mechanism he said Democratic lawmakers preferred.

Asked about reported glitches, Trump made light of any fumbles. “All we can do is get this massive amount of money to the states,” he said. “It’s getting out.”

Inside the executive branch, small businesses are howling that the Treasury Department and Small Business Administration (SBA) are not able to process the tsunami of applications for much-needed bridge loans available under the new law. The E-Tran system used by the SBA crashed and was down for hours on Monday before it was revived, Bloomberg News reported. Some banks are still unable to access SBA application systems, and industry leaders say questions about loan benefits remain unanswered (The Hill).

The president said more than 3,000 lenders had made loans as of Monday, adding that if the government exhausts funds appropriated for the lending programs to small businesses, “we’ll ask Congress to refill it immediately.”

Congress is now feeling pressured to move quickly on the next phase of relief. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) — bashed by Trump on Monday as a “lightweight” and partisan politician he’s known “for most of my adult life” — told reporters that lawmakers will have to return to Washington “relatively soon” to move on new legislation.

Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said in a letter that her colleagues should move this month. Aides said federal bureaucratic delays processing the newest benefits Trump signed into law are adding to the sense of urgency (The Hill).

The Associated Press: In what proximity are you to confirmed cases of COVID-19? Drill down to the county level, and you can see the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in the 50 states.

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