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Uploaded 03/25/2020

White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing: Despite WHO Warning, Trump Reiterates Call to Reopen US 3/25/2020

White House Coronavirus Task Force Briefing, 3/25/2020

Courthouse News Service, Brandi Buchman

WASHINGTON – The world is knocking on the door of its second opportunity to suppress the novel coronavirus COVID-19, the World Health Organization said Wednesday, but at the White House, President Donald Trump renewed calls for America to focus on returning to business as usual – and soon.

“America continues to gain ground in the war against the virus,” Trump said during the late day White House coronavirus taskforce briefing.

“The sooner we can get people back to work, back to school, back to normal, large sections of our country can go back sooner than other sections. We’re looking at that also, people are asking if that’s an alternative and I say absolutely it is an alternative,” he said.

Meanwhile, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases continues to rise. On Wednesday, the U.S. death toll from the respiratory illness surpassed 840 while confirmed cases climbed to 61,167. Worldwide, the number of cases steadily barrels toward nearly a half million people, with the Johns Hopkins University Medicine tracker reporting over 436,000 people infected. The international death toll is now 19,648. By 3:30 p.m. Wednesday, those figures had been surpassed.

The statistics are bleak, but in a call for action and unity during a virtual press conference Wednesday before the White House briefing, World Health Organization director Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of world governments putting the pandemic in a containment framework first.

There are still more than 150 countries with fewer than 100 Covid-19 cases, Ghebreyesus said.

Countries that have introduced lockdown measures already must use this time as a force-multiplier to “attack the virus” within their own borders, he said, not to reopen businesses or schools as the threat of a coronavirus resurgence looms around the corner.

Maximizing this time is critical, the WHO director said, and he encouraged all nations to deploy and train health care workforces, implement systems to find every suspected case of Covid-19 at the community level, increase testing capacity and production, identify key facilities used for treatment and isolation, develop clear quarantine plans for those who come into contact with the exposed; and finally, refocus every nation’s “whole of government” to suppress and control the virus so that the world can reach a coveted outcome: a return to normalcy.

“You have created a second window of opportunity,” Ghebreyesus said. “The question is how will you use it?”

Meanwhile, in the U.S. Senate, lawmakers are trying to finalize a deal that would only begin to answer some of those questions.

Congress is on the cusp of passing a $2 trillion relief package that is expected to deliver assistance in the form of $1,200 checks for adults and $500 checks for children, with payments to adults phasing out as income increases. Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said during Wednesday’s White House coronavirus taskforce briefing that payments could come in three weeks and that banks will be instructed to issue those loans on the “same day” by the end of this week.

Relief is also coming through expanded unemployment insurance, loans for small businesses and a $500 billion stake for various industries. But the House of Representatives must make the next move after the Senate finalizes the deal.

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